By BassFan Staff
Clark Wendlandt didn’t need a stunning display of kindness from a competitor to get through today at the Potomac River. What he did need, though, was one more bite to finish his limit.
After catching four fish from his primary area, the water started to get murky and he decided to leave. He came back to Mattawoman Creek later on and picked off his fifth fish from a stretch of laydowns. It was the final keeper he caught and it finished off a stringer that weighed 12-14 and punctuated his fourth career Tour victory – and first since 2001 – with a 4-day total of 60-00.
“That’s the one I needed,” said Wendlandt, a three-time Angler of the Year who had two other Top-10 finishes at the Potomac prior to this week.
It was a win to remember for Wendlandt, who missed the final two Tour events last season after suffering a heart attack while practicing for a tournament at Douglas Lake in Tennessee. He’d already had a strong bounce-back season in 2015 with a runner-up finish at Smith Lake and by clinching a Forrest Wood Cup berth, but this capped it off in style.
“It feels really good,” he said. “I just feel real comfortable at the Potomac and I enjoy fishing it so much. It’s so dynamic and the way I fished this week ended up working out. I had no idea I could win fishing that way.”
Wendlandt needed that fifth fish to fend off Andy Morgan, who’d been charging up the leaderboard each day since catching 11-05 (61st place) on day 1. Morgan, who had the biggest bag on day 3, sacked 13-12 today and closed with 55-12 to collect his fifth career runner-up finish at the Tour level.
Adrian Avena, who led after day 1, scraped up 10-11, his smallest bag of the event, and wound up a career-best 3rd with 54-01. It was his second Top-10 of the season and helped him finish 4th in points.
Darrel Robertson caught 12-05 to move up two spots and finish 4th with 52-13. It’s his best finish since taking 4th at the Red River in May 2011. John Voyles, who spent the whole event in the Top 10, capped off his tournament with a 13-03 bag that earned him a career-best 5th-place showing with 52-10.
Here's how the Top 10 finished up in the final event of the season:
1. Clark Wendlandt: 60-00
2. Andy Morgan: 55-12
3. Adrian Avena: 54-01
4. Darrel Robertson: 52-13
5. John Voyles: 52-10
6. Scott Martin: 52-09
7. Randy Haynes: 51-14
8. Bryan Schmitt: 51-12
9. Larry Nixon: 51-05
10. Jim Moynagh: 49-02
Newly-crowned Angler of the Year Scott Martin caught 11-11 today to close with 52-09 in 6th, his fifth straight finish of 16th or better.
The finalists were treated to some sunshine on the river today, but the west wind created some challenges as the river was still feeling the effects of a massive downpour Saturday evening. Most of the finalists found their best areas blown out completely or had their fishable water limited by dirty water encroaching upon it. Some had to abandon their most productive stretches altogether.
With the conclusion of the Tour schedule, the countdown begins for the Forrest Wood Cup, slated for Aug. 20-23 at Lake Ouachita in Hot Springs, Ark. Coming into the final event, there were plenty of anglers on the bubble for qualifying via the points.
Three anglers – Brandon Hunter, Scott Suggs and Terry Bolton – had poor finishes at the Potomac and fell below the Cup cutoff. That opened the door for Clark Reehm, Troy Morrow and Clent Davis to claim the final three tickets to Ouachita. To see the entire field for the Cup, click here.
Wendlandt targeted docks and wood most of the week at the Potomac.
Wendlandt Made Most of Key Area
> Day 4: 5, 12-14 (20, 60-00)
Wendlandt and the rest of the finalists weren’t sure what kind of condition the river would be in Sunday morning, especially after a massive storm Saturday dropped 3 1/2 inches of rain in the La Plata, Md., area.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “ I knew that any place with any runoff would be rolling red mud.”
He said a good portion of his main area was “trashed” and the other half had little pockets of cleaner water. He continued to throw a 1/2-ounce jig and a vibrating jig with a Lake Fork Magic Shad trailer today around hard cover like docks and woods.
