Gerald Swindle had his best Classic in more than a decade and, if not for a mechanical breakdown, might have fished into position to win.
The “rock star” of bass fishing finished 10th at the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina, but he did threaten to join an elite crowd with both major B.A.S.S. titles.
Swindle claimed his second Toyota Angler of the Year in 2016 -- his first was in 2004 -- to become the 11th angler with more than one title in the season-long point race. Hartwell was his 17th Classic appearance, and he posted his best finish since taking third at Pittsburgh in 2005.
While he’s now had five top 12 Classic finishes, he was asked at the top 6 news conference on Day 2 what it was like to get back to Championship Sunday.
“I don’t have wear that new pair of shoes I brought just in case I didn’t catch ‘em to work the show tomorrow,” he quipped before clarying his thought. “It ain’t just been the last four or five years. Ever since we went to the wintertime Classic, I have struggled. Things just hadn’t went my way. I came here with a simple goal. I didn’t want to work the show Sunday. I wanted to know what it’s like to fish Day 3.”
Swindle explained that cold-water events have been his nemesis. With water temperatures hovering around the 50s on Hartwell, it allowed him to run a pattern, he said, adding that he's always struggled when the water is 43, 44 degrees.
“Gerald’s pretty much going to be down there where the printer starts to run out of ink on the sheet,” he said. “That’s not my style.”
He should be patting himself on the back for even staying within striking range after mechanical issues stopped him cold on Day 2, right when the fish were biting. He was ninth after Day 1 with 15 pounds, 13 ounces and climbing the leaderboard when his motor decided it wasn’t going to run anymore, leaving him stuck on a small stretch he continued to ply.
ESPN2 reporter Robbie Floyd and his cameraman caught up with Swindle during this most dire of circumstances. On Bassmaster LIVE, viewers witnessed Swindle trying hard to remain poised as he struggled to arrange for a working boat.
“I think those are things you can’t predict and you can’t prepare for,” he said. “Ethanol and fuel breaks down. It stops up filters, it stops up diaphragms. And there you are. No matter what you do to prepare your tackle, your time and your map studies, none of that prepares you for that.
“You’re in a groove and things start happening and all the sudden you’re out of the game. Honestly, there were 30 or 40 minutes where I was spinning out of control. I could feel it. I was angry. Flustrated.”
Yep, he even coins new words. But Swindle worked past the problem, pretty much keeping his cool when all about him seemed lost. His “flustration” trying to give directions to the boat fetchers was discernible. He went on to say the breakdown was at the worst possible time.