Two men from Marshall County, Alabama, were found guilty and sentenced to jail time for cheating in a Guntersville Lake bass tournament, according to a story from WAFF-TV in Huntsville.
Gary Minor Jr. of Albertville, Alabama, and Robert Gillaspie of Boaz, Alabama, were arrested and charged with tampering with sport contest in April. Authorities received a tip that the pair was catching big bass outside of tournament times and holding them in a basket at a dock. When tournament times came, they would sneak into the dock, retrieve the previously captured big bass and then claim the first-place prize in evening bass tournaments on Guntersville.
After a four-hour trial Monday, a District Court judge found the men guilty and sentenced them to a one-year suspended jail sentence, provided they serve 30 days in jail and serve 400 hours of community service at Lake Guntersville State Park. They also received two years of probation and were each ordered to pay $1,000 and court costs.
The men have appealed the verdict and are allowed to make a $1,000 appeal bond to be released from jail, which would send the case to a jury trial in Circuit Court. Upon making bond, a condition of their release is that they give up their hunting and fishing licenses.
Bass tournament anglers everywhere are applauding the verdict, although some wish the penalty was even harsher.
This is certainly not the only case of cheating in bass tournaments. In another case this summer, two tournament anglers in Georgia were accused of buying an 11-pound bass from anglers who weren’t in the tournament.
But cases of tournament anglers getting caught or accused of cheating are rare. Is that because few tournament fishermen cheat, or few tournament fishermen get caught cheating?
I once was a game warden, and as the saying goes, “It takes a crook to catch a crook.” In other words, I have a pretty good idea of how difficult it is to garner indisputable proof of law breaking or rule breaking in the wide expanses of the outdoors. It is one thing to “think it,” but it is another thing to be able to prove it in a court of law-or at the weigh-in stand.
It would really be an incredibly easy process to sink a holding cage in the back of a remote slough, fill it with big bass caught over a week’s time and then revisit the remote slough on tournament day to retrieve the fish when no one else is looking. It has to be a well-designed cage or bass will show visible signs of having been held, but it can be done. That is exactly what the guys in Alabama are accused of doing, except their holding pen was inside a boathouse rather than a remote slough.
Most bass tournaments include rules that say winners are “subject to a lie detector test.” But in the real world, that rarely occurs. An accurate lie detector test is a very involved and potentially expensive process. But just like roadway signs that read “Speed radar enforced,” the rule makers hope the mere threat of a lie detector test will keep folks on the straight and narrow.
The fact is, most bass tournaments are forced to operate on the honor system. The most well-known and popular area bass tournament circuit is operated by the Chattanooga Bass Association. The group has been around for 38 years. To my knowledge, there has never been an incident of cheating, or at least none that resulted in any criminal charges.
The hundreds of anglers who fish the CBAs and other bass tournaments everywhere hope the Alabama case sends a strong message that “Cheaters never win; winners never cheat.”
Updated @ 9:03 a.m. on 9/18/14 to correct a typographical error and a spelling error: The media outlet originally reporting this story is in Huntsville, not Hunstsville, as originally reported.