CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Gerald Swindle is well aware of that fact that there has only been one pro — Arkansas' Mark Davis — that has ever won both the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year and CITGO Bassmaster Classic titles in the same season.
Although the fishing world's thoughts and attention are just beginning to turn toward the 34th annual CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer July 30-Aug. 1 on Lake Wylie in Charlotte, N.C., Swindle is already looking ahead to professional fishing's world championship.
"I'm looking forward to Charlotte for a number of reasons," the 34-year-old Alabama angler said. "I think it's going to be the biggest Classic that we've ever seen. I think the crowds are going to be tremendous.
"I also look forward to the tournament. I like dock fishing. I like shallow-water fishing. I feel like that's one of my strengths. I feel for certain there are going to be some fish caught that way, and I just hope I'm one of the guys that catch them like that."
Swindle will enter his fifth Classic in an unfamiliar situation as the high-profile CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
"I've never been there as an Angler of the Year before," he said. "I'm sure there's going to be a little more pressure and little more hype. But maybe since this is going to be my fifth Classic, I'll be a little more settled in and I'll understand how to handle it more. I'm getting better and better at the professional side of it, the business side of it — being able to block that out and just go fishing.
"So hopefully I'm getting better at that."
The personable pro was asked if he allows himself to dream of joining Davis in one of professional fishing's most elite clubs, winning both major titles in the same season.
"I do think about winning this Classic," he replied. "I think all of us think about it at one time or another. You at least have to dream about it or you're surely never going to accomplish it. So, yeah, winning does cross my mind — especially how to win it."
Swindle, who has the distinction of being the rare Angler of the Year that has never won a BASS event, captured the award in a battle with CITGO Rookie of the Year Greg Hackney that came down to the last cast of the season.
"My soul burned to win one of these, but I never had come close," he said. "To beat these guys, you have your A game on all the time … if you're sitting in the stands you have no idea what these guys can do with a rod and reel, and how hard it is to beat them day in and day out. This is phenomenal.
"It's kind of a weird feeling. I feel like a burden has kind of been lifted off because I felt like this year I was really starting to chase it and getting real close (to winning tournaments). That was starting to get to be a little burden. Maybe this will be the confidence builder that gets me over that hurdle."
Spend time in the boat with Gerald Swindle and you will quickly see what drives him — a burning passion for bass fishing.
"Fishing is what I do," he emphasized. "Every morning when you crank all of these Mercurys up and you smell all the gas burning, you start thinking, 'This is what I live for. This is what it's all about.' "
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Local Sponsors include the Charlotte Regional Sports Commission, Visit Charlotte, the Auditorium-Coliseum-Convention Center Authority, the Rock Hill Sports and Tourism Council and Time Warner Cable.