New Year, New Challenges – Mike Mueller

As I look to a new year of contributing to Fishing The Back, this year will be full of new and difficult challenges, most notably my move to a completely different part of the country, accompanied by a poorly-timed shoulder injury that required an early-season surgery. Each new season, anglers face many new and tough challenges. Those that are able to face and overcome those challenges will be the ones who have a successful year.

For those who have read my journal over the past two years, you’ve followed me in my goal to get to FLW’s BFL All-American. I fished both the LBL and Michigan divisions as a Co-Angler, and was a 4-time regional qualifier over those two seasons. Although I failed to reach the ultimate end-goal, I was able to fish very consistently. I only failed to bring a fish to the scales in the very last day of the last regional I fished over this 2-year period. This 2-year stretch was, by far, some of the best angling of my career. I hope to carry that momentum into 2015.

That is all behind me now, as I have to start from scratch with new lakes, new goals, and new expectations. After the end of last season, I was transferred out to West Virginia, an area of the country that I have not spent any time in. Many new challenges await me, not only with my new career, the relocation of my family, and of course, with my fishing.

This upcoming season, I’ve decided to forego the BFL’s and focus my efforts fishing the B.A.S.S. Northern Open full schedule, and the FLW Northeast Rayovac full schedule. Although the B.A.S.S. Opens do not have a year-end championship, the Rayovacs do. My ultimate goal for the 2015 season is to make the FLW Rayovac Championship that will be held on my old stomping grounds of the Ohio River, outside of Paducah, KY.

This entire year, you will be able to follow along with me as I face the challenges of all new waters that I’ve never made a cast on. I will try my best to fill you in on how to prepare for new waters, my practice strategies, and most importantly, details on my competitive days on the water. My goal will be to provide insight on these areas to try to help you when you have to face similar situations.

The first event for me will be the FLW NE Rayovac on the James River in Richmond, VA on June 4 – 6. In my 28 seasons of competitive bass angling, this will be my first attempt at fishing tidal waters. I’m doing my best to read up and talk to people familiar with tidal fishing. When I hear them use fishing terms that I’ve never even heard of before (like Lunar Low Tide), I can’t help but be intrigued on what I can learn from this event.

My next event will be back on the James River, again out of Richmond, VA on July 9 – 11, for the B.A.S.S. Northern Open opening event. This event  will take me back to my strengths of growing up as a shallow power fisherman. I have a feeling that my Razr Rods and Lews reels will be throwing a lot of frogs, Bionic Custom spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, and Thunderbaits. In addition to those, flipping my Jewel jigs tipped with Snack Daddy plastics will play an important role in my success. After already having my first tidal event under my belt a month earlier, I should feel like an old pro when this one rolls around!

My third event of the season will see me heading to Lake Champlain up in New York on July 30 – August 1 for the 2nd Rayovac event. Champlain has been a lake that I have been wanting to cross off my list, and I’m really looking forward to this event. Not only are there endless supplies of both Largemouth and Smallmouth, but I will be able to target both of my strengths of shallow and deep fishing. I also have quite a few very knowledgeable contacts that know that water well. Even though I will be going into practice blind, I will utilize my resources to be very prepared. I’m pretty excited about this one!

Stop number four for me will take me back to New York a week later for the 2nd stop of the B.A.S.S. Northern Open series on Oneida Lake, out of Syracuse, NY. This lake will be an interesting challenge for me, as I know absolutely nothing about this body of water. I know from previous events that there are a significant amount of big fish that roam the depths of Oneida, I just need to make sure that I execute to ensure that I can but the 3 biggest fish on the scales each day!

Events #5 and 6 have me the most excited about my season, but unfortunately I’ll have to wait until the very end to enjoy them. Stop number five is the last stop on the FLW Rayovac season at Lake Erie out of Sandusky, OH on August 27 – 29. Stop number six is also the last stop on the B.A.S.S. Northern Open series, and is also on Lake Erie out of Sandusky, OH. This one will be held September 24 – 26. Over the last three years, I’ve developed a strong passion for chasing BIG smallmouth in the deep clear lakes of the Great Lakes. Although my success and confidence has come on Lake St. Clair, I have spent a few days on the far-western banks of Lake Erie. I’ve heard that the central basin of Lake Erie fishes similarly, so I plan to use the same techniques of dragging a Snack Daddy 4″ Elite Tube, Drop Shotting a Snack Daddy Flat Worm or Snack Stix, and following that up with a full array of bass-catching Bass Craft Crankbaits. This lineup proved very successful for me over the past few years at St. Clair and I cannot wait to put them to the test.

My final event will hopefully be the FLW Rayovac Championship on the Ohio River out of Paducah, KY at the end of October. This event should be a slugfest if the temperatures and water levels cooperate. I do have a lot of experience on this body of water, as I used to fish there a lot in the mid-to-late 90’s. It will be a shallow-water power fishing bonanza, and with the falling water temps and the fish on a Fall feeding frenzy, I look for the weights to be pretty strong for a Midwest river tournament.

I hope you will enjoy my adventures that this year of new water and new challenges will provide…it should make for some interesting reading!

Bio:

Circuits fished: Central Pro Am, LBL BFL, Michigan BFL, Everstart Series

Years co: 25

Favorite technique: Flipping a jig

Hobbies aside from fishing: Watching my kids play sports

Sponsors: 5X3 FishingLew’s ReelsBass Craft CrankbaitsJewel Bait CoRazr RodsRudy Project EyewearSnack Daddy LuresElite Rod SleevesBionic Custom BaitsBlue Water LED, The Pond Pro, G2 Gemini