"This is the first time I've ever lead the points," Swindle said. "It's really a cool deal. I, myself, look at it kind of differently than a lot of other guys. I really don't try to even look over on that side of the sheet. I don't try to study the points, I don't count the numbers on that side, I don't focus on it, I can't concern myself with that. My style of fishing is kind of footloose and fancy-free. As soon as I start looking over there, I'm going to start thinking, 'well I need to catch five here, just to hold on,' and then you take yourself out of it."
"(Winning Angler of the Year) is harder to do than anything. It makes your career. Your sponsorship money goes up, your daily speaking seminar goes up and you get that respect. It just makes your whole career. It's very hard to do, and with CITGO stepping up and putting all the money in it, that's awesome too."
Few know more about how hard winning the Angler of Year title is than three-time winner, Arkansas' Mark Davis. Davis, who is currently 12th in the standings with two events to go, still has an outside shot at the crown.
"I started the year off slow in Florida, and then on Smith Lake, I didn't catch hardly anything there, but we're getting back on track now. My goal each and every year, and the most self-gratifying thing that I've gotten from bass fishing, is winning the Angler of the Year.
"The big chips have always been on the Classic, and the most prestige has always been on the Classic," Davis added, "but the hardest thing to accomplish is winning the Angler of the Year. Especially the way it used to be, when the tournaments were stretched out for a year. When you were fishing an entire year, you had to be well-versed and very versatile in your style of fishing to win Angler of the Year."
To Missouri's Chad Brauer, winning the Angler of the Year title would have just a little extra special meaning to it.
Denny Brauer, Chad's father, won the award in 1987 when Chad was 15 years old. Now, in 2004, with two events left, Chad sits a mere five points out of the points lead himself. If Chad claims the 2004 title, he and Denny would be the first father and son duo to win the Angler of the Year award.
"Dad and I have talked about that," admitted Chad. "It would be pretty special to be the first father and son to win the award. I remember going to the tournament when dad won, I believe it was one of the only tournaments that I went to that I didn't practice with him...It's always been a goal of mine, as a fisherman, to win that prize.
"Everyone always asks me, 'How's it feel to be Denny Brauer's son?' " Chad said. "I think anyone who follows in his father's footsteps will have that. I'm really proud of what dad has done and who he is. I'm proud to carry the Brauer name. I would never complain about it, but it would be nice to carve out a little more of a niche for myself. I think winning the Angler of the Year would put a big stamp on that as well. Instead of getting introduced as Denny Brauer's son, I would get introduced as the 2004 Angler of the Year winner, and that'd be all right with me."
The competition is tight going into the fifth event of six on the 2004 Tour schedule held on Alabama's Lake Eufaula, March 18-21. There has been a new leader after each event of the 2004 season and only 140 points separate the top 10 anglers in the Angler of the Year standings. Anglers will be looking to perform well on Eufaula, as there will be plenty of opportunity for them to jump in the points.
BUSCH SHOOTOUT PROGRAM POPULAR AMONG ANGLERS
Qualifying for the Busch Shootout is starting to become a daunting task. With weights already in the high teens, anglers know they will have to really fish well to make it into the tournament.
Texan David Wharton currently sits third on the list with 26-7 that he caught on the Harris Chain of Lakes at the opening event of the 2004 season. Wharton feels fairly safe, but knows there are still some lakes that could shoot him right off the list.
"There's only two lakes that I'm worried about," Wharton said. "I looked up Eufaula from last year, and the biggest bag that came out of there was, I think, 25 pounds. Of course, last year at Santee, there were lots of big bags caught.
"This year, there might be a big bag at Eufaula, and even if there's four at Santee, that'll still leave me in it. I don't think I'll have anything to worry about in the Elite 50s. I just don't think those rivers are going to have the big sacks. Not that there won't be big ones, but 26-7 is a pretty good bag."
BIG BASS WORTH BIG BUCKS FROM PUROLATOR
Anglers have been raking in some serious dough from Purolator with the new Purolator Big Bass program. After four events on the CITGO Bassmaster Tour, Purolator has awarded $26,000 to both pro and amateur anglers. One angler who has reaped the benefits of the program is South Carolina pro Jason Quinn. Quinn won the Purolator Big Bass of the Tournament award at Table Rock Lake.
"This is just another one of the great reasons to be a BASS angler," Quinn said. "Without sponsors like Purolator, and the programs and money like this that they bring, some of the anglers would be hurting."
Purolator will award an additional $13,000 in the next two Tour events and another $20,000 during the four-event Bassmaster Elite 50 series.
SUGGS CONTINUES DOMINTATION OF ROOKIE OF THE YEAR RACE
As the CITGO Bassmaster Tour rolls into Eufaula Ala., for the fifth stop of six, Arkansas pro Scott Suggs sits atop the Rookie of the Year standings, as he has for the past four events. Suggs took the lead out of the gates and has held it the entire 2004 Tour season. In fact, Suggs was at one time leading both the Rookie of the Year standings and the CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. Currently, he is 114 points over Louisiana's Greg Hackney, who is in second, but even with the lead, Suggs still can't relax.
"I can't sleep good at night," Suggs said. "I can't stop thinking about it. I was at the beach with my family this week and my wife asked me what I was taring at. I didn't even realize it, but my mind was going 180 miles an hour, thinking about Eufaula.
"It would be a dream come true to get the Rookie of the Year, to get myself in the Elite 50s and the Classic. I mean, what more could a guy ask for his first time out?"
HORIZON AWARD STILL UP FOR GRABS
Following last week's Tour stop at Table Rock Lake, California's Aaron Martens leads the BASS Horizon Award standings. The Horizon Award is a $25,000 award given to the angler who improves the most from the 2003 point standings. Currently, Martens is in ninth overall in the 2004 Angler of the Year points. That is an improvement of 138 positions from his 2003 finish of 147th.
Martens took the lead from South Carolina's Davy Hite, who had been leading following the Smith Lake event.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. This April, BASS introduces the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship, as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats and Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.