Cheaters are not true sportsmen and have no place in a bass tournament.
Invariably when there is money at stake some will try to rig the system in their favor. This doesn't happen frequently in bass tournaments but does exist on local and the national level. Serious penalties have been imposed and in many states an angler caught cheating in a bass tournament could be charged with a felony offense.
The first time I heard about cheating in a bass tournament was at least 30 years ago when an angler tried to enter a large bass in a Big Bass Tournament held on a lake in northeast Texas. After a day or two of fishing the angler bringing in the largest bass would win a very large sum of money. The angler had a friend ship in a Florida strain bass from that state and kept it on ice until the day of the tournament.
There are some minor differences in different species of bass. The Florida strain often grows much larger than native bass and is a popular choice when stocking lakes and streams in our waters today. But in that day the Florida strain of bass had not been introduced into that lake. The angler weighed in the bass and agents quickly identified that it could not have been caught in their waters. The angler was disqualified.
There are more ways than one can imagine that some have use to cheat in a bass tournament. Not long ago an angler fishing the western opens and had winnings of over $200,000 was found cheating by adding lead weights to the belly of the fish. In one case several of his fish had died. Most tournaments practice catch and release but fish do die at times and are cleaned and given to charities. While cleaning some of the anglers fish the lead weights were discovered. The angler was charged and banned for life from fishing many tournaments.
In most tournament trails anglers are allowed some "practice" time to learn the lake and locate some fish. During this practice time some have caught fish before the tournament and have tied the fish to some tree or other underwater structure by a strong line. Then the angler fishes in the location, snags the line and puts the fish in the boat. In one tournament another angler found some of these fish tied in this manor and alerted the authorities about it. The authorities cut small samples off the fins of the fish and then checked the fish at weigh-in finding and identifying the fish by the samples they took. The angler was disqualified and placed under further investigation.
There have been other instance of cheaters fishing bass tournaments caught in my area also. One angler lived on a certain lake would catch fish prior to a tournament and put them into a small swimming pool behind his house. I've passed by that same trailer and remember seeing the small pool behind his home many times. During a tournament he would have a friend bring the cheater the fish in an isolated location. Authorities became suspicious and began to observe the angler and was subsequently caught in the act.
Due to possible cheating in bass tournaments anglers are now required to sign a registration form with an added clause that the angler may but subject to a polygraph test. Yep...I won a nice tournament in my area and had to take a polygraph test. No problem if you have nothing to hide. I did pass the test easily...:)
Being caught cheating in a bass tournament can have far reaching consequences to the offending angler. Depending on the payout of the tournament, one caught cheating can be a felony offense in many states. That should be serious enough to deter these cheaters. If convicted the cheater may also loose all hunting and fishing privileges in that state. Hunting and fishing on most states is a privilege not a right.
One angler in our area would have won a tournament but when requested refused to take the polygraph test. He was, off course, disqualified from the tournament and band not only from fishing that tournament but also most others in the area. The angler has branded himself as a cheater and not many tournament directors are going to allow a known cheater into their club.
Cheaters have no place in bass tournaments or anywhere else for that mater. A cheater is literally stealing money out of the pockets of the very same anglers that may have called him a friend. I fish bass tournaments for pleasure with a chance to maybe get a check. I do have a competitive spirit but not a win at all cost attitude. If I do have a good day on the lake then great. But if not I review my plan and see where I can improve next time. That is the spirit of these bass tournaments. To make one a better angler, sportsman, and in the process learn ways to conserve our wonderful natural resources.
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