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Gerald Swindle’s Lessons from Tournament Fishing

provided by John Phillips

Gerald Swindle of Guntersville, Alabama, has been competitively bass fishing for 23 years. Before becoming a bass-fishing pro, Swindle was a carpenter. Because of his love of fishing, anytime there was a rain front coming, he dragged his boat with him to work. If he got laid off because of the weather, he put his rainsuit on, went to Smith Lake and fished all day in the rain. Sometimes, when he’d get off in the afternoon, he’d go home, hook up his boat and fish all night. If there ever was a fishing addict, Swindle fits that term. Because of his dedication and prowess in the sport, he went on to become a professional fisherman on the Bassmaster Elite and Major League Fishing circuits. He’s won the title of Bassmaster Angler of the Year twice (2004 & 2016). Whenever Swindle isn’t fishing one of those professional tours, he’s searching for any tournament in which he can compete. Gerald goes by the nickname GMAN, and he’s as entertaining as he is knowledgeable. To learn more about Swindle, visit his Facebook page. In Alabama, the summer temperatures often break the 100-degree mark. Mossy Oak asked how he finds bass and catches them under these extreme conditions.

Gerald Swindle boating

Live Well Tips

Another problem when fishing tournaments in the summer months is being able to keep your fish alive in your live well. I put an oxygenator and use G-Juice Live Well Treatment and Fish Care Formula made by T-H Marine. I have a traditional aerator and a recirculator in my live well, but I add an oxygenator and G-Juice, which is formulated to keep fish healthy and alive while they are in a live well. Not only do I run three live wells – each with an oxygenator, a recirculator and an aerator - I’m continuously adding more G-Juice to each live well about every 2-3 hours. I put 4 or 5 ounces of G-Juice in, to not only keep the bass healthy and alive, but to keep them somewhat calm and stop them from jumping around in the live well. 

I don’t leave my aerator and recirculator pumps running the whole time I have my boat in the water. I leave my setting for my aerator on automatic, so that the pumps don’t run all the time. I do this because if the pump is running all the time, and you have fish in your live well, the pump gets hot, and that heat goes into the live well. That’s definitely not good for the bass you’re trying to keep alive. If you turn your pump on manual and leave it on all day, after a couple of hours, if you put your hand on that pump, you’ll feel how hot it is and realize that pump is putting that heat into your live well water. 

Don't Be Stupid

The most difficult tournament I’ve ever fished was on Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi. I fished for six days and didn’t even get one bite. The water temperature was 41 degrees, and the lake was rolling red mud and rising. I didn’t even retie my lures after the first day because my line didn’t come in contact with a bass’ mouth for the other three days I fished. 

The good news is, I got a check because I jumped a beaver dam. I was riding up the lake, saw a pond behind a beaver dam and said to myself, “If this water keeps rising, I’ll jump that beaver dam to see if I can find a bass in that pond.” So, a little later on in the day, we went back to the dam. I told my partner, “Hang on, I’m going to jump that beaver dam.” I made a big circle in the river. I knew where the ditch was where the water ran out of the dam. So, I got my boat up on plane, and when I hit that beaver dam, we were in the air. We caught enough bass to get a check. Now, when we came out of that pond, we tore the world up. I tore my prop and had to limp back to the boat ramp. I don’t advise anyone else to do something that stupid, but when you haven’t caught a bass in six days, the situation often determines the amount of stupidity you’re willing to endure to try to catch a bass. We caught all of our fish in that pond with a little-bitty spinner bait. 

Gerald Swindle Bass

Getting Ready

I’m often asked in seminars how do I get ready for a tournament on a lake I’ve never fished. I have downloaded maps of all the lakes I’ve fished and the ones I want to fish on to an iPad. At night when I’m in the motel, I study the lake - looking for areas in the lake that I want to check out. I like aerial views of the lake to try and determine which sections of the lake will stay the clearest most of the time. Then I look at the contour of the creeks to see which creeks are the deepest, and which are the flattest. I spend a lot more time studying maps and researching a lake I’ve never fished before than most people will believe. 

Humminbird has a program that allows me to download the maps from my depth finder into my iPad, so I can look at the exact same map that I have on my depth finder on the boat and on my iPad. This feature enables me to be in my motel room and mark locations I identify that I want to check out. Those places will show up on my depth finder just like I’ve marked them on my iPad. Before I start pre-fishing, I may have 75-100 different locations that I want to check out before I ever put my boat in the water. When I scout those places in practice, I’ll usually have four or five sites I’ll designate that I really want to fish. The pros who usually spend the most time idling, graphing a lake and finding places to fish for bass, most often win the tournaments.

Something I do when I go to fish a tournament is I decide, based on past winning history, how many pounds of bass I need to catch each day to win a tournament there or come out in the top 10. Let’s say that amount is 20 pounds. So, if I catch five bass that weigh 20 pounds at a lake in a day, I’ll quit fishing my good spots and go to other places to fish in which I don’t have as much confidence. However, I won’t go to a site where I’ve seen a lot of bass, if many other tournament anglers or local anglers can see where I’m fishing. 

Another tactic I use in a tournament is I fish decoys. If numbers of spectator boats are following me in a tournament, or I’m fishing where there are several other contestants, I’ll leave that spot, go out to the middle of the lake and start casting and using my trolling motor to circle that place while looking at my depth finder. After a while, I’ll pull away from there, back up my big engine and go fish another place where I know there are no bass. I don’t want anyone to know where I’m fishing and pattern me. For instance, if a tournament angler or a spectator sees me fishing four, outside channel swings, then he knows that I’m catching bass on the outside channel swings. I don’t want to give him that information. Bass fishing is a mental game, and as a tournament angler, besides finding and catching fish, I have to try and protect the bass I’ve located to prevent someone else from trying to catch a bass I’m hoping to catch. 

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