At Saturday's weigh-in, the Alabama angler showed up with a three-fish catch that bumped him into fifth place and will keep him alive into Sunday's final round.
Though he's just 2 pounds, 4 ounces out of the lead, Swindle will still have his work cut out for him in order to leapfrog past California's Charlie Weyer, whose 7-2 sack brought his total weight up to 24-10 and gave him the lead going into the final day. Weyer was more than aware of the competitive field nipping at his heels.
"I'm really happy to be where I am, but I could go out tomorrow and not catch a thing," Weyer said. "I've got to get there the first thing in the morning. I found this spot at 2:30 yesterday afternoon. I broke a fish off there and my partner caught an 18-incher but I ran out of time. Today, I decided to start there and they were loaded up. I had three fish in the boat by nine."
A stubborn cold front that produced snow flurries Saturday has played a key role in shaping Weyer's strategy.
"The area I'm fishing has about a half a mile on each side of steep bluffs," he said. "The fish are trying to find that warm water and the run-ins are two or three degrees warmer, plus all the shad are congregating in there because the water is a little off color.
"Tomorrow, there are some spots that I want to try out. I haven't been in this situation before, but I'm going to let it all hang out tomorrow and try to get some more big bites."
Tour veteran Edwin Evers came up five places to land in second Saturday with a three-day weight of 23-10. His 8-5 catch won him $1,000 and qualification as a Busch Heavyweight. If his weight remains one of the top 10 heaviest qualified catches through all six Tour and four Bassmaster Elite 50 events, Evers will earn an invitation for the $160,000 Busch Shootout Tournament that will be held at a mystery lake on Sept. 18. But with upcoming tournaments slated for generous Santee Cooper Reservoir and Lake Guntersville, Evers doesn't rate his chances very highly.
Nor was the Oklahoma angler confident about fishing conditions for Sunday's Super Six.
"They seemed to bite better for me today," Evers said. "I caught a lot more fish today for some reason. I don't really know what's going to happen tomorrow, though. I can promise you that I'm going to go out there and try my hardest. I don't have a 'honey hole' type of thing; I'm just going out and running and when I see a place that looks good, I fish it."
Missouri's Mark Tucker landed in third with 23-5, while Day 2 leader Lee Bailey of Connecticut fell to fourth with 22-14 for three days. Swindle (22-6) and Virginia's Rick Morris (19-8) round out the Super Six pros. The six will launch again Sunday morning at 7 a.m. from the Lewis Smith Lake Dam. Sunday's weigh-in, beginning at 4 p.m., will be held at the Old Walker County Airport.
Although Ben Matsubu didn't make the cut into Sunday's final round, the 5-4 bass he weighed in on Saturday earned him a pretty good consolation prize: the $1,000 Purolator Big Bass award. Unless one of Sunday's anglers catches a break (and a big fish), Mark Tucker stands to pick up the $1,000 bonus for the Purolator Big Bass of the Tournament, thanks to a 6-11 fish he caught in Friday's round.
Saturday marked the final day of competition for the amateurs competing on Smith Lake. Alabama's Mike Bagwell won the amateur competition with a three-day weight of 17-5. Bagwell takes home over $36,000 in prizes, including a fully rigged bass boat and a year's worth of free gasoline as part of an incentive program from CITGO.
"It's been a long time overdue," Bagwell said. "It was tough. It's been snowing and it's been cold, but it's all worth it."
Fans can catch a telecast of the Smith Lake tournament on Saturday, Feb. 14 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2.
The CITGO Bassmaster Tour events this season feature the highly interactive and family friendly BASS Sponsor Expo area. Sponsors present interactive exhibits and provide a fun family experience for all ages. The Expo will take place from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday at the Old Walker County Airport.
The CastingKids program, presented by CITGO was held in conjunction with the BASS Sponsor Expo Saturday. More than 50 children between the ages of 7 and 14 participated for the chance to earn a scholarship. Double Springs, Ala.'s Austin Sullivan, 8, was the winner in the 7-10 division and Andrew Braden, 11, from Nauvoo, Ala., won the 11-14 group.
Braden, who is a two-time CastingKids state champion in the 7-10 bracket was running a temperature of 103 degrees but still managed to win in a tie-breaking cast-off.
The state championship for the Alabama CastingKids will take place next Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Alexander City Sports Complex in Alexander City, Ala.
The event and instruction to youngsters was facilitated, Saturday, by the Carbon Hill Bass Club and the Jasper Bass Club.
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.
Local Sponsors include the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.