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Cheating in Fishing Tournaments

The sport of tournament fishing had a real shocker last weekend on Lake Ray Hubbard as one of North Texas' most affluent bass anglers was accused of cheating. During an hourly weigh-in at the BLT Big Bass Tournament, that included a new $55,000 bass boat as first prize, the angler in question brought a nine to ten pound bass to the scales (which would have qualified as either 1st or 2nd place for the day). After the fish was weighed, inspections of the bass were made by tournament officials. When irregularities were discovered, the angler was asked to empty the contents of the fish's stomach. At this time a one pound lead weight used for deep sea fishing was taken out of the bass. After being disqualified by the tournament director, the fisherman apologized and then left the scene without protest or objection to the findings.

The BLT tournament officials reported the incident to the Texas Game Warden who arrived on the scene and collected statements and evidence of the infraction. The fish in question was released unharmed after pictures were taken. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, fraud in fishing tournaments where the prize is over $10,000 is a third degree felony. It is also an unwritten rule as fishermen, that if an angler is caught cheating in a manner such as adding weight to fish, or tying up fish to be weighed at a later date, the perpetrator is to be banned from fishing any future tournaments.

The accused angler has won over $370,000 in cash and prizes since 2002. The recent incident on Lake Ray Hubbard brings into question the validity of his winnings over this time period. The angler issued an apology statement on his personal web-site the day after the disqualification, but has since taken his web-site down.

While cheating in sports isn't something new, this recent occurrence has brought many questions to the surface about the integrity of tournament fishing. Most contests require the winning team or individual to submit to a polygraph test. However, this action seems to only keep honest people honest since it is well documented that polygraph tests can be beaten. As anglers, it is our responsibility to hold ourselves and each other accountable to the rules.