2015-09-02 / Crossroads Weekend

Tournament fishing was a favorite pastime for Swaim

by Kate Evans

Tommy Swaim is pictured in 1988 with a couple of his big smallmouth bass catches at Point of Rocks, Maryland.
Tommy Swaim is pictured in 1988 with a couple of his big smallmouth bass catches at Point of Rocks, Maryland.      Fishing has long been one of the prime area pastimes for many.  Residents and visitors enjoy it while relaxing with family or friends, while others compete for top honors through area fishing clubs.
   Former Morgan County Commissioner and Sheriff Tommy Swaim has enjoyed fishing since he was a kid and competed in regional tournament fishing for over 20 years from the 1970s through the 1990s.  
   Swaim was featured on the cover of   Woods and Waters, a Maryland and Virginia fishing magazine, and in newspaper fishing columns. He fishes area lakes and rivers from his jet boat two to three times a week.
   Swaim built houses and cabins with his construction company for around 30 years.  When he worked in construction, he changed his work week to four 10-hour days to have a longer weekend for fishing, he said.
   Swaim got serious about fishing in the late 1970s and 1980s after his brother Sammy Swaim was working at Mack Trucks.  Swaim’s brother and his friends from work belonged to area fishing clubs and competed in Bass Federation tournaments.
                                                Trophy fishing
    Tommy Swaim started fishing for trophies in tri-county fishing club tournaments and in Morgan County fishing clubs. He also traveled to Canada, Connecticut and Virginia to fish in tournaments and once won tenth place in the National Bassmasters tournament along the Ohio River in Wheeling.
    Swaim was active in the Morgan County Mountaineer Bassmasters club and was at one time western regional director of the Maryland Bass Federation when West Virginia was part of the organization.  The area later became part of the West Virginia Bass Federation.  He was considered Maryland Sportsman of the Year in 1989.
    Swaim said he and Greg Stotler used to fish as partners in the tournaments.  They won  $1,000 a couple of times in Virginia tournaments.  Swaim also received $300 and $500 checks for fishing. He won $450 at Deep Creek Lake at a night tournament with partner Charlie Whisner, but decided to quit doing tournaments after that.  
    In tournaments, you fish against your partner every day, Swaim said. In the Maryland tournaments, there would be as many as 250 boats zooming around the river at 60 to 70 miles an hour.  They’d turn you loose at starting time and you’d have to be back at a certain time or you’d be disqualified, he noted.
    Swaim never kept any of his tournament fish and would always throw them back into the water after they were weighed.  Fishermen were penalized if their fish died on the weigh-in, he said.
    Swaim was mostly into bass fishing then and would fish 100 to 120 days a year when he was tournament fishing.  He kept daily log books of where he fished for his tournament years and also has scrapbooks of photos of himself and his friends with their tournament catches.  
                                              Crappie and trout
    Swaim said he gave up tournament fishing because it took up his Sundays. He got into crappie fishing, which he does at lakes in West Virginia and Maryland.  He also fishes for trout early in the season at Cacapon State Park.
    Swaim said he does big fish fries of 80 to 100 fillets at a time for family and friends and also does one annually for Hunter’s Hardware employees.  He has a rig that deep fries fillets.
Swaim used to have a fishing license for Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland, but dropped the Pennsylvania license last year because he wasn’t using it.
   Swaim mainly uses a spinning reel but has also used casters. He doesn’t use any bait-just all artificial lures. He also doesn’t get into fly fishing but said it’s a real sport and fun.
                                                Fishing spots
   Some of the places Swaim has fished include Deep Creek Lake, Rocky Gap State Park, Bear Valley, Greenbrier State Park, Sleepy Creek, Warden Lake and Kinsey Run.  He used to fish in North Carolina and Virginia and even went to Florida a couple of times to fish for crappies, but doesn’t fish that far away now.
    Of his favorite fishing spots, Swaim said, “You never tell your honey holes.”
   Swaim said he likes to fish for fun, pack some food and get to his fishing spot before daylight.  He’s usually ready to come home by dinner time.
    Swaim said it’s pretty nice being outdoors on his fishing trips.  He’s seen and heard many species of wildlife and birds including turkeys, coyotes, eagles and osprey.
    Swaim once saw a bear swim across a lake while he was fishing and one year killed four rattlesnakes on his way to his fishing spot.  
    Fishing is fun and mostly about the camaraderie, Swaim said.  He fishes with two or three different friends and also with his wife, Janie Swaim. She likes to fish for crappies and blue gills.  
    Swaim was glad to hear about the Berkeley Springs High School fishing team and its efforts to pass along the love of fishing to younger generations.  He has fond recollections of helping with Bassmasters Federation youth tournaments.

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