John's Journal...

The Secret To Winning With Gerald Swindle

Click to enlargeThe Secret To Winning With Gerald Swindle

Swindle's Early Tournaments

Editor's Note: Thirty-four-year-old Gerald Swindle of Hayden, Alabama, this year's BASS Angler of the Year, has lived the American dream in the last 12 years. As a $12,000-a-year carpenter, Swindle dreamed of earning a living as a professional bass fisherman. This year, Swindle already has earned more than $1/2-million in his chosen sport. If he stays on track, he may earn $1 million before December 31, 2004.

In the early 1990s, Swindle started fishing regional tournaments known as the Fishermen's Bass Tournaments. Swindle's dad would take him to the tournaments where Swindle would fish as a non-boater. About a year later, Swindle began taking his own boat and fishing the tournaments. The first year he fished out of his own boat, he finished in second place for Angler of the Year on that circuit, a title that got him his first sponsor, Lunker City Lure Company. Lunker City had decided that the company would sponsor the Angler of the Year and the second place finisher on the Fishermen's Bass Tournament Circuit. Once Swindle had a sponsor paying him $300 a month to go Click to enlargefishing in the 1993-1994 fishing season, he thought he'd died and gone to heaven. With money coming in to pay his way to tournaments, Swindle fished even more and harder. Then during 1994 and 1995, Swindle won the Angler of the Year title for the Fishermen's Bass Circuit, including $5,000 for being the points champion and the right to compete in the championship tournament. In that championship tournament, Swindle won another $25,000, bringing his total winnings to $30,000 for two weekends of fishing. During this same time, Swindle only made $12,000 a year as a carpenter. "Before I won that title and the $25,000 in the championship tournament, I'd never made that much money ever before in a year. I couldn't believe I'd made more than a small house cost at that time in just two weekends of going fishing. I was rich. So I quit my carpenter job and decided to take that $30,000 and use it as seed money for my tournament fishing career until the money ran out, or I won more."

The next year, Swindle started winning bass-fishing tournaments, which often included fully-rigged bass boats as prizes. He sold the boats. By the end of his second year of tournament bass fishing, Swindle had made between $70,000 and $80,000. Swindle's community and his peer group considered Gerald Swindle rich, and he'd made Click to enlargeall that big money as a bass fisherman. With all that money in the bank, Swindle decided, "I'm going to fish on that money until I either make more money or lose it all."

The following year, Swindle almost lost all the money he made. He explains, "I spent a lot of money fishing B.A.S.S. tour events and FLW events and finally pulled my cash reserve down to $8,000. I wanted to go to Beaver Lake to fish a FLW tournament when I realized I only had about $8,000 left - which meant I only could fish two or three more tournaments. I knew if I didn't make a new check soon that I was about to be broke and be a has-been as a professional fisherman. When I got the call to fish the Beaver Lake FLW tournament (I was on the waiting list), I had to send them $2,000 to enter the tournament. Plus I knew I'd have expenses for the week and also had my monthly bills still to pay at home. I told myself, 'If you don't do well in this tournament, you fishing career as a big-time bass fisherman is about to be over.' "

Swindle's condition was desperate, but like the true champion he was and is, when his money and his life's dream were on the line, Swindle rose to the occasion. He won the tournament and one of the biggest payouts ever head of at a single event - $150,000. Swindle also earned a berth in the Bassmasters Classic that year and fished high up in the points Click to enlargestandings on the BASS circuit. That's when the bass-fishing industry and sponsors took notice of this young carpenter. "At that point, I set myself up as a business and decided to take the money that I made from sponsorships and tournament winnings and continue to invest it in tournament fishing, equipment for fishing tournaments and buying the things I needed to be more competitive in tournaments," Swindle says. "Since 1998, I've never looked back. I've been charging ahead to try to see how far I can go as a professional fisherman."

At the first Classic Swindle participated in, Triton Boats, Southern Comfort Vans and OMC Motors picked him up to sponsor him. "That's when I knew I'd made the big show," Swindle says. Although Swindle has made plenty of money in tournament fishing, he's never really felt that he'd arrived as a professional bass fisherman until this year, 2004, when BASS crowned him its Angler of the year.


Check back each day this week for more about The Secret To Winning With Gerald Swindle ...

Day 1 - The Secret To Winning
Day 2 - Where It All Began
Day 3 - Swindle's Early Tournaments
Day 4 - The Run For The Championship - The Harris Chain of Lakes and Smith Lake
Day 5 - More Smith Lake Tournament


Entry 259, Day 3