A few days ago I was once again looking at the final standings from the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. The event finished up the weekend of Feb. 22 and 23. We always hear about the champion. If we are lucky, we might hear about the angler that finished second, but that seldom happens.
I, however, looked at the bottom of the list. We never hear about the poor anglers that finished dead last or right near the bottom. One of the names at the bottom of that list really hit home with me – Gerald Swindle.
He is a touring pro from Warrior, Ala., that was raised in the Deep South and started off his working career as a carpenter. During that time he fished local club tournaments and eventually worked his was up the ranks until he secured the 2004 Bassmaster Angler of the Year award. He has come a long way from pounding nails.
It was about this time that I first got to meet Gerald, or G-Man. My business partner and I had been summoned to the private hunting and fishing paradise owned by Triton Boats founder Earl Bentz. We were to film a turkey hunting show and also shoot a bit of fishing footage out of a new Triton boat. We also had heard that Gerald Swindle would be joining us for the hunt.
That evening when we arrived in Tennessee we were met by the caretaker of the property and driven back to the main house and guesthouse. Mr. Bentz wouldn’t be in until late that evening but Swindle was to arrive shortly.
We all met in the dining room of the main house. I was introduced to Swindle and could tell instantly that he was a class act. First impressions really are important. He was extremely tired. He had just arrived from an overseas trip to Japan for some promotion work for his sponsors.
He told us about how American pro fishermen are like rock stars in Japan. There are even animated cartoons that feature top anglers, like Swindle. He said it was so weird watching the cartoon version of himself speak Japanese.
He is known on the tour as the funniest man in fishing. His reputation was solidified with me during that first meal together. He went on to talk all about his Japan trip and how he was so glad to get back to the States to eat food he was used to. He told us, “Some of the food I ate over there actually got bigger in your mouth the more you chewed it.”
The rest of the evening was just as enjoyable. Listening to him talk about all of his adventures and misadventures filled the evening until it was time to call it a night. The turkey hunt and fishing part of the trip flew by and soon we parted ways. I haven’t spent time with Gerald since then.
When I saw his name right near the bottom of the Classic standings, I could empathize with him. I think that any of us who have fished competitively for any species knows exactly what it is like to have a bad day on the water.
The hopes and dreams and fishing well during the Classic and being crowned reigning champion is in the forefronts of all those who picked up a rod that weekend in Alabama. The real test though, the test of the soul, comes from those who are knocked down and have the fortitude to get back up and go at it again.
I know that Gerald Swindle had to be upset with himself, maybe the conditions, who knows what. In the end, though, somebody is going to win no matter how good or bad things are. I am sure that now, a couple of weeks later, he is focused on the first event of the new season that will take place this weekend in Florida.
For most of us, the names of the people we see in the news or in the sports columns are just that: names. I feel fortunate to have been able to spend time with one of those names and put a human side to one of the stars in the fishing world. Good luck, G-Man. I’m pulling for you.