GREENSBORO, N.C. — Not that it takes much to get Gerald Swindle on some sort of rant — words simply geyser out of the man, it seems.
But on Day Three of the Bassmaster American presented by Advance Auto Parts, when the only fish he caught was a last-minute sight fish he plucked from under a willow tree, he was in amazing form even by his standards.
"I tried everything and I came to the full conclusion: They need to rush all them fish back to Lake Townsend, because they're the only ones in there, I'm telling you right now," he told the crowd from stage, talking his usual 90 mph. "They need to nurse 'em, put some chemicals on them, ice them down, be real gentle, 'cause them boys got a long day tomorrow, is all I can tell you. I feel like I got double-dipped in peanut butter and rolled down a dirt road. I don't want to go back out there. I don't care if I ever see Townsend. If I had a house there, I'd burn it down and move back to Alabama. That's how I feel. If you can't catch 'em, you've got to get out of there.
"I got no excuses, that lake kicked my butt. Ain't nothing about that easy. I just got beat down by the lake, I'm telling you right now. I've enjoyed it, but it's like the flu: I don't want it no more."
It was hard to believe, considering how hard the 12 finalists pounded High Rock Lake over the past two days (average daily weight for them: about 15 pounds) that they could be so stymied on Lake Townsend, where the final two days of the tournament will be decided.
Other than Fred Roumbanis (14 pounds, 10 ounces) and Brian Snowden (9-0), no angler cracked 6 pounds. Seven of the 12 had less than 3 pounds. Eight had two fish or fewer. Swindle had 2-1, but he finished way up at 10th. Russ Lane had one fish for 1-3, and Dean Rojas — well, Rojas approached Swindle as he was giving an interview back stage and handed him the receipt that confirmed his zero weight.
"Start your fire with that," he told Swindle.
Asked what he would do with a second day on the lake, Rojas replied, laughing: "I wouldn't want to go out tomorrow. I don't even want to go through it. It's not even fun. You're just going to get creamed."
Even with the cruddy day on the water, some anglers would have taken another crack at it. Lane said he would have done essentially the same thing he did Saturday — except hope that he wasn't stuck fishing muddy water at the wrong time of day on his assigned rotation around the lake. He was the exception. Most of the other guys who got pounded Saturday said they'd like to slow down and fish banks earlier.
The biggest trouble, nearly everyone agreed, is that the lake is not exactly brimming with fish, and those who do inhabit it weren't in much of an eating mood.
"It's right after the spawn," said Edwin Evers, whose two fish went 2-12. "Those fish were real spooky, just super, super spooky. They'd take off running when the bait was in the air. If it was cloudy, or a little more wind or something, it sure would have helped a bunch."
"There's a lot of fish in the lake," said Ray Sedgwick, who caught two fish weighing 2-4, good for ninth place. "They'll catch 'em better tomorrow because they know what to do now. These guys at this level, there's luck involved in it. You've always got to have a little luck. But still these guys only need a day to figure a lot of things out."
Mark Tucker went as far as to say a 20-pound bag is possible — a striking statement, considering that the combined bags of eight of the world's best anglers wouldn't have matched that Saturday. But most anglers did have tales of big fish that declined bait.
Even Swindle spotted a pair of big fish that simply wouldn't take his bait, including a 6-pounder that tormented him by ignoring him right at day's end.
"If I had to fish tomorrow — I say 'had,' like if I lost a really bad bet — I would go fish for those two sight fish all day," he said. "When I got in that hole, I would just try to catch those two, because there ain't no more out there to catch."