Clark Wendlandt had looked at the standings Friday night and figured if he caught at least 7 pounds, he'd win the Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. What he didn't know is that it would take him all day long to catch 7 pounds Saturday.
"If I have experienced a longer day, I can't remember it," said Wendlandt, AOY trophy in hand, after Saturday's weigh-in. "That seemed like the longest. Gosh, I was so intense. I did everything I could do. Without about two hours left, I just felt a peace fall over me. I said, 'If I don't win, it's just not meant to be.'"
It was meant to be. Wendlandt caught 7 pounds, 4 ounces, and finished in 28th place in the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefitting Texas Parks & Wildlife. He won the AOY title by three points over David Mullins, who missed the top 40 Day 2 cut by less than 1 1/2 pounds.
Wendlandt had led the AOY race since Lake St. Clair in August, before stumbling to 81st place at Lake Chickamauga last month. He came into this event in third place. But Wendlandt pointed to that event at Chickamauga as a key moment in his season. He caught only one bass - on Day 1 - in two days there. But that one fish was worth 20 points. Without it, he would have earned no points there.
"Without that one fish at Chickamauga, I wouldn't have won AOY," Wendlandt said. "Maybe Chickamauga was a blessing in disguise. If I'd have come in here with a 40-point lead, I may not have fished the same way. I fished really free, really well, the first two days especially."