A few weeks ago while fishing a bass tournament on California’s El Capitan Reservoir, a competitor dredged up the contraption in the photo below. Per this story on SDFish.com, some folks believe it’s a lure retriever. Others, however, think that the heavy weights on one end, nylon rope on the other, and addition of stringer clips points to it being a device meant to keep fish alive and hidden until tourney day. Honestly, I’m never shocked by the lengths people will go just to make a few bucks in a weekend tournament. What’s even more depressing is that I don’t think I’ve ever fished a tournament where someone wasn’t accused of doing something illegal, or at least something against the rules. These claims are not always directed at the winner, nor are they always true, but the perpetual mentality is that there’s always someone doing something shady.
Bass tournaments and poker games are very similar because you’re betting money on skills and odds. If you’re having a weekend poker fiesta and your friend Nicky’s house, no one is walking away with 10 grand (at least not among my friends). Point being, you’re not likely to cheat over a 20-dollar buy-in. When poker gets serious like in a casino sanctioned tournament, the rules become very serious as well, as they should. The bigger the prize, the more potential for cheating.
In my opinion, it’s up to tournament directors to create foolproof ways of preventing cheating, and it’s up to the contestants to see how and if the rules are being enforced prior to entering. Directors must check high finishers with polygraphs, as well as follow up on rule infractions from credible leads. I’ve frequently heard weekend tournament staff say that polygraphs cost too much to conduct, to which I say then don’t run a tournament with a 10-grand prize. The bulk of the problem stems from this perceived lack of rule enforcement, especially when an event is run by a fishing club or tackle shop. I would bet nine out of ten participants in a 10-grand bass tourney would be okay with lessening the pot if that money was used to improve rule enforcement. Do you agree?