Wendlandt: 'Most fun I’ve had in a tournament'

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Jim Sexton

Clark Wendlandt had 20 pounds of smallmouth bass in his livewell by 7:40 this morning. That kind of quick success has a way of easing an angler’s mind.

“This might be the most fun I’ve had in a tournament,” he said. “I mean I’m just practicing now. I’m not even worrying.”

Wendlandt had 20 pounds on Day 1 for 18th place and with more than 20 pounds today he’s game-planning for a four-day tournament.

“I could keep fishing my primary area,” he said, “but I’ve fished a lot of these high-pressure tournaments and you have to have several good spots. I’d like to find one or two more areas,” Wendlandt said. “If I can do that I’d feel pretty proud.”

Wendlandt is catching his fish on a crankbait and occasionally mixing in a dropshot. He’s not getting a lot of bites on the crankbait, but when he does it tends to be a good one.

“The best thing I’ve done at this tournament is not get in that crowd [at Metro Flats] and beat my head around. I just don’t think that can work.”

In particular, Wendlandt feels smallmouth are less likely to bite a crankbait in those kinds of pressured situations.

The Elite angler from Texas knows quite a bit about Lake St. Clair. He finished third at the AOY Championship here in 2019, and the veteran pro has competed on the lake many times.

Wendlandt has continued that momentum with a strong 2020 campaign. He’s currently 3rd in the Angler of the Year race with two top 10 finishes and a top 20 as well.

“I’m not thinking about AOY at all,” he said. “I’m just thinking about catching the next bass. That’s the way we anglers are programmed. If we pass a pond on the interstate we’re thinking about how we could catch a bass there.

“The thing about Elite tournaments is the field size is fairly small [85 anglers currently], so there’s not much separation. You have to fish every single tournament well to have a shot at AOY.”

At 53 years old Wendlandt has seen it all. He began fishing professionally in 1992. And with three FLW AOY trophies on his mantle, he’s had a ton of success. But he has a new sense of purpose.

“I want a blue trophy,” he said. “That has rejuvenated me.”