There is plenty of uncertainty amongst Elite Series anglers now that the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite on Pickwick Lake has been postponed for a second day. Rising water levels, extreme changes in current flow and water clarity all add up to an aura of ambiguity for the pros competing on Pickwick this week. One thing is certain though; anglers will likely have to throw out what they learned in practice.
Most anglers, like Team Toyota pro Gerald Swindle, have not made a cast on Pickwick since Tuesday evening. Conditions have drastically changed since then and the Elites will have to change on the fly when competition begins Saturday morning.
In Swindle's 26 years as a professional angler he has seen it all and is well known for "making chicken salad out of chicken poo". We picked the two-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year's brain to learn how a tournament veteran like "G" approaches starting from scratch in a major event.
Throw practice out the window
Swindle wasn't afraid to admit he didn't have a great two days of practice on Pickwick when conditions were stable earlier in the week. He didn't have a bad practice per say, but he didn't find anything he felt like he could win off of. So Swindle is throwing his practice completely out of the window and looking at tomorrow as a fresh start.
"Tomorrow I won't fish any of the stuff I got bites off of in practice... I'm dead serious," Swindle said boldly. "I promised myself I'd trust my gut and the first place I make a cast on will be a completely new spot tomorrow. I'm going out there like I have to find new fish. I can't run to what was, I gotta fish for what is and what will be."
Water conditions have changed so dramatically that anglers will be catching fish out of cover that was dry just a few short days ago. Right now the theme of this event is the unknown and while it would be easy to dwell on the not-so-good aspects of this scenario, Swindle has been looking at the positive side.
"Before the conditions changed this tournament was likely going to be won off of a spot," Swindle estimated. "Now whoever is leading after day one will be running a pattern in my opinion, and I love that. Earlier in the week I think only 15% of this lake could have produced the winning weight. Now I'd put that number closer to 40 or 50% of this lake capable of producing a win."
Bass fishing's funniest man truly believes current conditions will open up Pickwick Lake. Maybe not in the first hour or two of the tournament, but by the end of day one he believes the field will be spread out and able to try to do their own thing. Swindle said tomorrow is all about bringing five solid keepers to the scales so an angler doesn't dig himself into a hole on day one.
Take advantage of the opportunity
It's not just areas and patterns that'll change according to Swindle, but baits and techniques too. Pickwick's water temps will have cooled considerably and there is much more stain to the water. But Swindle isn't spun out by these details. In fact, he is looking at these challenges as an opportunity.
"Honestly I am excited," Swindle said. "Throughout my career I've often wondered what it would be like for a whole Elite field to fish a four day tournament with no practice. Just show up and fish. Well, this is about as close as we'll ever get to that. It's an opportunity to test ourselves and win, lose, or draw... it's going to be fun."
Swindle is well known for his tagline of "PMA" or positive-mental-attitude. Less than half a day before the start of stop number three of the Elite Series season and that PMA is serving him well. With any luck that positivity will pay off for G-Man and he'll bring back a heavy sack to McFarland Park tomorrow afternoon.