Thank goodness this doesn’t happen often, but I get these calls. They have a common theme and still happen too often. The last one went like this. “Hello Dan. Bob* here. Hey, I’m not super well known or anything and I didn’t want to get a bad rep, but something happened to me during that last Big tournament and I need to talk to someone about it.”

“I drew one of the top sticks in the event, but it didn’t turn out quite like I hoped. Later in the day, this well-known, successful and popular boater started ‘joking’ with me about trading bass. He had a couple nice ones, but the rest were small. I had a couple nice bass too and he ‘joked’ that if I gave him my nice bass to weigh in with his, he’d get in the money. ‘Hey… when you think about it, how would anyone know,’ this well known popular angler says. ‘Ha ha… we could split the money. Better than both of us getting nothing ha ha.’ He says it like he’s joking and of course we can’t do it… but mentions again ‘how would anyone ever know…'”

“It made me very uncomfortable because he kept bringing it up near the end of the day,” continues Bob. “I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to tell him to stop, but he’s the well known, well liked boater, not me.”

Bob was having some bad feelings about not reporting it to the Big tournament director because rules do state you must report any rule violation you are aware of. “But he kept saying it like he was just kidding,” says Bob. “He would just tell the tournament director he was joking and I should know the difference. And he’s the well known, popular boater. Who are they going to side with, him or me right?”

Some of you may say Bob should have reported it. I also wonder if some might be thinking what’s the big deal. Sheesh. He was just joking.


Early on, I was personally in almost this same exact situation as a non-boater in a tournament. I ‘chickened out’ not telling the tournament director because I didn’t want to start out immediately with the ‘rep’ as a snitch. Who does?

Only, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I know darn well – and everyone else should too – that 1) he was feeling me out to see if I could be tempted to break the rules with the ‘joking’ about it; 2) EVERY tournament angler MUST KNOW we cannot afford to have people like this active within our structure. Each of us better have the personal smarts to know this behavior should be zero tolerance if we value the future of our sport.

I guaranty any tournament organization worth a darn knows they cannot afford to have anglers like this fishing their circuit. Any angler who isn’t aware of this shouldn’t be fishing tournaments at any respectable level. And we should all do our part to weed them out.

I called the tournament director a week later in my case and he gave me a pretty good tongue lashing first saying the same thing – this is something no one should EVER kid about, and I knew darn well he was trying to feel me out for cheating. He told me I better never let this happen again. That was it for me. I will share my particular boater never fished that circuit again. Interesting coincidence…?

In this latest case, I told Bob I understood the uncomfortable position he was in, but that it was really shame on the boater for misusing his standing in such a way, and putting Bob in such a bad spot. Afterwards, I called the tournament circuit headquarters and talked to the director about the situation. I said I trusted Bob having known him to be a decent and honorable person.

Now of course, the tournament director was unhappy that Bob did not protest as he should have. They want everyone to follow ALL the rules including the protest rule. The tournament director knows they can’t run a completely successful circuit if ANYONE is given the chance to break the rules or not meet the expected level of sportsmanship.

You may not know this, but many circuits will red flag any angler that they get certain types of reports on in certain circumstances. In this case, Bob’s boater was red flagged as a potential risk. Any other incident involving this boater could easily get his applications to fish rejected in the future. This would be pretty embarrassing for a ‘well-known, successful and popular boater’ to have to explain why he could no longer fish a large circuit.

Proof that NO ONE should joke at all about any rule violation. The great circuits know they can’t afford anything above zero tolerance. I know it. And everyone else should know it too. Particularly a well-known, successful and popular boater.

*Bob is not his real name of course, he was uncomfortable having people know even though it was the boater who made the real mistake not him. I chose not to name the circuit because the important thing to know is that most of the major circuits handle these situations in a similar and serious fashion.

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