Local ties impact Bassmaster Classic

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TOP 10 FINISH-Cookeville’s Adam Wagner finished 10th in last weekend’s Bassmaster Classic. (photo courtesy Darren Jacobsen/Bassmaster.com)

By THOMAS P. WEAVER, HORIZON Editor

GUNTERSVILLE (AL)-Two fishermen with local ties made headlines here at the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville over the weekend shining the spotlight on the Upper Cumberland.

Paul Mueller, who is sponsored by Celina’s own Punisher Lure company, not only finished just a pound shy of Classic champion Randy Howell to take the runner-up spot in the Superbowl of bass fishing, but also broke the Classic’s single-day weight record with a whopping 32-pound, 3-ounce sack on Day 2.

Adam Wagner, a well-known local angler who lives in neighboring Cookeville and fishes regularly on Dale Hollow lake against many Clay Countians, matched wits with the sport’s best in the three-day event and proved he belonged there with a 10th-place finish–well ahead of legendary names like VanDam, Iaconelli, Reese, and others.

Punisher owner Stephen Headrick was overwhelmed by Mueller’s success on the grandest stage.

“I’m getting calls from all over,” the local businessman and fisherman known to many as the ‘Smallmouth Guru’ said.  “What he did–breaking the Classic record–and how he finished was amazing and to know he accomplished that, in part, with Punisher products from Celina, TN is unreal.

“This is a big deal and we are excited about it and feel blessed to have him as a part of our Pro Staff.”

Wagner, who qualified for the Classic by winning the $100,000 Toyota Bassmaster Weekend Series National Championship on Old Hickory Lake last November, struggled on Day 1 finishing with just 14 pounds, 14 ounces to put him in 37th place, but rebounded Saturday with over 24 pounds to break into the top 10 and make the final-day cut in 9th-place position after two days of competition.

The 43-year-old, who had fished against similar competition before in the 2009 FLW Forrest Wood Cup where he finished in the top 25, then put together a solid Day 3 Sunday featuring just over 20 pounds to take the 10th spot worth $20,000 with a total of 59 pounds, 3 ounces.

Mueller, who also qualified for the Classic via another series by winning the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Divisional in Maine and finishing as the top Eastern Division angler at the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, also had to come from behind.

The 29-year-old was way down the leaderboard on Day 1 in 47th place with less than 10 pounds, but his record Day 2 catch vaulted him into 5th place with 41 pounds, 13 ounces.  Using 24 pounds, 11 ounces Sunday, Mueller claimed $45,000 and second place.

Though reports on Bassmaster.com only talked about Mueller using a chatterbait to catch his fish, Headrick said the fisherman told him Punisher also played a role in the tournament.

“He told me on the phone that he caught fish on a lot of baits, including the Punisher Jay Yelas jig and our spinnerbait,” Headrick explained.  “A lot of times the big sponsors get most of the national coverage, but Paul told me Punisher led to some of his success.”

The entire tournament will be broadcast on ESPN2 next weekend, beginning at 9 a.m. and continuing through Sunday.  For a complete television schedule and more information about this year’s Bassmaster Classic, visit www.bassmaster.com

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Ultimately, Howell came out on top with an amazing final day where he caught multiple numbers of fish in one location to finish with 67 pounds, 8 ounces–an event captured by South Pittsburg, TN native, die-hard Dale Hollow angler, and good friend Terry Everett.

Everett stood just yards away from Howell atop a bridge he was fishing under and watched the eventual Classic champion catch fish after fish.  He was so close, he was able to capture the photo of Howell culling five-plus-pound largemouth which accompanies this article with his cell-phone.

We interacted via mobile device as he circled Lake Guntersville in his truck in search of Wagner to try to get the HORIZON an action shot of our almost-native son.  I would find him on Bassmaster.com’s BASStrakk map and translate his location to Everett who would make a beeline, but we were never able to capture the photo as Wagner maintained stealthy positions away from road access.

Everett did get close once, but Wagner blasted off just as he pulled within camera distance on the Scottsboro, AL side of the lake.

I will have to say, it was a fun Classic to monitor from afar thanks to my on-site correspondent and I can’t wait to look for him on television this weekend.  Thanks for the fun day Everett!