Swindle DQ'd at Classic
When Gerald Swindle strode onto the stage on Day Two of the Bassmaster Classic lugging nearly13 pounds of bass in front of thousands of screaming fans, television cameras and his family, he would have rather been hiding in a closet somewhere.
Biggest tournament of his life. Thirty minutes from home. Sitting in the top 10 after the first day of the Bassmaster Classic.
And here he was, a DQ'd man walking. He knew it; the audience didn't.
He put his five bass on the scales, nearly 13 pounds, and when emcee Keith Alan asked him about his catch, Swindle took off his hat, ran his hand through the bottle-blond spikes of hair on his head and said into the microphone, "I guess everyone here knows that I've been disqualified."
Gasps rippled. Swindle explained that he broke a boating safety rule that morning. He had been speeding up a channel near the north end of Lay Lake, facing a flotilla of spectator boats on his right, and on the left angler Randy Howell and his tailing camera boat. The footage from that boat (available here) shows Swindle motioning to Howell that he was going to come through on Howell's side of the channel.
Swindle throttled back — but not much, in order to keep his boat high in the water, both not to muddy Howell's water and to keep clear of obstacles beneath. But he came through with speed that, on tape, seems alarming. He's so close to the two boats he splits that water appears to splash both decks.
"It was a bad decision," he said told the audience. "I just want to apologize to my sponsors …" And that's when he lost it. Broke down in tears, right before a pulsing arena.
But he had manned up. You'd have thought he just dragged a 20-pound bag across the stage. The crowd clapped and screamed forgiveness in full-throat as Swindle wiped his eyes and nose with the paper towels he had used to dry his hands of fishwater.
About that time, in the audience on the carpeted floor in front of the stage, a baby started crying.
Alan asked Trip Weldon, the tournament director, to justify the decision. Weldon began, "I'll preface this with, I love this guy," and explained that the maneuver had been needlessly reckless.
Then, a man seated somewhere in the lower bowl called: "Let him fish!"
Swindle reiterated his apologies, and reminded the crowd that he was in the wrong. "I didn't cheat," Swindle said, his voice quavering. "I wasn't trying to cheat. I wasn't trying to gain an edge. I just made a wrong decision."