SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Anglers and spectators around Gerald Swindle may have thought that the Alabama pro finally lost his marbles in the unseasonable New York heat today. Even from a distance, it was possible to see him gyrating wildly in his boat. There was a method to his madness, though:
"I was trying to jump up and down to make 'em school," he said.
Swindle pulled out all the tricks — including doing donuts with his trolling motor and jacking up his Biosonix unit to the highest possible level, but still couldn't get the schoolers to commit as well as he would've liked.
"Even if you find them schooling here, it's not instant success," he said. Still, he had enough tricks up his sleeve that the jumping episodes were short-lived. He eventually culled up to 16 pounds, 3 ounces and will fish again tomorrow.
Okie at Oneida
Historically, northeasterners and Floridians have seemed to populate the leaderboard disproportionately at Oneida, but there's an interloper who seems to have made himself comfortable among their ranks — Terry Butcher of Oklahoma.
He was 21st here in 2006, 9th here last year and made the cut again here in 10th.
It's easy to explain why the Sunshine State anglers do well here. The grass resembles what they're used to fishing. What's Butcher's explanation for his success?
"I'm not a grass fisherman," he said. "I guess Syracuse, New York just likes me."
He expected to catch mostly largemouth this week but said that most of his fish have been smallmouths in what he considers "largemouth water."
"I don't know why they're there but I'll take them," he said.
Dean Rojas, winner of this event on Oneida Lake in 2008, has emerged near the top of the standings again this year, but hasn't been able to challenge leader Chad Griffin because of a lack of big bites.
"I don't know what is different from last year, but I still haven't had a big bite," Rojas said. "Last year I had two fish in the 4- to 5-pound range and this year I have had none. I need one big one tomorrow to have a chance, but I think it might be too little, too late."
Rojas has primarily been targeting shallow largemouth with his signature SPRO frog and flipped fish with a Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog. He heads into Sunday in seventh place with a three-day total of 44 pounds, 9 ounces, over 5 pounds off of the lead.
Matt Sphar of Attica, N.Y., got the crowd fired up at the Day Three weigh-in of the Ramada Champion's Choice when he made his second top-12 finish of the season after posting 44 pounds, 3 ounces in three days.
As much as he has enjoyed fishing in front of the welcoming fans in Syracuse, he hasn't found any local advantage to fishing on Oneida Lake.
"Every angler out here is extremely good — they know every rockpile that I do," Sphar said. "It's been tricky because I know so many areas and that makes me want to run around to hit all of them. I need patience to stay and fish each area thoroughly."
On the third day of competition, he made a key decision to move areas and that helped him improved in the standings and locked his spot in the top 12 anglers fishing on Sunday.
"I scrambled around all morning — the wind stirred up the water and we needed calm to concentrate those fish in the weed clump," Sphar said. "I eventually found fish schooling on a point, but since I was only culling an ounce or two, so I made the decision to come back for largemouth."
He ended up culling three times on largemouth, which moved him up to eighth place with 14 pounds, 8 ounces on the day.
Day Three Quotes
"Me and Kevin are pretty much locked in at this point, but the guys in 10th through 15th place, that's where the action is."
"I fished a good event. I never lost a fish all week that mattered."
"We were all following each other around. I tried to play that game and I guess I got on the wrong rotation of water."
--Denny Brauer, explaining why he had not done well at Oneida in the past.
"It's hotter than donut grease on the Alabama River."
--Gerald Swindle, looking forward to the postseason.
"If I had caught that fifth fish I would've made the cut easy."
--First day leader Randy Howell, who couldn't fill out his limit today and fell to 26th, less than a pound and a half outside the cut.
"I'll let Trip (Weldon) do that."
--Billy McCaghren, asked if he would call Matt Herren to break the news that he'd overtaken Herren in the Rookie of the Year race.