Twice before Clark Wendlandt has entered a new season as the reigning FLW Tour Angler of the Year (AOY). On neither occasion did he seriously threaten to make it two points titles in a row, instead producing one of the lowest finishes of his career each time.
The veteran from Texas not only has no idea why that was the case, but until last week he was unaware that the phenomenon even existed.
"It's nothing I'd ever noticed or thought about," he said on his way to Louisiana for this week's 2010 opener at the Red River. "I know I've had a lot of good years, and I plan to put as much energy into it as I did last year.
"From that standpoint, I'm ready to go. I'm ready to get out there and fish and we'll see what happens."
Lots of Little Digits
The "slump" year of 2005 notwithstanding, Wendlandt has been nothing short of ridiculously consistent throughout his 13-year FLW Tour career. He's finished 10th or better in the points a mind-bending eight times, and a 42nd in his sophomore campaign in 1998 is his worst except for the 91st in '05.
That 42nd arrived in the wake of his initial AOY. He won the award again in 2000 and followed it up with a 19th.
Despite what's occurred in the past, he sees no reason that he won't contend again in 2010.
"With the climate of pro fishing right now, you'd better set a pretty lofty goal because sponsorships are pretty difficult to come by," he said. "But the thing about the Angler of the Year is it isn't something you can necessarily say you're just going to go out and do. It takes a season of fishing well and a lot of good breaks.
"If I fish well again, there's a chance I could be back in the race."
He'd also love to get back into the winner's circle. All three of his Tour victories occurred within a 3-year period (1999-2001) and he figures that he's long overdue.
"I'd definitely like to do that again. I've been awful close – 2nd and 3rd a bunch of times. Maybe I just haven't fished well enough when I've needed to, but I know I can still do it. I know I can make the right decisions to win on the last day."
The money that would be derived from a win would certainly be a boon under the current conditions, but that's not his primary motivation for wanting a new trophy.
"It's all from a competitive standpoint – I like to win, no matter what I'm doing. You know you're not going to win every tournament, but it's still a goal."
A Decent Place to Start
The Red River is by no means Wendlandt's favorite fishery in the country, but he has no real trepidation about beginning the defense of his AOY title there.
"I've fished five or six events on it and I've had some success – I almost made a Top 10 one time," he said. "I like the fishing style a lot, but the only difficult thing is that there are only isolated areas where you can catch fish, and running around and changing things up during the day is difficult to do.
"You get stuck with one or two areas, and that's it."
As for the rest of the schedule, he likes the fact that there are some tweaks from last year – some of the venues may be the same, but the calendar slots have changed. He's also all for the new cumulative-weight format that will see the full field fish for 3 days before a cut to the Top 5 for the final day.
"I like a little bit of change of scenery, and we'll have that. And the cumulative weight is going to be good – I think it's just a more fair way to conduct a bass tournament.
"Another thing I really like is the 3-day cut instead of 2 because I think it takes more of the luck factor out of it. One big fish can carry you over 2 days, but it's tough to make it carry you for 3.
> With his longtime team deal with Kellogg's having gone by the wayside due to sponsor pullouts in the offseason, Wendlandt has entered into a primary sponsorship agreement with Cabela's. The outdoor retail giant was one of his associate sponsors in '09. "I'm real excited about it," he said. "It's a relationship that blossomed last year. Cabela's is all about the outdoors and the two things I like to do the most are hunt and fish."
> He and fellow veteran Mike Surman will continue sharing all practice information this year. "I'd done that kind of thing in the past, even with Mike, but never to the level we did it last year. It's great to have somebody by your side who you trust and you know that if you can't figure things out one day, maybe he can."