By Rob Newell
Special to BassFan
Clark Wendlandt of Texas has been a professional angler for the better part of 25 years. He started his career with a BFL All-American win in 1992 and then hit his stride on the FLW Tour in the late 1990s and early 2000s, claiming three Angler of the Year titles and four Tour wins.
During that time, Wendlandt has seen a lot of lures come and go. Over the years, he has had to add more and more baits to his arsenal in order to stay competitive.
“Twenty years ago, lure selection was a pretty simple process,” Wendlandt said. “You had seven or eight lures out on your deck that covered the bases. Nowadays, it sometimes takes 15 to 20 rods out on the deck to keep pace with what the fish are doing.”
Wendlandt says the doubling and tripling of rods on the deck have come from the ways lures mutate so fast in the marketplace these days. As an example, he points to a standard hollow-bodied frog, which has proliferated into popping-style hollow-bodied frogs, then “junior” sizes of frogs and now different variations of buzzing frogs.
“So one frog has now become four,” he explained. “We have so many derivative baits that come from slight variations and tweaks to the original. We must carry them all to fill all these little niches in seasons, cover and conditions.”
That’s why when he was asked to limit his options to three must-have lures, Wendlandt winced.
“Get rid of all my lures except for three,” he questioned. “Just three? Well, now that’s a pretty doggone hard thing to do, no doubt. You’re basically asking me to take away 85 percent of the arsenal on my deck and then use the remaining 15 percent to cover me in all situations.”
That’s correct. Here’s what the Texas veteran came up with.
Given Wendlandt’s preference for power-fishing in competition, his first selection is something he can attack shallow cover with.
“You can go ahead and just put a Strike King KVD 1.5 in a color called natural shad as choice number one for me,” Wendlandt said. “First things first, I need something I can fish shallow visible cover with quickly. I might as well not even fish at all if I can’t do that. So the KVD 1.5 is the first priority for me. It’s a square-bill that generally runs 3 to 4 feet deep and it can be fished 80 to 90 percent of the year in any kind of hard cover and even in certain types of scattered grass.”
Wendlandt’s preferred set up for the square-bill is a 7-foot composite cranking rod (Cabela’s ZX Crankshaft) spooled with 14-pound test Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon line.
“If I’m fishing some really rough stuff like rip rap I might kick it up to 16-pound test,” he said, “or if I need to get that bait to 5 feet, I’d go as light a 10-pound test, but 14-pound test fluorocarbon is just a great all-around line for attacking most types of shallow cover with that lure.”
Next on Wendlandt’s must have list is a ½-ounce jig. He is not the only pro who has picked the standard ½-ounce jig as a necessity. It’s certainly a popular choice in the must-have department with some pros even referring to it as the best all-around lure in bass fishing.
Wendlandt’s choice of jigs is a ½-ounce Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover jig paired with a Rage Craw or baby Rage Craw trailer, all in green-pumpkin.
“Again, it’s all about attacking cover for me and a jig is a big gun when it comes to offensive fishing,” he said. “The square-bill obviously has a depth limitation, so a jig picks up where the crankbait can’t reach, like pitching flooded timber, deep docks and deep grass.”
His line choice for his jig is 20-pound test fluorocarbon.
“But if I need to get out there and drag ledges or something like that, I’ll go down to 14-pound test,” he added.
Wendlandt’s first two picks really come as no surprise. But it’s his final pick of a swim jig that raises eyebrows just a bit, simply because he already has a shallow-running crankbait and a jig in the mix, so it seems that a swim jig would be a bit repetitious. Perhaps something a little more finessey would have rounded out his trio a little better.
“Putting a drop-shot or a shaky-head in my picks is just a wasted pick for me,” Wendlandt countered. “Sure, I’ll use those when I’m fishing with a full selection of lures, but if you limit me to just three lures, my goal is to own the bank – visible cover in 1 to 10 feet of water is where I’ll stay.
“No matter what lake you put me on all I know is that lakes have banks, banks have shallow cover and there are always some bass on shallow cover. For that reason, I’ll round out my picks with a swim jig.”
Specifically, Wendlandt likes the 3/8-ounce Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Swim jig in bluegill or smokey shad color.
“A swim jig is an incredibly versatile and efficient moving bait,” he said. “I can put a Rage Craw on it and skip it under docks, into bushes and even into flooded cover. It’s a super bait in any kind of shallow vegetation almost any time of the year. I can even make it into a makeshift buzzing toad by reeling it up high on the surface on 50-pound braided line.
“I can also put a boot-tail-type trailer on it like a Caffeine Shad and swim it out in open water for fish suspended on cover that runs out into deeper water like laydowns, docks and brush piles. But for that I’d back down 14- or 16-pound test fluorocarbon.”
With his final pick complete, it looks as if Wendlandt made very little consideration for smallmouth bass in his picks. And he offers no apologies for that.
“If I end up in smallmouth country, chances are I would go to the bank and fish for largemouths anyway,” he said. “That’s what I love to do and I’m going to make sure I have the tools to do it – even if it’s just three of them.”