By Luigi De Rose
Here are the facts that I have been able to tease out from the scandal that broke out on Friday, September 11, the eve of the 2015 Top Bass Classic on Balsam Lake, Ontario.
During the last day of pre-fishing, an angler witnessed a white bass boat and three people at a distance. The people in question were working with something in the water in a creek towards the vicinity of Mitchell Lake, a portion of the Trent-Severn System that was open to competitors. After they left, he went to investigate. When he arrived, two large laundry baskets zip tied together held bass in it was discovered. Once he retrieved it, the witness immediately brought the basket to the town of Coboconk, of his own accord, where the pre-tournament meeting was being held. This person alerted the gathered anglers and officials in the parking lot and told them who he saw and displayed the cage. Outrage quickly spread throughout the meeting.
Further investigation in the area where the first cage was discovered, a second cage was located with bass that weighed close to 19 pounds.
In the eyes of the law, several key elements have not been met.
- The alleged cheating anglers were never seen removing bass from the cage nor did they try to enter bass as part of an official tournament creel.
- All alleged activities didn’t take part during official tournament time, so they cannot be considered illegal or fraudulent.
- Caging bass reflects that the alleged anglers were showing intent to cheat but due to others actions failed to follow through on any possible intentions.
The unfortunate situation cast a dark cloud on tournament fishing and one of the significant pitfalls of “team or buddy” tournaments. While many anglers were frustrated with the scandal, it has also unified anglers and has forced tournament officials to be more vigilant while enforcing tournament rules.