An open letter to Gerald Swindle

“You can chase a dream…”

Dateline: BASSfest

“Gerald, tell me, in your mind, do you think you are a good angler?”

“Honestly, db, no, no I don’t.”

I struggled with whether to use that quote, struggled in fact with even writing this story. If you are into numbers, know this, I have deleted this entire story 3 times now.

Never backed up a one of them.

So, if I begin with brutal honesty from my good friend, Gerald Swindle, I will follow that with brutal honesty from myself.

Fair is fair.

Here goes: As a reporter I’m supposed to be an uninvolved, non-biased observer of who or what it is that I cover.

For 23 years, I was exactly that, coldly so.

Truth…I am not that anymore.

Go on your boards and jump all over me, say whatever you want, mock whatever you want, but it don’t matter none to me.

I AM FRIENDS WITH AND I CARE ABOUT THE PEOPLE I COVER NOW. And yeah, they don’t teach that in Journalism School.

But I think maybe they should.

I think you GET and you WRITE the best stories, when you have skin in the game. I have a dog in this fight…104 to be exact.

So I tell you, back a couple weeks ago at Lake Dardanelle when Gerald was sitting up on the Bassmaster stage on Championship Sunday, I was standing a few feet to his right, waiting and hoping, this would be his day. I had the camera up and focused on him to record victory, or defeat.

This is the shot I took.

And as I took the shot, I felt as bad as he did at what turned out to be the eventual outcome.

He lost.

In the couple weeks since this shot, I have reached out to Gerald a few times, txt’d him this exact message: “U OK.”

Gerald always responded, that he was, but the other day was the first time I got to talk to him in person, talked to him at the best time, after a day of practice fishing as he worked on tackle in his boat parked next to his 5th wheel.

“Gerald, tell me, in your mind do you think you are a good angler.”

“Honestly, db, no, no I don’t.”

And this was my answer back.


“…that seems so out of reach…”

I believe the basis of all greatness, is humility.

I believe the basis of all greatness, is soul searching.

I believe the basis of all greatness, is not how you respond to a great win, but how you respond to a great loss.

How you respond to a loss by just…4 ounces.

“Do you have a monkey on your back, Gerald.”

“I do, I’ve won before, won an Open, but haven’t won an Elite event, haven’t won an Elite event.”

Up until that moment, he was quietly working on his tackle; when he answered that question, though, he looked up and looked me right in the eyes. At that moment, he wasn’t G-Man, wasn’t on stage, he was just looking at a friend.

“db, when you climb a mountain, you can’t look up; you have to look at your feet to keep climbing.”

I remember a private coach ride I had one year back to Bristol, Connecticut, from Times Square in NYC.

It was Sports Emmy night, big banquet room, I was in a tux, lots of famous people around.

I was there because it was, ESPN Outside The Lines vs HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel…I thought we at OTL would win hands down.

We didn’t.

On the bus ride back home, I sat in the dark next to my friend, Bob Ley, sat there seething, promising myself that I would do everything in my power to win, next time.

Next time was a long, long time coming. Here’s why, the more I tried to win, the more I sucked.

Gerald, my friend, take this from me; you don’t win by focusing on winning.

The absolute worst part of “your time will come,” is the time you spend waiting for it.

I know you believe in a higher source, know you believe the source has a plan for all of us, faith, is in the waiting.

Gerald, my Uncle Sibby, played Major League Baseball for a bunch of years with the old Boston/Milwaukee Braves; he was the epitome of “a scrapper.” He was beloved not because of his skill, but because of the way he approached the game.

I told him about losing the Emmy and my ever growing dislike for HBO and Gumbel, and one day as I was visiting him, he sat in his big old recliner alternating between chewing and smoking a cigar and he said this to me, “Donnie, relax, it’s not about the game around you, its all about the game within you.”

And then he gave me a cigar filled hug.

A couple years later, on the phone from Bristol, “Uncle Sib, we won, we beat ‘em this time.”

“Great Donnie, ha ha, but I cancelled HBO right after we talked that time ...those dirty…”

All about, the game in the man.

“…and you know it might…”

So as I leaned against Gerald’s boat, all I wanted to find out was if there was any game left in the man.

As we are talking, he bends down and reaches into a locker on his boat and pulls out a plastic bag…

“db, you know that LuLu (his wife Le Ann) every tournament day packs me something to eat and writes something on it. That Sunday, that last day on Dardanelle, she writes this, “4th and inches.”

Gerald, my friend, let me be honest with you, tell you something personal; in my life, I never pay attention UNTIL it is 4th and inches.

Ask my wife.

I never wanted to be Babe Ruth, I always wanted to be the closer pitching to him, the game in the man is 3 and 2 bottom of the 9th, the game in the man is always, 4th and inches.

“db, no matter what happened on stage, that last 45 minutes for me on Dardanelle was magical, was as close to true ecstasy as I have ever gotten. I went from having 11 1/2 pounds to 18 in 20 mins, my last cast caught a 4-pounder. It was as if the world just lined up for me. I was in the zone and could see things, feel things I have never felt before out there. It was magic out there and in my heart, in where no one else knows, my heart was at peace, I have seen how magical it can be…”

And then came this…

“db, for me it aint about the hardware, the trophies, the clapping. For me, when all is said and done, when I’m old and retired, a win to me would be about peace of mind. I could sit on my rocking chair on my porch and know that I competed at the highest level and won, that I came here and belonged, that I was as good as all those around me, db, don’t take me wrong I will cherish the trophy, but I long for, and desire in my heart, peace of mind, peace of mind.”

“…not ever come your way…”

Gerald, my friend, as only a close friend will tell you, tell you from experience, peace of mind comes first.

I never had a lick of success until I came to peace with myself.

Came to peace with what I did.

Took care of the game within the man.

Success, in whatever field of play you are in comes from commitment, confidence, and courage.

Peace within, makes all those possible.

I have found that it was myself who helped put the monkey that was on my back.

I lifted it up, I put it there, and it was the monkey that got game, not me.

I was about to tell you something when someone came up to talk to you, and I left, so I will tell you what I was going to tell you in private, I’ll tell you it in public.

You changed me.

It was you who broke the barrier in me between what/who I covered and whether I cared or not.

I see you, not as the mirror of the sport, but the mirror, of me.

The mirror of a 4th and inches life.

When I told my bosses I wanted to do this story with you, wanted to write you this open letter, they asked one simple question…why.

And my honest answer was this: “I need to know if he has anything left, I need to know what it is that will define him.”

Welcome, my friend, to emptying the tank on no matter what you do. Welcome to the ups, welcome to the downs.

“db, I told my Marshal in the boat that last day, I told him, ‘son, no matter what else happens today, son, you have just seen the magic that is out there.”

I believe that there is true magic in the world.

I believe, it is all around us and is a sign from the hand above that guides.

I believe the true magic in the world, to be, peace within.

And with that peace, comes wins.

On stage,

and off.

“…dream it anyway.”


Martina McBride

Peace my friend, peace.