The rods are rigged, the knots are tied, and the hatches are battened down for Gerald Swindle and the rest of the Elite Series field set to kick off the 2023 AFTCO Bassmaster Elite tomorrow morning on Lake St. Clair.
Swindle pulled a veteran move for the final day of official practice, having his wife and life partner LuLu pick him up from the lake a few hours early so he could get his rigging done before a soaker of a thunderstorm settled in on eastern Michigan. He accomplished his mission and sounded pretty content as he watched some of his competition suit up in rain gear to get their tackle ready from the comfort of his RV.
This gave the Team Toyota pro ample time to get his gameplan set for this tournament, but it also gave Swindle time to reflect on something he has done a whole lot of throughout his professional fishing career… crossing borders.
“I crossed into Canada a few times during practice this week and it hit me that I had never actually been on Canadian soil,” Swindle said. “I’ve been to Canada in my Phoenix (boat) a pile of times here and on the St. Lawrence River, but I’m always fishing an event or have a goal and never really allow myself to think about it. This bass fishing career has led me to crossing all kinds of borders.”
Swindle is a fan favorite in our sport for a myriad of reasons, notably his fishing ability and his unparalleled humor, but what many might miss is that he is also a deep thinker. The two-time Angler of the Year wondered on how many states borders he had crossed burning up the highway in his Toyota Tundra throughout his career. Or how he had been to Mexico and Canada more times on a bass boat than any other means of travel.
Crossing borders isn’t something you typically associate with bass fishing, but for professional anglers it’s a very real part of their lives. Swindle also mentioned the unfortunate reality that for him, and likely most pro anglers, it’s hard to appreciate their surroundings sometimes because all their focus is dedicated to fishing and competing.
“I’ve seen so many places from the road through the window of my Tundra but unless I see a big deer or a good-looking chunk of ground that snaps me out of it, a lot of times it all just blends together,” Swindle said with a laugh. “We’re always on a deadline with a place to be, we don’t allow ourselves to stop and smell the roses.
“I remember the first time I fished on St Clair being so giddy about crossing the invisible line into Canada. I tried to fish right on the border so I could cast into the U.S. or right into Canada. Now, I hardly think about it and that’s not necessarily a good thing.”
Even in the throes of competition as he attempts to fight his way inside the Classic cut, Swindle is trying to put an emphasis on enjoying the present moment. Deep thoughts and life lessons from bass fishing’s funniest man.
Swindle admitted there is a good chance he won’t fish in Canada at all during competition for the seventh stop of the Elite Series 2023 season. Opting to spend his tournament time on the U.S. side where he didn’t find as many groups of fish, but he found some better-quality smallmouth.
He believes the biggest bass in Lake St. Clair are loaners right now and he is ready to spend eight hours a day chasing five big, solo smallies in hopes it’ll put him where he needs to be on the leaderboard by the end of the weekend.