Swindle: It's OK to not catch 'em

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James Overstreet

After the Day 1 weigh-in for the Bassmaster Elite Series event on the Potomac River in August, B.A.S.S. Times writer and Bassmaster.com columnist Pete Robbins threw an interesting question at Alabama pro Gerald Swindle.

With Swindle leading the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, Robbins asked him, “What do you know now that you didn’t know when you won AOY back in 2004?”

Without blinking, Swindle said, “I know that it’s OK not to catch ‘em.”

Isn’t it fitting that the quote of the year on the Elite Series would come from the Angler of the Year?

Swindle, who wrapped up the 2016 AOY title last week on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake, has now fished 246 B.A.S.S. events, dating all the way back to 1995.

With experience, comes maturity.

With maturity, comes rational thinking.

Earlier in his career, Swindle admits he sometimes allowed one bad day to ruin an entire tournament — if not several tournaments in a row.

Now as a full-fledged adult, about to be 47 years old, he sees each day for what it really is — just one day in a lifetime that’s already lasted more than 17,000 days and could very well last that many more. Today is just an opportunity to build on what happened yesterday.

It’s a grown-up philosophy that led him to a second AOY title — and one that applies to all walks of life.

Too often these days, we confuse success with perfection. But Swindle’s season is proof that you can achieve one without the other.

His Elite Series finishes this year were 40th, seventh, 30th, 10th, 34th, third, 10th, 10th and 12th heading into the AOY Championship. Those numbers don’t signify perfection. Instead, they’re the mark of a man who came to work every day and kept putting his best foot forward, even if a day went wrong here and there.

The AOY event itself was a microcosm of Swindle’s season. He struggled about as much as anyone could the first two days. But then he caught 22 pounds the final day to slam the door shut on AOY and the $100,000 check that goes with it.

He remembered it was OK not to catch ‘em.

I don’t know that Swindle will go down as one of the great philosophers of our time. But in this context, people everywhere could learn a lot from him.

How many times do we bow out of something on an annual basis because of one little slip-up?

How many diets are abandoned every day by people who desperately need to get healthier because they splurged for one meal or skipped one trip to the gym? How many credit ratings fall to pieces because someone didn’t have enough money to make just one month’s credit card payment on time and simply gave up trying?

How many estranged parents completely lose touch with a child after a divorce because it’s not the perfect, rosy, little situation they had hoped for? How many people never again voice their ideas at work because the first suggestion they made fell on deaf ears?

The idea that you should “accept no less than perfection” is just a lot of noise — and it usually leads to a lot of misery.

Just as there’s a big difference between success and perfection, there’s a difference, too, between accepting failure and enduring it.

For Swindle, accepting failure would have meant throwing in the towel after a 40th-place finish in the Elite Series opener on the St. Johns River back in March. Enduring that finish meant moving on to a seventh-place showing at Winyah Bay the next month and seeing to it that he never finished as low as 40th again throughout the regular season.

Around Swindle’s wrist, you’ll find a bracelet with the letters “PMA.”

It stands for “Positive Mental Attitude” — not “Perfect Mental Attitude.”

You should order one off his website at geraldswindle.com and look down at it on your wrist every now and then — whether you’re an aspiring professional angler who just can’t seem to get over the hump or a child afraid to raise your hand in class because the last answer you gave out loud was wrong.

Remember what Gerald Swindle said.

It’s OK not to catch ‘em — as long as you keep on casting.