Last year, Clark Wendlandt found himself sidelined by a heart attack mid-way through the FLW Tour season. Now, the three-time FLW Angler of the Year is back to competing at the highest level of tournament bass fishing and wrapped up the regular season with a win; one that would not have been possible if not for a true act of kindness and sportsmanship from a fellow competitor.
Day two was when Clark slowly started separating himself from the pack, weighing in over 17 pounds of Potomac River bass. The Potomac is a tidal system, but Clark didn’t let that mess with him a whole lot. “There are really two ways to fish the tide,” said Clark. “You can run the tides, which let’s say you like fishing low tide, you can fish one place with low tide and once the tide starts rising, move to another with low tide. Or, you can just fish the areas you want to and deal with the tides as they come, and that’s what I did. I had a few key areas and whatever tide I had in those areas is what I dealt with when I was there. It was still great to be able to look at my Garmin Bluechart g2 mapping and have the tidal conditions to wherever I wanted to go right at my fingertips.”
Clark was throwing a flipping jig, and every now and then, he’d catch one on a vibrating jig. This style of fishing was right in Clark’s wheelhouse.
At the beginning of day three, Clark had a lead just shy of two pounds. He got to his first spot and started having boat trouble. “At that point, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it back. The only way I could get back was to get in the boat with another competitor or have someone tow me back. I was 18 miles from the ramp and was expecting to cut my day three hours short so I could be towed in. All of a sudden, Shin Fukae showed up. He was sitting in 16th place to start the day and had plenty of room to move up into the top 10, but at that point he didn’t have any fish in the livewell. He thought all of his spots were blown out by the wind and he knew I had a chance to win. He finally just looked me straight in the face and said, ‘Clark, you just take my boat. I want you to take it.’ I went back and forth on it with him three or four times before I finally told him I would take it. At that point, I just moved my fish and tackle over and kept fishing. I really can’t say enough about what an amazing act of sportsmanship that was from Shin.”
Clark went on to extend his lead even further on day three by another two pounds. A lead of nearly four pounds goes a long way on a fishery like the Potomac River, but he knew there was no room for error. On day four, he slowly put together a limit of quality fish, but fellow Garmin pro Andy Morgan, who started the day in fifth place, put together the biggest limit of the day and was sitting in the hot seat as Clark took the stage with his bag of fish. He needed just less than nine pounds to win. As the weighmaster took his hands off the scale, a smile brighter than the Texas sun came across Clark’s face when he realized that he had won his first FLW tournament since 2001. “It felt amazing to be back on stage hoisting up that big trophy, especially considering that I finished second here in 2005, but it was very special that my wife and youngest daughter were able to be there. Unfortunately Emily, my oldest daughter, had to work so she didn’t get to come, but it’s pretty awesome having that support there.”
With that win, his fourth since joining the FLW Tour, Clark sealed the deal and earned enough points to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Ouachita in August. “I’ve fished Ouachita several times,” said Clark. “I’m glad to be going back. I missed it last year because I had a heart attack, and so all these years I’ve only missed qualifying for the Cup twice.”
Everyone at Garmin wishes you the best of luck, Clark. Your comeback season has truly been one to remember.
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