Worlds collide when opposites attract and become lifelong friends. That defines the unwavering bond of respect between Skeet Reese and Gerald Swindle.
A GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods trophy, Toyota Angler of the Year title and $3 million in B.A.S.S. earnings are the accolades of Reese, now in his second decade as a pro. So is Swindle, a two-time AOY winner with 17 Classic appearances and $2 million in winnings.
Reese, 48, lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of northern California. Swindle, 48, calls Lake Guntersville, Alabama, home. Reese wears yellow from head to toe, pulls his boat with a street legal monster truck. Swindles rolls with a tricked out Toyota Tundra, wife LeAnn and their dogs Myrick and Bama. Swindle likes his fish fried, and Reese eats his raw with chopsticks.
Dixie meets Cali. Worlds collide, indeed. Reese put bass fishing on SportsCenter after break dancing on the Classic weigh-in stage. Swindle’s unrehearsed redneck tinged monologues keep crowds roaring with laughter.
Things weren’t always that way for the two fan favorites at the top of their games. Reese and Swindle emerged from humble beginnings, overcame setbacks and continued persevering until reaching the top.
Here’s how the brotherhood all began and endures, Reese and Swindle style, in this spontaneous interview.
When and where did you meet?
In 1998 at the Smallwood State Park boat ramp on the Potomac River in Maryland. He was towing a boat with an old beater of a pickup truck. I thought to myself how in the world a redneck like him could make it at this level.
He was driving a Ford Econoline panel van that looked like it just rolled in from a construction site. I’d heard about California guys driving custom vans and looking the part, you know, all slicked up like they do on the West Coast. Not him.
What made you buds for life?
We both came from the same place, which was nowhere. We started at the same time, worked our butts off, taking the hits along the way and enduring it together. He was from the South, me from the West Coast. We came from two very different cultures, but in the end we were the same. Sometimes you get a gut feeling about somebody with the first meeting. When we met I felt like we could feed off the other’s drive to succeed.
It happened in that parking lot on the Potomac River. We both realized we were in it together, for the same reasons. I looked at this guy from the West Coast, and he had the same look in his eyes as I did in mine. He wanted to win and be successful. You automatically respect somebody who you see as yourself. From then on we ran together, slept in our trucks, parked in McDonald’s parking lots and kept the momentum going.
What makes him a passionate competitor?
It’s his drive to succeed while defeating anything getting in his way. Watching Gerald turn his career around, even with physical setbacks, and reset his mindset to the whole Positive Mental Attitude thing, the PMA. To see him make that transformation was amazing and truly inspiring for me when he won the second AOY. I went through the same process last season, and he set the example.
It’s how he fights back the demons haunting him about being unable to succeed. His competitive fire is just as hot now as ever. Everything he does is for his family. He wants them to have a better life. When Skeet became a father he became a much more fearless competitor, and I got to watch that happen.
What’s he like without the game face?
He is passionate about life. Gerald is here to embrace it, enjoy it and sometimes we all can use a reminder about that’s what life is all about. He also enjoys entertaining all of us on a regular basis. Never before have I met anyone who can just spontaneously come up with what he says, from a boat dock to a packed arena.
Family is so important to him. Living in California and having done this for 20 years, with all the heartaches and frustrations, can challenge a marriage and family life. Skeet is able to keep family time at the front and center, no matter what, and even in the way of business. I admire that, along with the fact he’s spent time hanging out with my own mom and dad in Alabama.
What makes you jealous about each other?
How he can just come up with things in his mind and speak them without any thought. I wish I could be as entertaining and witty as Gerald.
That he can still fish that good but not as much. Skeet doesn’t fish as much as the other guys when he’s at home. He spends less time on the water, but can still be a top competitor at game time. There’s something about it that makes him a natural. I’ve got to stay tuned up, keep fishing even when I’m at home.