“I was able to make it work, but not by much,” he said. “There were times my boat was sitting on the mud line and I was flipping into clear water. I know if we were fishing tomorrow, I wouldn’t be able to fish there. It would’ve been all muddy.”
He made the most of the area in Potomac Creek and came away with four keepers, about half of what he’d been catching on previous tournament days. With an hour to go, he made a move into Mattawoman Creek not from the launch ramp and fished a stretch with several laydowns where he caught his fifth keeper.
“It was mostly protected and by then the wind had shifted to the southwest, so I was able to pick it apart,” he said.
His last win came in 2001 at Beaver Lake, but the Potomac has always been among his preferred venues.
“It’s probably my favorite fishery along with (Lake) Champlain so it feels extra good to win there,” he said. “It’s one of those places I just like. Just the history alone with the marine bases is pretty cool. There is so much to see there with the old ships and barges and pilings. You never know what’ll you’ll see.”
2nd: Morgan Beat the Mud
> Day 4: 5, 13-12 (20, 55-12)
Morgan bounced back from a disappointing 81st-place finish at his home waters of Lake Chickamauga with his third runner-up showing in the last 2 seasons. It was also his third Top-10 this season and clinched a 9th-place finish in then points, his ninth straight Top-10 points finish.
“I feel pretty good about it,” he said. “I ran the wheels off of it Thursday by only catching 11 pounds. I probably could’ve caught more, but after the bad practice I had, I thought 11 was a good day. I should’ve stayed around where I was and tried to catch 13 or 14. I think that would’ve been easy.”
Andy Morgan made the most of his key area before it muddied up later in the morning.
He said he was happy for Wendlandt after the health issues he endured a year ago.
“I was glad to see Clark win and get back on the train,” he said. “I’m glad to see him back on his feet.”
He was pretty much in scramble mode the second half of the day after spending the first 4 hours in the area that had produced for him earlier in the week.
“My key area had a little bit of clean water in it this morning, but the mud started to move in as the tide pulled out,” he said after catching the biggest bag of the day for the second straight day. “I scrambled later and caught a few and headed back toward the launch in Mattawoman, but then culled a couple times for ounces on the main river.”
He tallied seven bites today and mainly threw a vibrating jig along with flipping a Zoom Z-Craw around docks and other hard cover.
3rd: Only Five Bites for Avena
> Day 4: 5, 10-11 (20, 54-01)
While the constantly changing conditions played a role in Avena’s stringers getting progressively smaller during the tournament, he was satisfied with being able to hold on for a 3rd-place finish at a fishery he knows well.
“Yeah, you want to win and be in the AOY picture, but making the Cup and (next year’s) Toyota Texas Bass Classic and having the year I did I can’t complain,” he said. “You start to realize after being on tour a few years that things that don’t come around too often are chances to win and being in contention for AOY, but I know that if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.”
He generated just five bites today from five different areas and didn’t finish his limit until the waning moments of the day.
“I caught my fifth fish with 7 minutes to go with a drone hovering over my head in Mattawoman Creek,” he said. “Each fish was like 5 miles from the other. This morning, I just put my trolling motor on high and covered a lot of water hoping to run into a pod of them, but it never happened.”
He checked the area where he’d caught the majority of his weight through the first 3 days on two occasions today, but didn’t get a bite either time.
“The water was high and muddy and I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt, but it wasn’t happening,” he said. “I fished in Mattawoman a little today because it has a lot of grass and with all of the water and mud, it tends to stay a little cleaner.”
Adrian Avena had his worst day weight-wise of the tournament today, but still managed to secure a career-best 3rd-place finish.
4th: Robertson Lost a Good One
> Day 4: 5, 12-05 (20, 52-13)
Robertson was bummed out this morning when he discovered the area where he hoped he could catch upwards of 15 pounds more closely resembled chocolate milk that a productive fishing spot.
“We had so much rain Saturday that when I pulled in there and went under the bridge to back to where I’d caught them, the water turned to mud,” he said. “I just went and pre-fished and tried a couple other things.”
