It seems like we hear about or witness cheating anglers more often with each passing year. I don’t know if it’s the prestige of winning a bass tournament or the money that goes along with it, or both. But, year after year, anglers are caught cheating to win a bass tournament. Cheating can be very damaging to the sport of bass fishing, everything from the image to the purses. I wonder if Ray Scott back in 1968, ever thought that a polygraph would be standard equipment at a weigh in.
While tournament directors do all they can to prevent or catch individuals who have cheated in events, there is some responsibility that rests on us the anglers that participate in these events. If we don’t report suspicious activity or behavior, then it may continue. A tournament director can’t possibly watch every contestant in an event. With larger events, at least in my home waters, it’s difficult to find an area that an angler can have complete solitude. This means someone is always watching.
Every tournament I have ever fished had guidelines for reporting violations of the tournament rules. Most state that any complaints must be filed within 15 minutes of weigh in time. Maybe it’s the word “Complaint” that prevents many anglers from saying something. No one wants to be the “Rat”. I know I’d hate to be put in a position that I had to report another angler, but I’d do it for the integrity of the sport. Many of the events I fish in I know all the anglers very well. It would be very hard to “Complain”. However, we have to start looking at it different.
These cheaters probably did not wake up one day and decide to cheat. They’ve probably been doing it for quite some time, practicing in local club events with different ways to cheat. Especially in a club event, it’s hard to call your buddy to the carpet. Most of us would call him off to the side and listen to an excuse, and take it for granted. After all, he’s our fishing buddy, and why would he cheat to win $100 of club money. These cheaters are counting on that. They are counting on how honest we are and gullible we can be.
They had to start somewhere, club level, open tournaments, or Big Bass tournaments. This means we know who they are. If it happens at club level, make sure something gets done about it. The majority of bigger bass tournaments require you to sign in, this is a liability release and to prove you read the rules. In those rules, it will say, “If you’ve ever been disqualified from a tournament, you must disclose this to the tournament director.” So even at club level if you catch someone cheating push for a Disqualification, simply saying a guy will never fish with you again is not a Disqualification.
Some would say that a cheater wouldn’t disclose that he’s been Disqualified, and that is true. However, this is another area we as anglers can help. We need to make sure the Tournament Directors know about these individuals. We can point them out.
I recently read where a known cheater would sign up under factious names. With computers, it’s very easy for a tournament director to search the data base of his particular event for names. So a good cheater would need several aliases in order to compete regularly. This is another reason why we as anglers need to speak up. If we see a known cheater walking around the ramp, preparing to fish the tournament, we need to tell the tournament director. A lot of major events are combating this by requiring contestants to provide a valid fishing license as part of the check in procedures. This really is the only avenue they have to prove and individuals name. Most states require identification in order to get a fishing license. This doesn’t mean someone couldn’t go to the trouble to have different fake identifications available and purchase different licenses under those names. This seems like a lot of trouble, but again we are honest and cheaters are not.
I help out with the Big Bass Extravaganza in Louisiana on the Red River. Legend Boats runs this event and has an individual with years of experience running this type of event come in and be the Tournament Director. I spoke with him about the different ways anglers have been caught cheating. He said, “I always on the lookout for the standard ways, cutting tales, excessively dead bass, weights being shoved down throats, and the tell tale signs of soars from tying a fish up.” He went on to say that the most unique way he caught someone cheating was with ice. An angler had crammed handfuls of ice down the throat of a large bass, so much so that they fish was extremely cold. Noticeably cold compared to the other fish being weighed in. At first the individual claimed his livewell was loaded with ice and the fish was just cold. However after being in the release tank and dying the bass was still exceptionally cold. The Texas Parks and Wildlife officials took possession of the bass and had it examined. Ice was found in the stomach contents.
On the flip side of this cheating coin, not everyone that wins is a cheater. I have seen people be accused of cheating because they win several tournaments, or catch the big bass several times a year. Don’t accuse someone of cheating without proof, it’s very damaging to a reputation even if falsely accused. We have the technology at our finger tips, literally, use your smart phone to take pictures or video. Just because a guy or team starts winning doesn’t mean he’s cheating.
I honestly don’t understand why anglers cheat to win tournaments. Yes, the money is nice, but that’s not the only reason I fish tournaments. I like winning, I like the feeling I get when I can figure the bass out better than everyone else that day. I like knowing I executed a plan, and that I along with my equipment performed well enough to bring the largest bag of bass to the scales. Someone that cheats to win, didn’t win, they didn’t use their abilities to catch bass, they simply out smarted the tournament director. That is not why I pay my entry fees each morning. Where is the sense of accomplishment in this?
Getting caught cheating puts your career at risk, undermines every good accomplishment you’ve ever had, your reputation among friends and family is gone, and you’ll never fish another tournament. So whatever feeling you were getting, will not happen again in a bass tournament.
If you cheated you didn’t win, you didn’t take someone’s money, you stole it. How can you be proud of that?
I’d like to close my rant with a few notes for the honest fisherman that make our sport great. Please keep an eye out, know the offenders in your area, make sure your tournament directors know who they are, and any false names they might use, keep your eyes open on the water, and demand no matter what level the bass tournament is push for a disqualification.
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