When most fishermen think of Florida bass fishing, they imagine endless aquatic vegetation, heavy braided line, big weights and giant warm-water dependent largemouth. Two-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle admits he envisions similar scenes when dreaming of Florida, but 26 years as a professional angler has educated G-Man on the nuances of fishing in the Sunshine State.
Through the school of hard knocks Swindle has learned there are lots of overlooked tools in an angler’s toolbox that can help lead to success when fishing a body of water like the St. Johns River — the playing field this week for the start of the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series season.
The Team Toyota pro offered three items that he leans on and always makes his starting lineup when he sees a Florida tournament on the schedule.
1. A jack plate
Bass fishing in Florida is typically synonymous with shallow water, which is why the first item on Swindle’s list is a jack plate for his outboard motor. Swindle uses a T-H Marine Atlas Hydraulic Jack Plate, and it allows him to raise or lower his motor depending on where he runs his Phoenix boat.
“A jack plate might not sound as sexy as high end electronics or a new fancy trolling motor, but they’ll save you when running shallow water,” Swindle said. “I spend lots of time idling the shallows in Florida, and my hydraulic jack plate helps keep sand and mud out of my water pump. When running (fast) on pad through shallow water, a jack plate can mean the difference between a functioning and a destroyed lower unit.”
2. Quality pair of sunglasses
A quality pair of polarized sunglasses is another tool Swindle depends on when fishing anywhere in the country around the spawn, especially in Florida. Not only do sunglasses help him see fish and spawning beds, but they also allow G-Man to clearly see holes, clumps or irregularities in underwater grass patches.
“I swear by Costas and wear the Reefton with a Sunrise lens, but there are lots of good options available,” Swindle offered. “A quality pair of shades is genuinely worth the investment if you plan to come down to Florida to fish. Being able to see 6 extra inches might mean the difference between seeing a 10-pound behemoth on bed or missing her altogether. Don’t skimp and get you some!”
3. Prop style topwater
Swindle’s last pick is a lure he feels doesn’t get the attention it deserves. A prop style topwater, similar to the iconic Devil’s Horse made famous years ago on the St. Johns and surrounding fisheries, is his third item.
Nowadays Swindle prefers the Rapala X-Rap 11 and believes the subtle action of this style of topwater is key when targeting Florida bass in super skinny water.
“My buddy Big Show (Terry Scroggins) showed me this lure over 10 years ago and called it the ‘River Donkey.’ When I asked why that name he said, ‘Cause it’ll kick your you-know-what on this river,” Swindle laughed. “You hardly ever hear about a bait like this anywhere in the country except when we come down to Florida. They’ll bite it other places, but not like they’ll eat it here. You can’t overlook it.”
Swindle will have these three tools and many more working to the best of their abilities today for the first day of Elite Series competition in hopes of bringing a big bag of fish back to the Palatka City Boat Dock.