One minute, Gerald Swindle was a cocky kid believing he could win every event he fished.
The next, he was a kind, big-brotherly type that other young anglers come to for advice.
For the life of him, he doesn’t know when the change occurred.
But regardless, here he stands, a 53-year-old pillar of wisdom, giving advice that, in a weird way, almost sounds too simple to make sense.
“I don’t know why I fell in this role-model position, if you want to call it that,” Swindle says. “I don’t want it to sound conceited when I say it, but I have a lot of anglers come talk to me when things aren’t going the way they would like.”
One reason is prolonged success.
After starting his career way back in 1995, the world-famous jokester has fished 307 B.A.S.S. events. He’s qualified for the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic 20 times, and he holds two Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles.
But it goes deeper than that.
Young anglers feel comfortable approaching Swindle because he doesn’t answer with quantum physics. He answers how you’d expect from a self-described “poor country boy.”
“Carl Jocumsen is a guy that I love more than any other angler out there, and he and I spend a lot of time talking,” said Swindle, referring to the popular Elite Series pro from Australia. “This year was a good year for him; he made his first Classic.
“But he was coming off a year before that when he said he stunk it up.”
Swindle wouldn’t buy into that notion.
“He had lost all of these big fish during that tough year, and in his mind, he did stink it up,” Swindle said. “But I said, ‘Mate, even in what you describe as the worst year of your life, you still beat 40% of the field.’ I said, ‘Now think about that. You don’t have to correct much to be exactly where you want to be. Now he’s there.”
So, basically, his advice was … You’re close. Just keep on keeping on.
Sometimes Swindle relays the story of his high school baseball team’s battle with a state powerhouse in the playoffs.
“Our best pitcher was a friend of mine named Rodney Johnson,” Swindle said. “His first two pitches, one hit on the gym, the other landed out in the parking lot.
“Our coach called timeout, gathered us all around and asked Rodney what he’d thrown. He said, ‘Inside slider and high heat.’ Our coach said, ‘Don’t throw those the rest of the day and we’re good.’”
His team fell behind 7-0 in that first inning before ultimately battling back and losing 7-6 with the bases loaded and a chance to win.
The message he took from it — and now relays to others: If something’s not working, stop it.
“How many times do we do that as fishermen?” Swindle asked. “I know I’m as guilty of it as anybody. You’re out there trying something and it’s not working, but you’re determined you’re gonna make it work.
“Well, dummy. Don’t do that.”
Another thing Swindle advises anglers to do after a bad season is to highlight the things they did right instead of dwelling on what went wrong.
“It may be something as simple as, ‘I really like the way I rigged my boat,’” he said. “But that’s a starting point — and once you get started listing them, you may find out you did more things right than you realized.”
For his most important piece of advice, Swindle dips once again into his smalltown past.
“You’ve gotta look forward because last season is over,” he said. “It’s like my junior high school dance when Julie McClain didn’t kiss me when Air Supply was playing. It’s over, brother. You’re never gonna get it back. So, quit looking in that rear-view mirror.”
Of course, don’t let that “Positive Mental Attitude” stance of his completely fool you.
He has a whole list of tips for Armageddon, too — but he saves the panic button for true moments of panic.
“When you come to me after you finished butt-naked last and didn’t get a bite, then we’ve got some work to do,” he said. “Until then, we’re gonna keep it positive because there’s always something to build on.”