LA CROSSE, Wis. – What’s an Elite angler to do when he finds himself on a body of water as vast as the Mississippi River?
For sure, a lot of pros asked themselves the same question when they found their way to this corner of southwest Wisconsin.
The Mississippi, even here, not far from its source, is vast. There literally are tens of thousands of acres to cover. There’s the main channel, of course, but there is a myriad of backwaters, cuts and sloughs that are hidden from the naked eye – still however, ripe for great bass fishing.
Gerald Swindle, as seasoned a pro as there is on this circuit, knows how it feels to try to grasp the greatness that is the Mississippi River. He was one of the 99 Elites who competed in the Diet Mountain Dew Mississippi River Rumble presented by Power-Pole.
But Swindle, who hails from way down south in Alabama, had to his advantage something that many of the other Elites have in common. That is, no matter how large the fishery, he could rely on his background of fishing small water.
That’s right. The guys that were fishing for a $100,000 grand prize on the robust Mississippi River thought back to the smaller bodies of water where they sharpened their teeth as kids. They thought back to the smaller pools and the habit of forming a fishing pattern.
And for Swindle, in general, it was a comforting thought – to go back to the place that got him where he is today.
In particular, for Swindle, that’s Inland Lake, which is just outside of Oneida, Ala.
“That’s the lake where I had my first job,” Swindle said. “It’s only about 1,600 acres or so, so it’s a small body of water. I fished Tuesday nighters and Saturday nighters there for years. You learn so much about fishing on a place like that. You learn how to fish behind people and you understand how important it is to change baits and swap techniques.”
That’s not terribly uncommon on any body of water, but it can make a difference on a pool as big as the Mississippi River – or Lake Guntersville, or Sam Rayburn or, perhaps, on the Mississippi at its delta in Louisiana.
“At a place like Guntersville, I could take a jig and flip all day and cover new water. On a small body of water, you don’t have that option. You may have to backtrack and repeat the same circle. But I think people that come from small bodies of water actually are better. They make small adjustments and they understand how to finesse things.
“When you get on a body of water like this, it’s a bit overwhelming. You’re just cranking and running water all day. Small bodies of water are most definitely more tedious and you have to pay attention that.”
So at the Mississippi River Rumble, Swindle kept the lessons he learned close to heart.
“I think you grow up with and at this level, it’s instinct,” he said. “It’s second nature, but still in my mind, I go back to those small bodies of water and say ‘OK, this is what I used to do.’ Take for instance a place like this. You go back and lap around and, just like the old days, you can find those subtle changes in the fishing.”