APPLING, Ga. (May 8, 2006) – When the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series schedule was released at the end of last year, Gerald Swindle took out a red pen. He promptly circled Clarks Hill Reservoir and the first weekend in May as one of the biggest of his season.
Why? You might ask. Quite simply, Swindle owed this place one. Coming off his career-changing 2004 season, where he won his first CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year in dramatic fashion – Swindle’s early 2005 successes positioned him to capture a second-straight title. But Clarks Hill lied ahead.
It was mid-March of 2005 and the clear, yet chilled, waters of this huge impoundment seemed to envelop the Alabama resident, relegating him to 125th overall. The finish tossed Swindle’s back-to-back AOY hopes out the window, as well as sending his confidence into a Tour-long tailspin.
Enter the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elites Series, where Swindle sat in the AOY top 10, poised for another title run. Full of confidence after strong early season finishes, Clarks Hill once again reared it’s head Swindle’s way.
But the month of May also marks the first strong topwater bite of the season, which meant Lucky Craft would come to the party as well. Swindle, armed with some of Lucky Craft’s finest large lure offerings – like the Gunfish 115 – gained momentum as the tournament progressed, staring back at Clarks Hill by catching limits every day and upping his weights during each successive weigh-in. When the dust settled, Swindle had grabbed the 14th position. But more importantly, he cleared a mental hurdle that had bothered him for more then a year.
“This was a big one for me personally,” said Swindle, who currently sits sixth, a mere 75 points out of the AOY points lead. “The thing about this lake is that it plays really well to my strengths. It rewards an aggressive style, which is what I like to do the best. I like this lake; it just caught me off guard last year. I still don’t really know what happened.”
Swindle was dialed in this time, chasing schooling fish all over the place, capturing 10 pounds, 11 ounces on Thursday, 12 pounds, 13 ounces on Friday and barely missing the final cut to 12 anglers with 16 pounds and 8 ounces on Saturday. He was aggressive, played to his instincts and overcame any lingering doubts.
“I really concentrated on it because I felt like I could really catch them here,” Swindle explained. “I did miss some bigger bites on Thursday and Friday, but I didn’t second guess myself and change everything. I kept grinding it out, and the breaks started to happen. I almost made the top 12 this time – what a huge difference.”
The real difference for Swindle might have been his ammo, which included Lucky Craft’s latest crankbait creation.
“I was throwing the Gunfish 115 (in Laser Clear Ghost), but really caught several of my key fish every morning on the new Flat CB Mini DR in Chartreuse Shad,” said Swindle, who depended on the Flat CB Mini DR for the first time in professional tournament competition. “I went back and forth between those two lures and it really paid off. Early in the morning during lowlight, the key was to throw the Mini because I could place the right color in the right spots.
“It was a weird topwater bite,” Swindle added. “You could catch them schooling, but they weren’t traveling in huge packs, either. You had to be right on the fish when they broke or you weren’t going to be able to catch them. If you had to troll up to them, you weren’t going to catch them. They weren’t really eating the lures either; they would bite all around it, but would never truly commit.”