Swindle goes ‘retro’ at Smith Lake

JASPER, Ala. — It was throwback week for Gerald Swindle at the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open #3, held on the very lake where he began tournament fishing as a teenager.

Going retro was all in the plans for Swindle, 42, who finished the tournament with a 7th-place finish on Lewis Smith Lake. 

Above all else, the trip down memory lane was lined with confidence in the baits and techniques he used all week.

“When you have so many years of fishing with the same lure and have confidence in a lake then it makes sense to go back to what’s always worked,” he said. “That’s why I went old school.”

He scored on a vintage lure and ran a reliable pattern dating back to his nighttime jackpot tournament days. The connection to the past came with an Arkie Jig. It was invented in the 1970s and became the forerunner of weedless jigs used ever since for trophy largemouth fishing. 

Swindle’s choice for the week was the classic 3/8-ounce all-brown Arkie Jig. He tipped it with a Zoom Super Chunk for added strike appeal.

“That’s the jig I grew up fishing here,” said Swindle. “It’s just perfect for skipping beneath docks and it’s a good brushpile jig with the weedguard.”

With the jig he did both. That involved targeting submerged brushpiles and skipping docks positioned near deep water.

A reliable old school buzz bait complemented Swindle’s arsenal of lures for the week. He retrofitted a 3/8-ounce bait with an oversized 1/4-ounce blade for enhanced noise. 

“It’s the same theory as the jig,” he added. “I learned to rig it that way years ago.”

The buzz bait presentation involved running the lure through visible brushpiles in shallow water. 

Swindle stood firm all week with his decision to forgo fishing for the lake’s plentiful population of spotted bass. Instead, he was one of few anglers making the long run from the launch site at the dam to the headwaters. 

In the riverine setting of the lake he targeted largemouth bass in a deliberate move to catch bigger fish. Even so he encountered spotted bass in some places, providing a bonus opportunity to fill a limit. 

The plan worked well all week until the weather changed on Saturday. Cloudy skies and intermittent rain scattered the fish. Even so, Swindle went home with new memories rooted in the past. 

“It was fun to go back in time after fishing so many years on this lake,” he said. “I travel so much across the country and rarely get the chance to fish this way.”