Gerald Swindle is bass fishing's funniest man. And finally — finally! — after 167 B.A.S.S. tournament tries without a win, the 2004 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year can smile victoriously after leading wire-to-wire to win the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open.
He reflected on his first B.A.S.S. win as he piloted his Toyota Tundra away from Florida's Lake Toho.
"Big Show" = Big Heart
Top Florida B.A.S.S. pro and Swindle's Toyota teammate Terry "Big Show" Scroggins told Swindle to get out there in the middle and sling a Carolina rig around if he was struggling on the bank. "Big Show won't lead you astray; he's got a big heart," said Swindle. "It seems I've always struggled in Florida when I fish against the bank.
Big Show saying that gave me the vote of confidence to get out there and search for some big ones that were grouped-up, staging to move up and spawn, but hadn't yet made it to the bank." Two bites and only two bites. "I about froze to death out there on the first day of practice. I was cold. I was wet, and I only got two bites that day. I don't mean three.
I'm telling you, I had two bites using a Carolina rig, but my gut, my intuition, told me they were the right bites. I caught a few small fish in different areas during the other two days of practice, but my confidence was in those two bites. And those are the fish I won on in the tournament."
No worries, Honey
"I called 'Lulu' (his wife LeAnn) that night, after Day 1 of practice, and told her I'd had two bites all day. She was worried. But I'm telling you, I felt so good about those two bites being good fish that I told her not to worry, that I actually felt pretty confident based on just those two bites."
"Those bass were cold. They weren't in a mood to chase. I could not have moved my lipless baits much slower than I did. I was barely draggin' them through the grass in 6 feet of water, and that's how they wanted it — slow, slow, slow."
Back Deck Pressure
Swindle's co-angler on the final day, Marlon Crowder, caught three keepers totaling an astonishing 21 pounds by 8 a.m. "He was a great guy. I was rooting for him to do well, but let's be honest, that's a gut check.
I told myself if I could overcome seeing him catch three giants so early in the day from my back deck, then I'd be tough enough mentally to win."
"I threw the lipless baits and the Carolina rig on 7-foot Quantum rods, and both rods were outfitted with our new lightweight Smoke reels."
"I've got this big ole trophy strapped into this Tundra with the seatbelt around it. Safety first. You gotta take good care of the things that are important to you."