Gerald Swindle Maintains Lead In Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Race

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2016 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship Day One Gerald Swindle – photo by Seigo Saito / Bassmaster

ONAMIA, Minn. — Giant limits of smallmouth bass created quite the spectacle during the first weigh-in of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship at Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota.

Twenty-three anglers crested the 20-pound mark with their individual five-fish daily limits. While that’s very impressive, this tournament isn’t won by the heaviest three-day total. Rather, it’s all about crowning the best angler of the 2016 season.

Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala., came to Mille Lacs with a 43-point lead over Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas. Swindle didn’t have to do much coming into this tournament to lock up the AOY title. But during Thursday’s first round, the 15-time Classic qualifier struggled to locate the right fish.

Swindle brought only three bass to the scales that weighed 9 pounds, 9 ounces.

“I just didn’t get many bites today,” Swindle said. “I wish I had a good story to tell, or an explanation to give, but I just couldn’t figure out where the fish were located or what they would be willing to eat.”

Swindle said he had four to five spots where he figured finding five good bass wouldn’t be too difficult. After going through several presentations, and considering the windy conditions, the seasoned veteran just couldn’t settle in.

“It’s not a good feeling coming into the championship with the lead in hand only to fall on your face the first day,” he said. “But all I can do is get back out there tomorrow and figure out where I went wrong. I’m mad at them now, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

Swindle likely has to have a solid Day 2 in order to lock up the AOY title, but mathematically, it’s too close to call at this point.

Seth Feider of Bloomington, Minn., defied long odds and qualified for the AOY Championship after a second-place finish on the Mississippi River last week out of La Crosse, Wis. The 31-year-old pro weighed in five bass today that tipped the scales at 25-8. The mark tied South Carolina pro Jason Williamson for the second-heaviest sack of the day.

“I know today’s weights won’t tell you this, but Mille Lacs isn’t fishing as well as it could right now,” Feider said. “I think the smallmouth are in transition from their summer patterns, and the fish are spread out as a result.”

In order to qualify for the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro, Feider needs to finish in the Top 3 this week.

“I’m not even thinking about the Classic right now,” he said. “I’m having too much fun to be sweating a tournament six months from now. I’m more concerned about finishing strong and really showcasing this fishery — I truly believe it’s the best smallmouth fishery in the world right now, and these guys are showing it off.”

Feider also said that as the Top 50 Elites are demonstrating the true potential of this legendary Northern fishery, it needs protection.

“Knowing how many 20-year-old smallmouth bass are swimming in this lake, it’s obvious how important conservation is,” he said. “I’d love to see this lake go to 100 percent catch and release on the smallies. This is a very special place, and that quality needs to be preserved.”

The other big story of the day was rookie pro Drew Benton from Panama City, Fla., being officially crowned Bassmaster Rookie of the Year. After a very dominating first season on the Elite Series, Benton was recognized as the best of the freshman class on tour.

“Professional bass fishing is a sport based on momentum, and after a good start on the St. Johns River this year, I felt like I was able to make good decisions and keep the streak alive,” Benton said. “This is a tough sport to make your mark in, and being recognized as the top rookie this year means a lot to me.”

After Thursday, the unofficial Top 5 in AOY points include: Swindle still holding down the lead with (905 points); Combs is in second (870); Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., is in third (860); Randall Tharp of Port St. Joe, Fla., is in fourth (856); and Jordan Lee of Vinemont, Ala., is in fifth (841).

Takahiro Omori, winner of the 2004 Bassmaster Classic, weighed the day’s heaviest five-bass limit at 26-7. Feider and Williamson were next with 25-8, followed by Brent Ehrler of Newport Beach, Calif., with 25-5 and Matt Herren of Ashville, Ala., with 23-14.

Competition will resume on Friday with takeoff beginning at 6:40 a.m. CT at Eddy’s Resort in Onamia, Minn. Weigh-in will take place at Grand Casino Mille Lacs at 3:45 p.m.

2016 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2016 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Berkley, GoPro, Huk, Humminbird

2016 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Phoenix Boats, Power-Pole, Rapala, Shell Rotella, Shimano, Academy Sports + Outdoors, A.R.E. Truck Caps

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation presented by Magellan, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.

2016 Points Report
PROFESSIONAL ELITE SERIES
as of 15-Sep-2016

Angler                                Points Lbs-Oz 
1   Gerald Swindle     Guntersville, AL        905   278-14
2   Keith Combs        Huntington, TX          870   271-13
3   Greg Hackney       Gonzales, LA            860   277- 6
4   Randall Tharp      Port St. Joe, FL        856   272-10
5   Jordan Lee         Grant, AL               841   284- 7
6   Jacob Powroznik    Port Haywood, VA        821   279-13
7   Edwin Evers        Talala, OK              789   276- 6
8   Ott DeFoe          Knoxville, TN           786   267- 8
9   Chris Zaldain      Laughlin, NV            785   263- 7
10 Jason Christie     Park Hill, OK            778   260- 7
11 Justin Lucas       Guntersville, AL         777   272- 4
12 Takahiro Omori     Emory, TX                773   258-11
13 Drew Benton        Panama City, FL          768   258- 3
14 Bobby Lane Jr.     Lakeland, FL             767   267- 6
15 Hank Cherry Jr     Maiden, NC               765   262- 3
16 Michael Iaconelli Pittsgrove, NJ            763   266- 2
17 Alton Jones        Lorena, TX               758   253- 8
18 Aaron Martens      Leeds, AL                747   265- 3
19 Steve Kennedy      Auburn, AL               747   264- 3
20 Matt Herren        Ashville, AL             740   253-15
21 Brandon Palaniuk   Rathdrum, ID             737   264- 5
22 Dean Rojas         Lake Havasu City, AZ     737   249- 2
23 Bill Lowen         Brookville, IN           731   263-12
24 Brett Hite         Phoenix, AZ              728   264- 7
25 James Elam         Tulsa, OK                727   254- 3
26 Todd Faircloth     Jasper, TX               724   250- 5
27  Jared Lintner      Arroyo Grande, CA       714   239-11
28 Skeet Reese        Auburn, CA               712   251- 0
29 Bradley Roy        Lancaster, KY            710   264-10
30 Jason Williamson   Wagener, SC              688   254-11
31 Kevin VanDam       Kalamazoo, MI            682   256-14
32 Brent Ehrler       Newport Beach, CA        669   265- 1
33 Shaw Grigsby Jr.   Gainesville, FL          669   244- 1
34 Casey Ashley       Donalds, SC              668   244-11
35 Keith Poche        Pike Road, AL            667   251-13
36 Dave Lefebre       Erie, PA                 662   252- 3
37 Andy Montgomery    Blacksburg, SC           658   249-15
38 Ish Monroe         Hughson, CA              657   247-10
39 Fred Roumbanis     London, AR               656   243-11
40 Boyd Duckett       Guntersville, AL         654   243-10
41 Chris Lane         Guntersville, AL         647   262-15
42 Clifford Pirch     Payson, AZ               645   251- 7
43 Randy Howell       Guntersville, AL         639   235- 1
44 Seth Feider        Bloomington, MN          636   240-15
45 Adrian Avena       Vineland, NJ             634   232- 1
46 Cliff Pace         Petal, MS                633   237- 2
47 Tommy Biffle       Wagoner, OK              632   237-12
48 Stephen Browning   Hot Springs, AR          617   241- 6
49 Gary Klein         Weatherford, TX          613   242- 2
50 Kelly Jordon       Flint, TX                600   236- 6