UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Potomac River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Ground Zero

Ground Zero

Zero.

Nada.

Nothing.

That’s what Clark Wendlandt brought to the scales on the final day of the FLW Tour event on Lake Cumberland two weeks ago.

After leading the event going into the final day by nearly 4 pounds, with what appeared to be a lock on his fifth Tour win, he zeroed, relinquishing his lead to Scott Martin.

No professional angler is immune to a goose egg. It happens. When it does, the easiest way to deal with it is to slink off past weigh-in, put the boat on the trailer and hope no one notices.

Clark Wendlandt

But when you’re leading an FLW Tour event going into day four, there is no way to crawl under the stage – you have to cross it. You have to go up before the crowd and thousands of people on FLW Live and face the moment of truth, bagless.

On stage, Wendlandt offered no excuses, nor did he blame anyone or anything for his catch-less-ness on the final day. In an act of class, he simply smiled as said, “Those smallmouth can be fickle; I didn’t catch a bass today; your winner is Scott Martin.”

And with that, he disappeared from the stage as Martin raised the trophy.

 

No regrets

The official practice period for the FLW Tour presented by General Tire on Beaver Lake is the first time Wendlandt has put his boat in the water since his empty-handed “death march” across the stage at Cumberland.

“Honestly, it kind of feels like someone rips your guts out with a grappling hook,” Wendlandt recalls with a chuckle, showing his perspective on the raw moment of humility while he cranks down a bluff wall on Beaver Lake.

Wendlandt has had several weeks and a couple of dozen hours drive time to sort out what went wrong on the last day at Cumberland and he is really no closer to an answer than when he left the stage at Cumberland.

“I wish I had a nice easy, convenient excuse, but I don’t,” Wendlandt says. “I fished how I thought I could win the tournament and it worked flawlessly until the last day.”

Clark Wendlandt

Lake Cumberland was a “clean slate” event for the FLW Tour. Due to the recent dewatering and refilling for dam repairs, a whole new lake had sprung up at Cumberland with very little past tournament history to go on. Cumberland is a pattern lake – a massive pattern lake – giving pros vast expanses of water to run. In addition, the lake featured all three bass species, including a unique 18-inch smallmouth keeper requirement, offering pros multiple options and strategies. It was the kind of event Wendlandt relishes – the kind of venue that hovers right in his wheelhouse.

“Cumberland was a rare opportunity,” Wendlandt offers. “In today’s world of multiple tournaments on top fisheries, it’s hard to find a venue where everything is totally new to a majority of the field. I can’t tell you how refreshing that was to me.”

“Plus, that 18-inch smallmouth deal was pretty cool,” he opines. “It brought a whole new element to the game. I meant even a squeaker weighed 3-1/2 pounds. I decided pretty quickly that I would take five ‘line burners’ like that any day rather than fish for largemouth or spots. And that’s how I chose to fish the tournament.”

Using jerkbaits and crankbaits to catch smallmouth was his primary strategy at Cumberland.

“Going into it, I knew it was a dicey proposition,” he reveals. “But that’s the kind of fishing I love: exploring new water; chasing a high-risk, high-reward window. Fishing right on the edge of either doing great or completely failing – trust me, I understood the risks.”

Wendlandt admits that the thought of switching species – perhaps to largemouth – occurred to him on the final day, but he cranked for smallmouth with conviction.

“Some of the pros I respect the most in this sport fish their strengths – their style,” he says.  “They pursue their own program. They don’t get caught up in chasing what someone else is doing or what others tell them to do. I knew there were some other patterns going on, but I stayed true to the way I wanted to fish on that last day and that’s what matters to me most.”

Clark Wendlandt

When asked about regrets at Cumberland, he hesitates.

“The regret comes from knowing that in a lifetime of professional fishing, there are only so few opportunities to win tournaments,” he says. “Those opportunities are huge bonuses that only come around every so often. When one slips away like that, it hurts.

“I fully understood the risks of pursuing smallmouth from day one,” he concludes. “Taking those risks is exactly what got me to day four. What I really would have regretted would have been dropping back and punting for another species, bringing in a few keepers and still losing. At least I can sleep at night knowing I went all in the for the win.”

 

The Cumberland-Beaver connection

On several occasions at Lake Cumberland, Wendlandt remarked how Cumberland reminded him a lot of Beaver Lake, especially in the Tour’s early visits to Rogers, Ark., some 15 years ago. That’s back when Wendlandt reigned as “Mr. Beaver Lake.” From 1999 to 2004 he recorded five top tens including two wins.

In the modern era of Tour visits on Beaver Lake, Wendlandt’s title has been seriously challenged by Matt Arey, who has also racked up five top-10’s, including two wins, at the annual Tour stop.

As he scoured Beaver Lake’s majestic rock ledges with a crankbait on the final day of practice, Wendlandt again mentioned how Cumberland made him reminisce about the old Beaver Lake.

“I love this lake – I’ve won a lot of money here,” Wendlandt says. “But the problem I have with it now is there is nothing new to me about it anymore. It’s a fairly small lake and over the years of coming here, I have literally fished every bank on this place from the river to the dam – and so have a lot of other competitors. Everyone knows everything. In the early years, this place was still such a mystery, and that’s what I loved about it. That’s what fired me up about Cumberland, it was all new, the way this lake used to be 15 years ago.”

Despite his final day bomb at Cumberland, Wendlandt still finished ninth, adding to an 11th place showing at Harris Chain and a fifth place showing at Travis, which has given him a nice push in the points race, putting him in second place for Angler of the Year.

Now at Beaver Lake, he is looking to channel some of that excitable newness he felt at Cumberland back into the old Beaver Lake.

“Although we’ve been here umpteen times, this lake is still a very dynamic fishery,” Wendlandt says. “It changes a lot. And with this water rising so fast and this muddy water coming into the lake, it’s setting up to be the kind of event I like. There is a lot more cover in the water now and that means a lot of options. We’re on a new moon so new fish should be moving up to spawn with this water rise. Even though I’ve been here a bunch of times, I’m trying to use these conditions to see it like I’m seeing it for the first time – the way I viewed Cumberland several weeks ago.”

“I really need to find something new in the old to get me fired up about this place again,” he concludes. “And chances are, that new isn’t even going to materialize until the tournament, which is just the way I like it.”

 

Tournament details

Format: All pros and co-anglers will compete for two days. The co-angler champion will be crowned on day two, and the field will be cut to the top 20 pros on day three and the top 10 pros on day four. The winners will be determined by total cumulative weight.

Takeoff Time: 6:30 a.m. CT

Takeoff Location: Prairie Creek Recreation Area, 9300 North Park Road, Rogers, AR

Weigh-In Time: 3 p.m. CT on days one and two; 4 p.m. CT on days three and four

Weigh-In Location: Prairie Creek all days

 

Check out the FLW Expo and Evinrude Test Rides

Test rides – Evinrude will be hosting test rides for its popular E-TEC G2 motors at Prairie Creek Recreation Area on Saturday, April 29, from 7 to 11 a.m. All participants will receive a free Evinrude hat. Come demo Evinrude’s most powerful and fuel-efficient two-stroke motor in history.

Expo – The FLW Expo will take place at Prairie Creek on Saturday and Sunday, April 29-30, from 12 to 4 p.m. Kids’ activities include a Ranger Boat simulator, casting pond and more. Concessions will be available, along with vendors selling tackle and other outdoor gear.

Complete details

 

Tags: rob-newell  pre-tournament  2017-04-27-beaver-lake 

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