By Todd Ceisner
Clark Wendlandt blurted out the month and day like it was nothing, just another square on the wall calendar.
“Toho will be my first event since last May 27,” he said, referencing the upcoming start of the FLW Tour season next week and how it will be his first stab at tournament competition since experiencing a major health scare last spring.
As it turns out, May 27 was not just another square on the wall calendar for him. After a lengthy day of practice at Douglas Lake for the Bassmaster Northern Open, Wendlandt went to bed that day thinking about what else he needed to cover in order to be ready for the tournament, which was due to start on the 29th. Within hours, he was driving himself to the nearest hospital after a severe pain in his chest awakened him during the night.
After some testing, it was discovered his left anterior descending (LAD) artery was completely blocked. That pain that woke Wendlandt up was him having a major heart attack.
He underwent treatment in Knoxville, Tenn., and faced several months of rehabilitation. His 2014 tournament season was over, his future uncertain for the time being. The scary part, he says, was there was not even the faintest of warning signs that something was wrong.
“Absolutely nothing,” he said. “I was fishing 15-hour days that week, getting off the water late, eating a sandwich and going to bed.”
The three-time FLW Tour Angler of the Year says he’s itching to get back into the swing of fishing tournaments, but he’ll do so a lot more conscious about the decisions he makes and how he takes care of his body.
Wendlandt said he was back on his feet not too long after his heart attack, but it was a lengthy road to get back to where he felt 100 percent. After three months of cardiac rehabilitation, a process during which Wendlandt’s heart was checked before, during and after exercise sessions, he’s now settled into a new routine that includes regular exercise and a better diet.
“It’s a bit of a habit change,” he said. “Being on the road so much and traveling makes it difficult, but I have tried to throw exercise into the game plan some more and I’m committed to eat as good as I possibly can. Out on the road, with all the fast food and quick stuff that’s out there, it’s difficult.”
He said he’s lost about 25 pounds since the heart attack
When the heart undergoes a major event like that, it takes time to make sure all systems are functioning,” he said. “Lately, I’ve been traveling and fishing a lot and I have a system down now. I just have to be more aware of everything. Instead of fishing until 9 at night, I need to come in early and find a place to get as good a meal as possible.”
As he prepares to embark on his 19th season on the FLW Tour, he knows he needs to find the right balance between fishing and looking after himself.
“My only anxiety of the whole thing is how to maintain my exercise and diet while on the road,” he said. “It’s always been when I get to body of water, I put every bit of focus into that body of water. From daylight to dark, I’m focused on fishing. I know I have to refocus and maintain a healthier lifestyle now.”
Anxious to Compete
For the last few months, Wendlandt has been hard at work filming episodes for the Fishing and Hunting Texas TV show that he’s now the host of.
“It’s been around for 30 years, but went away for a bit and now we’re re-establishing it,” he said. “It’s a way for me to give my point of view on good hunting and fishing places in Texas.”
He estimates he’s been fishing three to five days a week for the last two months and likens shooting a TV show to fishing a tournament.
“You get to a body of water you might not know a lot about and the camera guys are counting on you and the editor needs footage to work with,” he said. “I have to go catch fish. It definitely has helped me get ready for the season. Filming has been a good a segue into the tournaments, but I know it’s going to be above and beyond anything on the TV level.”
As far as what his goals are for coming back to the Tour this year, he’s going to take it one day at a time and try not to get too stressed one way or another.
“I want to fish well,” he said. “I don’t think I have anything to prove. I have caught them in the past, but I just want to do what I love to do and compete and see how it goes.”
> When asked to identify what he believes is the best fishery in Texas currently, Wendlandt chose Toledo Bend. “I think Falcon would still beat it weight wise in a tournament, but Toledo Bend has just such big fish.”