He eventually went back to a place where he’d gotten a couple bites in practice and managed to cobble together five keepers on a Senko there. He had a few chances to upgrade later in the day, but lost the last four fish he set the hook on, including a kicker-quality bite.
“I had a good tournament,” he said, “I’m not going to gripe. I had to win to make the championship, but it’s not this tournament’s fault that I didn’t make the Cup. I think I did a good job for not having a lot of places to go to here.”
5th: Voyles Secures Career-Best Finish
> Day 4: 5, 13-03 (20, 52-10)
Other than day 1, Voyles said getting anything going in the way of consistent bites was “just a grind.”
Today was no different, but he was able to bring in one of just two 13-pound bags among the 10 finalists to move up and grab the first Top-5 finish of his career.
“It feels good,” he said. “It’s definitely an accomplishment.”
He stayed off his main area in Piscataway Creek near Fort Washington first thing this morning, but didn’t find much in the way of bites elsewhere.
“The place I started on had four local boats there and I fished for 10 minutes and left,” he said. “I went to another place where I’d had some bites in practice and didn’t catch anything there.”
He finally stopped in Piscataway and by 10 a.m., he hadn’t had a bite.
“At that point, I started asking myself if I should stay or go,” he added. “The water looked good. It was as clean as it’d been and I knew if I started running around, I didn’t know what was going to be clean or dirty, plus I knew there were decent fish in there.”
Right about then, he caught his first fish and by 11, he had three in his livewell. He caught his fourth on a topwater bait when the wind slacked off a bit and finished his limit with a homemade vibrating jig. He then culled three times in the last 20 minutes to crack the 13-pound mark.
“I was very fortunate in the area I fished that it didn’t get dirty,” he said. “You could look to the back of the creek and it was blown out and even today at the mouth on the other side, it was blown out.”
> Day 4 stats – 10 anglers, 10 limits.
1. Clark Wendlandt -- Leander, Tx -- 14-13 (5) -- 17-13 (5) -- 32-10 (10) -- 14-08 (5) -- 12-14 (5) -- 60-00 (20) -- $125,000
2. Andy Morgan -- Dayton, Tn -- 11-5 (5) -- 15-0 (5) -- 26-5 (10) -- 15-11 (5) -- 13-12 (5) -- 55-12 (20) -- $28,309
3. Adrian Avena -- Vineland, NJ -- 16-12 (5) -- 14-0 (5) -- 30-12 (10) -- 12-10 (5) -- 10-11 (5) -- 54-01 (20) -- $23,575
4. Darrel Robertson -- Jay, Ok -- 12-7 (5) -- 15-12 (5) -- 28-3 (10) -- 12-5 (5) -- 12-05 (5) -- 52-13 (20) -- $18,842
5. John Voyles -- Petersburg, In -- 14-7 (5) -- 12-3 (5) -- 26-10 (10) -- 12-13 (5) -- 13-03 (5) -- 52-10 (20) -- $17,895
6. Scott Martin -- Clewiston, Fl -- 13-11 (5) -- 12-14 (5) -- 26-9 (10) -- 14-05 (5) -- 11-11 (5) -- 52-09 (20) -- $16,949
7. Randy Haynes -- Counce, Tn -- 14-6 (5) -- 12-5 (5) -- 26-11 (10) -- 12-8 (5) -- 12-11 (5) -- 51-14 (20) -- $16,002
8. Bryan Schmitt -- Deale, Md -- 15-5 (5) -- 15-9 (5) -- 30-14 (10) -- 11-03 (5) -- 9-11 (5) -- 51-12 (20) -- $15,055
9. Larry Nixon -- Bee Branch, Ar -- 13-12 (5) -- 12-12 (5) -- 26-8 (10) -- 12-14 (5) -- 11-15 (5) -- 51-05 (20) -- $14,109
10. Jim Moynagh -- Carver, Mn -- 11-14 (5) -- 15-0 (5) -- 26-14 (10) -- 12-4 (5) -- 10-00 (5) -- 49-2 (20) -- $13,162