MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Gerald Swindle caught a five-bass limit early Friday morning and culled a few fish, as well. All of them came from his first stop, just a few miles up the Alabama River from the Riverfront Park launch site, near a wastewater treatment outlet pipe.
But Swindle wasn’t catching any of the bigger bass that he knew were there. So shortly after 9 a.m. he pulled up his trolling motor and moved.
"There are some big ones in there," Swindle said. "They just haven't bit yet. That's alright. I'll come back and catch them later."
That’s exactly what Swindle did. After running far down the Alabama River and “rotting,” Swindle came back Friday afternoon and upgraded nearly every bass he had in the livewell. That proved to be just enough to edge Terry Scroggins by one ounce in the first round of the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship.
Earlier this season, the Warrior, Ala., angler missed a $100,000 check in the Elite Series tournament at Toledo Bend when he finished second to Dean Rojas – by one ounce.
“There’s where that one ounce went,” Swindle laughed as he came off the weigh-in stage at the Union Station Train Shed.
All week this matchup had gotten some extra attention because Swindle and Scroggins, who is from San Mateo, Fla., had been roommates during Elite Series tournaments and shared fishing information with each other. Determined to keep their friendship intact, they shared information again this week.
You could see the advantage of that Friday as Swindle weighed 12 pounds, 5 ounces, and Scroggins had 12-4; those were the second and third biggest bags among the eight All-Stars still competing.
“I know the place where Terry smoked them today,” Swindle said. “I said during practice that that was the place where Mark Davis caught them four or five years ago when we were here.”
Swindle and Scroggins didn’t share water Friday. Scroggins caught his bass about 15 miles downstream from Montgomery. Swindle went in that direction during the middle of the day Friday. It wasn’t the same spot where Scroggins was, and Swindle wasn’t having any luck there.
“I thought I had a good isolated wood pattern down there,” Swindle said. “I thought I could run down there and catch some. But when you do that for two hours and you don’t get a bite, I started thinking that is a real easy way to rot.”
So Swindle came all the way back upriver to what he calls “the poop pipe.” When he got there in the afternoon, water was flowing from it, unlike how he’d found it that morning.
“I knew if they turned the water on in that spot it would create current,” Swindle said. “Those fish are very fickle. If that current isn’t up, they’re just not active. No matter how good you think you are at catching suspended fish, they won’t bite.”
The current was running and the bass were biting when Swindle got back. As a result, that one-ounce margin of victory advances him to the Final Four, where he will face Ott DeFoe, who had the biggest bag of the day, 12-13, in defeating Mike Iaconelli. Casey Ashley will face Edwin Evers in the other matchup.
Swindle and Scroggins have already planned a trip with their families to the Florida Keys early in August. If Swindle were to win this tournament and the $100,000 first-place prize that goes with it, he figures his expenses for that vacation trip with Scroggins will go up considerably.
“It’s going to cost me several thousand dollars,” Swindle said. “I’ll be buying everything from boiled eggs to loaf bread.”