The 2008 Bassmaster Elite Series season was not horrible for Gerald Swindle. He took a paycheck home from 64 percent of the tour's events, but at season's end it was certainly disappointing.
Swindle has qualified for the Bassmaster Classic 9 times during 11 seasons on tour — but this year wasn't one of them. And he'll be the first to admit he didn't fish well enough to deserve a Classic berth.
But Swindle's not exactly sitting around in rural Alabama feeling sorry for himself. Remember, we're talking about a guy who was raised one rung above poor, endured five back surgeries while working as a house framer, and still climbed to the top of the bass fishing ladder.
Self-pity is not on his list of character traits. Instead, the "G-Man" is reconnecting with what put him on top of the tournament angling universe. He's getting back to that intangible emotion that's often over-described, but always the undeniable catalyst for converting also-rans into the best in their respective profession.
Passion — that's what Swindle and others call it — and by jackpotting slightly smaller venues ranging from the local Thursday night tourneys to the Bassmaster Central Open. He's getting back in touch with that passion.
"The Tundra, the Triton and I have made a bunch of runs back and forth to Lake Guntersville since the Elite Series ended. I've been fishing jackpots and other local tournaments up there. I ran up to Guntersville a few Thursday evenings ago with my buddy, paid our $25 entry fee, got lucky and won the thing. We took home $234; I couldn't have been happier, and it had nothing to do with money.
"Driving home, I felt more in touch with the emotions that drove me to succeed in this sport, more so than any time in a long time. I was reminded how much I truly love this sport. You run out and fish your guts out for three hours, but you're having fun, you're trying to run over coots, you're telling dirty jokes to your buddy, you're laughing with guys you hadn't seen in years, and you're fishing intuitively.
"The bottom line is you're consumed with the thrill that comes from simply figuring out what you have to do to make them bite, and when they do, like the other night when one just short of 6 pounds ate my buzzbait, you reconnect to that passion that drives you. I got home and told Lee Ann, 'I love this,'" said the 2004 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
"I gotta tell you, the funny thing is when I was driving home with my buddy and that $234 check, he's sitting in the passenger's seat saying, 'Man, I wish I had your job,' and I'm thinking 'No really, I wish I could go back to your mindset — fishing in its purest, most passionate form, instead of worrying about pounds, ounces, paychecks and points races."
Indeed the escape from worry seems to be working wonders. On September 27, Swindle drove home with another check, this one for $8,000, after finishing 7th out of 157 anglers at a Bassmaster Central Open he jackpotted on Kentucky Lake.