Classic Fishing Derby Cheats

08 Jul Classic Fishing Derby Cheats

Classic Fishing Derby Cheats
Tournament fishing is an art form, and each angler is an artist that strives to become better by learning different techniques, gaining new abilities, and developing a unique style along the way. Tournaments are usually held in a specific marine location, and focus on a particular species of fish, and in these circumstances specialists really shine, and so many fishing industry sponsors line up to catch the glow.

Winning major competitions is a very lucrative endeavour as fishing line suppliers, fishing tackle providers, electronics companies, rod & reel makers and motor boats & engine manufacturers, beverage companies and clothing designers out bid each other to sponsor these competitive events. They like getting behind the matches because it really elevates one brand over their competitors’ and the local bait and tackle shop is a crowded marketplace.

Fishing matches are exciting occasions that can create small town heroes who win fame and fortune, right alongside the sponsor brands, which makes them more trusted by consumers and therefore more likely to sell over a competitor’s products at the same price point.

In addition to sponsorship fees, tournament organizers often collect even more money in entry fees.  In some matches, competitors pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege of fishing for a big purse.

In contrast to the art of angling, and the wholesome love of the sport, there is a dark side to match fishing and that is the organized, pre meditated cheaters and their devious schemes. This article explores the path criminals take to conceive variations on classic fishing derby cheats.

Getting Caught Cheating in a Fishing Match is the Kiss of Death

Regardless of whether he or she is new player or a respected veteran, any individual or team that gets caught cheating in a fishing match is done for in the sport.  Convicted cheaters will find themselves disbarred in all major tournaments, and even smaller regional events that think they’re major tournaments will reject their applications. Convicted cheaters will soon find themselves forever shunned by all who knew them…

If the local police are on hand, as they often are, the perpetrators will be charged with fraud and given a date for a court appearance – a date they’ll never forget, and one which is sure to be videotaped and made public in many different mediums.

But even with such a steep deterrent, there are still those that would cheat and their criminal behavior is classified into one of two main categories.

Two Categories of Match Fishing Cheats
For cheaters, the primary object is to get prize winning fish aboard the boat in any way possible, and although there are many different schemes and illegal advantages fishermen can employ, all cheats fall into one of two main categories.

Okay actually there’s a third category, which I call Extraneous Cheats; and these are things like counterfeiting fishing tags, speeding in the boat lanes to get to the best spot ahead of the pack, or adding lead weights to the prize fish to make them heavier? Yes believe it or not, just last summer, July 2012 Northern Illinois Anglers Association disqualified Larry Coleman,  a local fishing guide and professional bass angler who submitted some small but suspiciously heavy walleye to Judges at the 29th annual Kankakee River Fishing Derby.

With the exception of these extraneous connivance, fishing derby cheats fall into two main categories, smuggling and illegal catches.

Smuggling Fish to Win a Fishing Derby
Most large prize fishing derbies require anglers to stay aboard their small craft at all times. Shore fishing is only permitted in areas where inspectors can watch the proceedings, and that’s because smuggling fish aboard a boat is a sure fire way to win just about any derby. The true art of smuggling is to leave no witnesses whatsoever.

Dead fish are weighed and their weight is subtracted from competitor’s score
Almost all modern fishing derbies are catch and release; so the Flintstones cartoon where Fred picks up a frozen fish at the supermarket, thaws the carcass and uses it to win a fishing derby, would never work. Furthermore, Catch and Release protocol means all fish have to be alive at the end of the match to be released. That means fishermen have to invest money to make live wells with proper aerators aboard ship to contain and preserve their catches. And lastly, catch and release seriously reduces cheating, as importing live fish without being spotted is rather difficult in any size fishing tournament.

The drop could be accomplished from shore, or by visiting a shore cache, or by getting a quick delivery from a passing boat. Or, like a classic smuggler, the perpetrators have secret compartments aboard the boat that are in fact live wells full of game fish caught in the days or weeks leading up the competitive event.

On the Fishing Saskatchewan discussion forum there is a very interesting thread about cheating,
The first post explains how two people were caught cheating, “…just recently up at [Lake] Tobin [a team was] caught cheating in the derby, they had a hidden live well full of fish and the inspectors found it.”
To which another user named SaskRiverMan replied,
“..slander or not, cliff nelson and wife nancy had the fish in the live well they were given 3 chances to come clean before they were disqualified from the tourney this year and will not be returning any other year either. few facts from this year’s vanity follows as winning weight 57.4 lbs 1192 total fish weighed in for a total weight of 3953.1 lbs 4 other teams were dq’d for bringing in “red zone” fish. Good job to the individuals involved in makin this year’s tourney a success – without the volunteers it wouldn’t happen.”

Interesting 2013 Bassmaster Rules regarding Smuggling Fish
The 2013 Bassmaster Rules contain this very interesting passage which will probably be updated in the 2014 season.

…during the tournament, a competitor may not “SKIN DIVE” OR “SCUBA DIVE” in the tournament
waters. (iv) No competitor may buy or barter a fishing location from any other competitor for use
during any competition day. Once daily cuts are announced at the post weigh in rules meeting, competitors not making the cut are no longer considered in the tournament. Competitors making cut may not receive information under rule C3 (ii). (v) During the official competition days of the tournament a competitor may not make cell calls for the purpose of locating or catching fish on tournament waters. Cell phones may be used for emergency situations. Competitors are allowed to call lockmasters for locking purposes only. Competitors are allowed to use smart phones for global maps,
weather, notes, etc.

To this author these rules are fascinating. Readers can see how they have evolved over the years to cover every possible contingency. For example, competitors must have been caught swimming for the purpose of retrieving sunken fish caches.

And perhaps a crew was caught using phones to set up clandestine meetings on the lake? Or to get inside information on where big fish are biting? Or to learn where fish have been planted? Either way the rules concerning mobile phones are about to evolve again – they must either allow or disallow mobile phones as fishfinders because coming this summer there are at least two different sonar fishing devices connected to smart phone apps. They write, “Competitors are allowed to use smart phones for global maps, weather, notes, etc.”
But how will they know I didn’t write a RF program to cause a submarine robot to inflate its ballast tanks and bring my prize winning fish to the surface of the lake so I can catch them one after another right in front of several dozen witnesses? Will tournament officials soon be monitoring all radio frequencies? It’s something to consider.

Illegal Catches are harder to detect

Illegal catches are far more difficult to detect than smuggled fish, but catching is harder than cheating to accomplish, as the perpetrators still have to be a reasonably good fisherman to catch anything. The above mentioned sonar device will probably be disallowed on the grounds that it offers users far too much of an advantage, especially in canoe or kayak derbies where there are no other fishfinders.

Live bait is also disallowed at most tournaments, but that’s not because it offers an unfair advantage, but rather because it employs methodology that runs counter to the commercial designs of the fishing tackle sponsor.

Tournaments get tough on spearfishing, fish doping or electric shocking as illegal catch methods
Caught on TV back in 1998, Henry Waszczuk and Italo Labignan, hosts of Canadian Sportfishing; broadcast weekly on TSN, and were fined a total of $1,800 and lost much of their celebrity status at the time, and the respect of their TV audiences at the time, when they were caught cheating for the camera.

Waszczuk, 47, and Labignan, 41 snagged two dozen sizable fish on Nov. 6, 1995 by hooking them in the body so they could re-hook them in the mouth and film their retrieval for their show.

What fishing derby cheats are you on the watch for?