Altman claims top spot in Co-angler Division, turns in largest stringer of the day
GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – When your son is one of the preeminent professional anglers on the FLW Tour, it’s difficult not to play second fiddle when it comes to competitive bass fishing. However, at least for a day, that all changed for Tommy Swindle. Surviving some brutal humidity and 90-degree weather, Swindle turned in a 18-pound, 6-ounce catch to grab the top spot in the Pro Division in the opening round of EverStart competition on Guntersville Lake.
“It’s fantastic. It’s good to be the king, at least for one day,” said Swindle, father of FLW Tour pro Gerald Swindle. “My son is fishing a tournament down in Disney World and I had a bet who would catch more fish today. Hopefully, I have enough to beat him.”
Whether or not the younger Swindle ultimately bested his father is irrelevant as far as the rest of the EverStart field is concerned. With a healthy leg up on the competition, Swindle has put himself in perfect position to qualify for tomorrow’s all-important top-20 cut.
“It’s always good to be leading a tournament because it really keeps your adrenaline flowing,” said Swindle, a resident of Warrior, Ala. “But what really counts is what happens after tomorrow.”
Swindle said that he targeted grass habitats with top-water baits in a depth range of 4 to 8 feet of water to land his catch.
“After practice, I felt like I could catch anywhere from 13 to 14 pounds a day. Obviously, I wound up doing a little bit better than I expected,” he said. “The key, however, was staying within that depth range. When I fished in water deeper than 8 feet or more shallow than 4 feet, I couldn’t catch anything.”
With a successful day of fishing under his belt, Swindle said he is going to stick with his game plan during tomorrow’s competition.
“Tomorrow, I’m going to use the same strategy,” he said. “But if I don’t catch any fish early, I might have to switch to plan B: fishing docks and piers down the lake.”
Ultimately though, Swindle said his main goal is to just soak up the scenery and have fun.
“I’m really not expecting to make a living fishing competitively; I’m just here to have some fun,” said Swindle. “That’s why it’s even more satisfying to me to be leading this tournament. If anything else, you get to poke fun at your buddies.”
Abracadabra – Steve Miller is in second place
Despite breaking off an 8-pound largemouth bass and finding himself on the losing end of a battle with Guntersville Lake’s nasty gnat population, Steve Miller of Mechanicville, Va., managed to turn in a magical performance nonetheless. Bolstered by an 18-pound, 2-ounce stringer, Miller grabbed hold of second place in the Pro Division and put himself in a strong position to advance to Friday’s semifinals.
“I really enjoyed today. I had a lot of fun,” said Miller. “But my goal is to make the cut. That’s all that matters. Right now, it’s a numbers game. Am I happy about my performance? Ask me that question two days from now.”
Miller, who caught the majority of his catch fishing grass-line pockets near river channels with Leverage buzzbaits and Old Bay Side lizards, said Guntersville Lake is one of the most vibrant fisheries he’s ever seen.
“This is just a super fishery,” said Miller, who recorded a limit by 8:30 a.m. this morning. “The quality of vegetation here is amazing, and that’s key to a healthy fish population. I never fished this lake before Friday, but I’m definitely coming back.”
Miller said that while he is happy with his performance to date, he believes that there is nothing magical about his strategy.
“I’m not doing anything different from what everyone else is doing,” said Miller. “The key is just getting the big bites.”
For the record, Miller believes that it is going to take between 26 and 27 pounds to make the top-20 cut.
Best of the rest
A. E. Moore of Graham, N.C., and Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., are tied in third place with identical catches of 17 pounds, 10 ounces. Edward Gettys of Stevenson, Ala., rounded out the top five competitors in the Pro Division with a catch of 17 pounds, 7 ounces.
Darrell Stevens of Roseland, Va., won the day’s big bass award in the Pro Division after landing an 8-pound, 2-ounce largemouth. Stevens, who was in 36th place heading into tomorrow’s competition, won $750 for his efforts.
Altman puts on a clinic for pros and co-anglers alike
While the entire pro field was struggling to record stringers heavier than 18 pounds, co-angler Roy Altman of Augusta, Ga., turned some heads after he walked to the scales with a monstrous 20-pound, 4-ounce stringer. Although Altman ultimately received an 8-ounce penalty for having one deceased fish, his official weight of 19 pounds, 12 ounces was still good enough for the largest stringer of the day.
“It’s fantastic. We caught fish all day long,” said Altman. “It was just one of those days where everything went right. We were in a zone. But to tell you the truth, I have to give a lot of credit to my pro partner. He was on some great fish.”
Altman said he landed his limit by 10:30 a.m. using a combination of jigs, worms, top-water baits and Buckeye spinner baits while fishing grass beds in anywhere from 5 to 35 feet of water.
“I had a great practice coming in, so I wasn’t surprised I did well,” he said. “But overall, this is the best day of fishing I’ve had all season. Anytime you can come in with a stringer like I had today, it feels great. This is right up there with some of the biggest stringers I’ve ever caught.”
Even more important to Altman was the fact that today’s performance virtually guarantees that he will qualify for the 2002 EverStart Championship next November.
“After today, I feel really solid about my chances of making the championship,” he said. “And I feel really good about that.”
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-five co-angler performances were: Lance Henderson of Fort Ogden, Fla., in second place with a catch of 18 pounds; Charlie Reed Jr. of Hayes, Va., in third with a catch of 15 pounds, 9 ounces; Robert Mulleins of Cumberland, Va., in fourth with a catch of 14 pounds, 4 ounces; and Benton Heifner of Cape Coral, Fla., and David Parks of Decatur, Ala., tied for fifth place with identical catches of 13 pounds, 8 ounces.
David Ashley of Markleville, Ind., won the day’s big bass award in the Co-angler Division after netting an 8-pound, 11-ounce largemouth bass. Ashley, who was in 16th place heading into tomorrow’s competition, won $250 for his efforts.
Tomorrow’s takeoff is scheduled to take place at 5:30 a.m. at Guntersville State Park, located at 1155 Lodge Drive in Guntersville, Ala.