Craftsman 20HP Kohler more details

I have a Craftsman 20hp 48\\" mower, part # 917.272246 It is about 5 yrs old and has 470hrs on it.
I have read a ton of post\\'s and am not sure what else to try. I hadnt ran my Mower for about 12mths but when I stopped using it it ran great. I did drain the fuel tank before i stored it so I am using fresh fuel. Here are the symptoms: Slows when going uphill. I have no idea if the tranny requires a belt or not??? Sputters badly most of the time. I hear the rpms drop when I let off the brake. Dies at very low idle. Sometimes dies while driving at normal speed or starts chugging along.
I have pulled the fuel filter off to which fuel ran out of the carb side of the line. No fuel ran out of the tank side. Blew threw hose and heard gas bubble in tank.
I disconnected deck wires and it still ran rough. I also ran it without the air cleaner and gas cap installed. Ran chem tool thru tank for 20 mins, sprayed in carb cleaner, cleaned air filter, changed plugs.
It still runs bad. Can anyone suggest the culprit? -------------------------------------
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Drop the carb. Remove all rubber items. Open up the bowl. Be very careful removing the float and needle. Inspect the float needle, check in the bore to see if yours has a replaceable seat. Soak the carb in carb cleaner. Use a thin wire, pipe cleaners, or torch tip cleaner to physically clear passages. A new needle and seat are cheap. When all is clean, reassemble.
Remove the flywheel to inspect the timing key. Many of your symptoms sound like a damaged key that keeps the motor very slightly out of time. The key is cheap, getting to it is a PITA.
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