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Auburn angler loves Chilton lakes

Casting a line hundreds or thousands of times on a given day, Andrew Wendt never forgets the lakes of his childhood.

A successful fisherman at Auburn University, the Clanton native remembers Lay, Mitchell and Jordan Lakes with a particular ease and comfort.

He started catching fish at 4 years old in the surrounding lakes that afforded him useful skills he’s kept many years up the stream.

“Clanton is surrounded by three of the best bass fisheries in the state,” he said. “Having that kind of fishing right in my own back yard has really helped.”

Growing up, Wendt, 24, fished for fun — it put him outside, on a boat and in the water. Fishing was a rite of passage for any red-blooded Southern kid.

Now, still loving every catch, he fishes to compete.

As a member of the AU Bass Club, the Chilton County High School graduate participates in several tournaments statewide. This weekend, he’ll compete in the inaugural Bassmaster Collegiate Classic in conjunction with the 2010 Bassmaster Classic. Auburn will send its three best boats against the University of Alabama’s best three. Needless to say, he’ll bring his A-game to this Iron Bowl on Lake Logan Martin in Pell City.

Competitive angling requires a different approach than what is used by everyday fishermen.

“I think that it’s different for each angler and each body of water,” Wendt said. “The biggest thing that I’ve found is that you have to have confidence in your approach no matter what you’re doing.

“Fishing changes from day to day, and what worked yesterday will not necessarily work today. So, just staying positive, I think, is the most important strategy anyone can master on the water.”

Prior to any tournaments, Wendt will pre-fish the lake to familiarize himself with the waters and the life underneath.

“You just can’t substitute actual time on the water, but with still being in school, it’s hard to do that,” he said. “So, usually getting ready for a tournament just entails reading any recent fishing resorts, getting the weather reports for the day of and the week leading up to tournament day and just talking to people who know the lake or have fished there before.”

A fervent Tiger fan, Wendt rarely catches a break from his crimson-minded family.

“I’m a huge AU fan,” he said. “Actually, I’m the only one in my family now. I have three sisters who all attended UA. So, at home, I’m a bit outnumbered.”

At this tournament, each boat will hold two anglers that will bring in their heaviest five-fish limit. The weighing will take place at the Toyota Tundra booth in the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center early Sunday afternoon.

The winner is determined by the team with the heaviest combined weight.

The AU team sponsor, Jann Swaim, started the Southern Collegiate Bass Fishing Series, which the team fishes and hosts. In AU’s first tournament this year, which was on Lake Guntersville last weekend, 18 colleges competed with approximately 70 boats. They also fish in the FLW College Fishing series, in which 35 schools are represented.

Each semester, they have four qualifying tournaments within the club to calculate rankings for the following semester. The top anglers for each semester are rewarded with opportunities to fish at the bigger tournaments, Wendt said.

Wendt rarely fishes in an empty boat, normally competing with several different partners. For the Southern Collegiate, he’ll fish with Eric Terrell, a freshman.

This weekend, he’ll team up with Shane Powell, also a freshman.

Wendt is the son of David and Jennifer Wendt.