By Todd Ceisner
If Gerald Swindle were handing out grades for the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series season, he'd give himself a B-minus or straight B, at best.
It wasn't a glorious year for the Warrior, Ala., pro, nor was it a total washout. He started the year with four straight Top-45 finishes, bagged a Top-12 at the St. Lawrence River and finished 25th in the Angler of the Year points, earning him a spot in the Bassmaster Classic at Lake Guntersville in February.
"I didn't have any blowout tournaments, but I did have a few opportunities to do well," he said. "West Point was really the only tournament where I felt like I had a chance to win. Overall, it was a weird year for me. I'd find fish, then they'd leave. I'd find more fish, then they'd leave. I found myself backed into a corner more and more and felt like I had to pull out some day-2 and 3 heroics to make it happen."
What made it more challenging was the recurrence of a tennis elbow injury that's plagued him for a while. He plans on having a non-invasive procedure done soon to clean up the tendon. The recovery time, he said, is about 3 weeks so it shouldn't interfere too much with his prep for the Classic.
"It's something that just happens and when it does, it just gets worse and worse," he said. "Winding shallow cranks or making roll casts, it's hard to avoid it."
Day 1 Blues
Three times during the 2013 season, Swindle was mired in 65th or worse on the leaderboard after day 1. On two of the three occasions, he managed to put together a day-2 surge that earned him a Top-50 result and a paycheck. In the other tournament, he wound up 51st, one slot out of the money. It's a trend he'd rather not see continue in the future.
"My day 1 stats killed me," he said.
At the Sabine River, he rallied from 80th to 43rd. At West Point, he was 65th following day 1 and finished 28th. His 25-place surge at the Mississippi River saw him wind up 51st.
"You find so many patterns in practice that I sometimes try to do too much those first days," he said. "I always say the guys who find the biggest probably found the least. When you have a lot of options, you tend to run too many of them. You're like a kid at the buffet. You put too much on your plate and you wind up spilling stuff off your plate on the way back to the table.
"The next day, I'd go back and narrow it down and just get a piece of chicken and maybe something else. If you're not careful on day 2, you could really get spun out. You have to moderate your intensity and not freak out."
Points Were Focus in Second Half
After posting four finishes of 43rd or better during the first half of the season, Swindle was 17th in AOY points, solidly in contention for an All-Star berth and Classic qualification. The second half, however, turned into a struggle almost immediately.
He's still peeved about how the Alabama River derby played out for him. Who wouldn't be after missing the money cut by 6 ounces?
"I felt like I was going to go out and catch 17 pounds," he said. "I lost three big ones and weighed what I did. I was one bite from a 20-pound sack (on day 1).
"On day 2, I sat down for too long on a spot. On top of that, I'd found spots I couldn't get to. It felt like I was boat 119 in a 100-boat field. One spot I went to, a kid was sitting there and had already caught like 18 pounds. I wasn't going to fish behind him. It was a case of when I found them, I couldn't get to them."
He managed the situation well, though, and scraped out a 53rd-place finish.
"I've been doing this long enough that I've realized you can't fret over things when they're not going your way," he said. "The name of the game is making the Classic so you have to try to get all the points you can. You can't lose focus and go all crazy. In a way, I'm more seasoned now and more patient and am understanding more about my fishing."
At the season finale, he said he remained in Lake St. Clair because he didn't want to risk bodily harm by running to Lake Erie or Huron. He thinks B.A.S.S. may want to consider limiting competitors to one tank of gas per day.
"I didn't want to run to Erie with my back and I can't stand tournaments where people run 13 hours away," he said. "It was like fighting Mike Tyson with my hands tied behind my back. Even if I'd fished to perfection, I still would've finished 30th."
His decision to remain in St. Clair and a lack of execution ultimately undermined his chances at contending. He jumped a couple decent fish off on day 2 fishing a topwater that hurt.
"That isn't a junk fisherman's special, especially when the fish are brown," he said. "I have a love-hate relationship with those smallmouth. I can figure out some crazy ways to catch them, but the problem was I never found them how I thought I needed to."
> Swindle co-hosts a hunting show called Moultrie's The Hit List with FLW Tour Angler of the Year Andy Morgan. They did a number of whitetail hunts this fall and he said the season rivaled some of the best years they've had.
"We killed some good ones on camera and had some real intense hunts," he said. "For the Hit List, it might be the best killing year as far as size. We had some big deer hit the ground this year."
Have he and Morgan ever discussed doing a fishing show together?
"We've talked about it, but the problem is neither one of us ever wants to be serious," he said. "I wish we could do a show on HBO. I think we both long for that. That way, you could do what you want and cut up and all that. People might not watch it, but we'd think it would be funny as hell."