By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Clark Wendlandt has fished 17 seasons on the FLW Tour, and only one of them to date could be remotely considered poor. Even that one – 2005 – he concluded with a flourish, pocketing $100,000 for finishing 2nd in the Chevy Open at the Potomac River after going checkless in the first five events.
He ended up 91st on the points list that year, by far his worst placement ever. He then finished no lower than 23rd over the next 6 campaigns, claiming his third Angler of the Year (AOY) title in 2009.
By his lofty standards, however, the past 2 seasons could be considered subpar. He was 37th in the AOY chase in 2012 and then fell to 47th this year, missing the Forrest Wood Cup for just the second time in his career.
As he looks ahead to 2014, the quiet Texan says he'll rededicate himself to competitive excellence. A 4th points title would be unprecedented (he currently shares the record in that category with David Dudley), but he refuses to set that as a concrete objective.
"That was always the case in past years and I've done it three times, so I guess you could say that's a goal," he said. "At this point, though, I'm not too big on setting goals before a season starts. I'm just going to go out and fish hard at every tournament and see what happens."
More Narrowed Focus
The 47-year-old Wendlandt won't say that he put less effort into tournament fishing the past couple of years than he had in previous seasons, but acknowledges that his situation has evolved. Much of his focus had shifted to his daughters (now both in their late teens) and he'd become heavily involved in television work – he hosts his own show called Fishing Texas, which is broadcast regionally on the NBC Sports Network, and also makes frequent guest appearances on Cabela's Fisherman's Handbook and Americana Outdoors.
"That's just what happens when your kids are active and have a lot going on – your priorities change," he said. "Before my family traveled with me (to tournaments) and now they don't do that anymore. One of the kids has started college and the other is a junior in high school and they don't need me to be right there all the time.
"On the TV side, there has been a little more emphasis there. It's been a good thing for me and it's helped me solidify some relationships with sponsors, but at the same time, I'm ready to go back to putting more emphasis on fishing. I'm feeling a little more energy in that direction going forward and I'm excited about it.
"If you look back over time," he continued, "at the guys who've dabbled in the TV world, it takes some energy and time to do that. I'm not making excuses – that's just the way it is. To succeed in this sport, you have to put everything into it. If you're not, somebody else out there is, and they're going to beat you."
Better Start Imperative
The FLW Tour will get under way at Lake Okeechobee for the 3rd consecutive year, and that's a place that's confounded Wendlandt on his last two visits. He posted some high finishes there earlier in his career, but was 124th in 2012 and 110th this year.
Those numbers will likely need to shrink substantially in order for him to regain his formerly perennial status as an AOY contender.
"The last couple years there have been pretty bad and I've put myself in a big hole that I've had to try to dig out of," he said. "I love it there – it's a big, dynamic place with a lot of options. Sometimes it's sight-fishing, sometimes it's power-fishing and sometimes it's milking it with a plastic worm. It's just an awesome place.
"It's hard to even pinpoint what my problem has been. I had a pretty good practice for the last one and even a pretty good first day, but they were biting good early where I was and it just wasn't going on that second day. I tried to play catch-up all day and I just didn't catch them.
"Fishing is just such a momentum game," he concluded. "Most of the good years I've had I got off to a decent start, or at least not a terrible one. It's hard to dig your way out of a cellar like that, so starting well is a big part of it."
> Wendlandt hopes to join the ever-growing contingent of two-tour pros in 2015 and thus will fish the Bassmaster Northern Opens next year in an attempt to qualify for the Elite Series. "I like that schedule a lot," he said. "I've only been to Douglas once, but the other two are at Champlain and St. Clair. I love smallmouth lakes and those places have always treated me real well."
> He's happy that the FLW Tour will stage an event in his home state (Sam Rayburn Reservoir) for the first time in many years. "It's not like that's my home lake, but it's nice to have one that close."