Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Happy Hometown Haul; after Time on Pro Tour, Clark Returns to Win Wolfson Tournament

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Happy Hometown Haul; after Time on Pro Tour, Clark Returns to Win Wolfson Tournament

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Sutton

PALATKA - The journey might seem backward, but Preston Clark had to leave the professional bass tour to win his hometown tournament.

"I've been second. I've been fifth. I've been third. ... But this is special," he said after winning the 22nd annual Wolfson Bass Tournament on Saturday.

He won by less than an ounce.

"It was real special," Clark said, "because I got to fish with my wife."

And it was his wife, Katrina, who brought the limit of five bass weighing 23.09 pounds to the scales while Preston stayed with the boat. It wasn't a long wait, but it likely seemed that way.

With the blessings of Katrina and her help, Clark gave up his day job and committed to go pro in 2004. It's always risky. The upper echelon of bass fishing makes a pretty short list. Clark fished 63 tournaments, had one win and placed in the money 30 times. His Cinderella year was 2006, when he set the Bassmaster Classic record for the heaviest 20-fish aggregate at 115 pounds, 15 ounces on South Carolina's Lake Santee Cooper.

He also caught the record bass, an 11.10-pound fish, at Kissimmee's Lake Tohopekaliga.

But he decided to come home. Four children, including a set of triplets, can do that. And home is exactly where he stayed to win the $10,000 first-place prize. He fished the St. Johns River and went into Dunn's Creek.

"We were never three miles from this dock," Clark said, rubbing the toe of his sneaker on the Palatka City Docks.

He fished close. He fished shallow.

"I never worked more than three 3 deep," Clark said.

He pitched a Bass Assassin trick worm over covered timber and a prototype worm by the same company scheduled to debut soon. He called it the "Rail Worm."

The big bass of the tournament was a 9.88-pounder caught by Stephen Labaw and Lane Ward. It paid $5,000. That was down a bit from last year, when the big fish caught by John and Deryl Williams tipped the scales at 10.92 pounds.

The aggregate weight was also down. But the 31.34 pounds of fish caught by Ed Taylor Jr. and Brian Dolski in 2010 set the bar high.

In all, 381 teams fished the tournament. It remains one of Northeast Florida's top events in terms of participation. The tournament is really a three-part event, which also includes a VIP tournament and the Lads & Lasses tournament. …

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