By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Three-time FLW Tour Angler of the Year Clark Wendlandt is in a Knoxville, Tenn. hospital recovering from a heart attack he suffered over the holiday weekend. Doctors placed a stent in the affected artery and he's expected to be fine, but he'll miss the final two Tour events of the season at Pickwick Lake and Kentucky Lake, as they fall within the 6- to 8-week recovery period.
The 48-year-old Texan had traveled to Tennessee to compete in this week's Bassmaster Northern Open at Douglas Lake.
"It really came out of the blue," he said Tuesday morning. "I hadn't had any symptoms and I'd been practicing 14 hours a day at Douglas and didn't seem to be any worse for wear.
"Then 2 nights ago I woke up with pains in my chest. I knew something wasn't right and that I had to get to the hospital."
He becomes the second veteran angler to be forced out of the final Tour events for medical reasons. Stacey King announced last week that he's been sidelined due to cancer.
Different this Time
Wendlandt, who is diabetic, described the middle-of-the-night sensation he experienced as "just kind of a heavy pressure" that began in his chest and then spread outward and upward.
"It wasn't just a pain in one spot – it went into my arms, then into my neck and all the way up into my jaw," he said. "Almost everybody has chest pains at one time or another and the first thing you wonder is if it's a heart attack, but I knew this was different. I remembered reading something that talked about pain in the upper arms, and that's what told me I needed to go."
He made the short drive to the hospital in Jefferson City, Tenn. on his own, arriving at about 4 a.m. He underwent a test for elevated blood enzymes, which are usually present following a heart attack, and that came back negative. The test was conducted again when he was still experiencing pain an hour and a half later, and that one was positive.
He was transferred to the hospital in Knoxville (a half-hour drive away) and the stent was inserted during a mid-morning procedure. He expects to leave the hospital on Friday.
"I feel totally fine, but my heart has had some trauma and I need to rest for a few days. Like anything that's been cut or bruised, it takes a little while for it to start to heal."
Elite Hopes Dashed
Wendlandt was in the midst of one of his worst FLW Tour seasons ever, having finished 87th or lower in three of the four events (including a 154th-place showing at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in his home state). He'd signed up for the Northern Opens with the hope of having the option to compete on the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2015, as the Top 5 in the points from each Opens division gain an automatic invitation.
That option won't be on his table, but he's not going to stress over it.
"The way I look at it is God does things for a reason, and a good reason is going to come out of this," he said. "I would've loved to have had that opportunity and I think I could've done well at Douglas, but it's not to be for this year."
He'll go to Pickwick (in Alabama) when he leaves the hospital to have the Ranger Boats crew repair a bent axle on his trailer, and then will head home to begin his rehabilitation period. Wife Patti, who flew to Knoxville as quickly as she could after receiving the call that Clark was headed for the hospital and was present when he awoke from the stent operation, will be along to assist with the driving.
He hopes to be at ICAST in mid-July and hasn't completely ruled out competing in the Northern Opens at Champlain (July 31-Aug. 2) and St. Clair (Sept. 4-6), even though he'll have no chance of a Top-5 points finish.
"It's not like I'm going to be in bed the whole time, but I can't be in the boat fishing for 12 to 14 hours a day for awhile. Once I've recovered, I'll decide (whether) those two other Opens make sense – they're a long ways from home for me.
"One way or the other, my plan is to fully recover and be all the way back for next year."