Elite Bass Angler Disqualified At Guntersville

Elite Series Angler Disqualified

Boyd Duckett With Crankbait Bass On Lake Demopolis
Boyd Duckett With Crankbait Bass On Lake Demopolis. 2009 Ronnie Garrison licensed to About.com
Competitive fishing works because most anglers understand and respect boundaries.

An incident at Lake Guntersville showed how important this is.

Competitive fishing is all about understanding and respecting boundaries - and respecting your fellow anglers. Integrity on the water is part of the heritage of B.A.S.S. tournaments.

Generally, tournament anglers display sportsmanship at a high level. At Guntersville Lake last week, during our Elite Series tournament, that didn't happen.

I was involved in a confrontation with another angler, Kevin Langill. I didn't start it, didn't want it and believe I did everything, and I mean everything, possible to avoid it.

Let me also say right from the start of this column that I'm uncomfortable talking about this several days after the tournament, because I'd like for it to be over. I wasn't uncomfortable talking about it while it was happening and immediately after the tournament, because I felt it was my responsibility to answer questions from tournament officials, bass fans, media members and even other anglers who weren't on the scene.

But now we're several days after the event is over, and I don't feel it's my duty to tell this story. This time it's my choice. And the reason I'm choosing to do this - the only reason - is that my reputation could actually be at stake.

So here's a nuts-and-bolts version of what took place.

I'm familiar with Guntersville Lake, so during practice I checked out an area I knew, and I found a great group of fish.

It was a grassy section close to an island about 20 minutes from our launch point. My only question on Thursday, the first day of the tournament, was whether I was going to be able to claim the area, because I was the 93rd boat out.

The good news was that when I got there, the spot was free. There were three boats on the shoal that I found, and not one of them was on my spot, an area that was about the size of a truck trailer rig.

So I went in, set my boat on the spot and fished it until mid-day without even thinking about moving. I caught 26 and a half pounds by mid-day - the fishing was that good.

But that afternoon Kevin came into this area. I'm not going to speculate exactly why he did this, but he came way too close and started casting right into my grass bed. I asked him what he was doing, and I asked him to stop, but that seemed to just aggravate him. I told him as plainly as I could, "Kevin, this is wrong. You know it's wrong. If you keep doing it, I've got to report it."

His response to that was to make a long cast across the grass bed, cutting me off from off from my fish. Fortunately for me, two other pro anglers, Grant Goldbeck and Peter Thliveros, and their marshals saw this.

BASS officials handled the incident properly. They talked with the witnesses and, after doing so, they reprimanded Kevin. He didn't respond well to that.

Day Two

First thing on Friday, he drove his boat to the same area and literally refused to let me fish. He parked on the sweet spot, again cutting me off from my fish. I made a decision relatively early in the day that I wasn't going to be able to fight this, so I did two things: I informed tournament officials what was happening, and I went to fish somewhere else.

Starting from scratch, I caught enough to make the cut - but not enough to stay in contention for a Top 12 or a Top 5, which is where I thought I would be. I dropped from 11th place to 38th.

BASS officials again handled the situation properly, this time by disqualifying Kevin from the tournament for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Day Three

Unfortunately, Kevin again didn't respond well. Without going into too many specifics, the bottom line is that after being disqualified, Kevin came to the dock on Saturday morning and embarrassed BASS officials and me. I can't emphasize enough that many, many witnesses were there. Witnesses also watched as he got into his boat and headed out onto the lake away from the docks as police arrived.

After leaving the dock, he went to the mouth of a creek near the launch site, waiting for me, so he could follow me wherever I went.

And that's what he did. Among his actions, he circled my boat repeatedly, telling me that if he wasn't fishing, I wasn't going to be, either. Knowing that I couldn't fish with Kevin around, I chose to go back to the dock, where we called authorities. Several agencies responded, including the Marshall County Sheriff's Department.

After determining how to proceed, the sheriff's went to the scene, and in clear language told Kevin it was time to leave the lake and not come back.

Kevin apparently got that message, because that's what he did.

Though he was removed, my tournament was shot. I lost four hours of fishing time before I was able to compete. I was not a factor. I finished 30th and felt fortunate to get that.

Suspended For the Season

Then three days after Kevin left Guntersville, B.A.S.S. announced he was suspended for the season.

It's important for people to understand that B.A.S.S. doesn't arbitrarily suspend an angler. The action was taken after officials reviewed what they saw and heard and learned from witnesses. I'm certainly not treated special. If I had been the one in Kevin Langill's shoes and I did what Kevin did, they would have suspended me.

The Guntersville situation is extreme. In fact, I've been tournament fishing since 1977, and I've never seen anything like it. There are mild territorial disputes at most tournaments, and certainly at every Elite Series event. But the difference is that almost every time, anglers work out those territory issues. We know that being unreasonable makes no sense, for a couple of reasons.

Why Follow Unwritten Rules? .....

Why Follow Unwritten Rules?

First, if we don't abide by common sense rules and courtesies, our sport would turn into uncontrolled chaos. It's not feasible to have referees all over the lake to make rulings. It can't work that way, so it's up to us.

A second reason to handle things with dignity is this: We're always going to have to share space, and we're all going to be on both sides of the coin. This week I might be the one with the chance to set the boundaries.

Next week, I might be sharing space with the same angler, and he'll be calling the shots.

What goes around comes around, in other words.

I'll give you an example of how to do this the right way. At Lake Amistad, I was fishing a point. I was there, established. After I'd been there awhile, Skeet Reese came to the same point. He said, "Boyd, I had planned to fish this point, but I see you're on it. So is there a way I can fish where I won't be cutting into what you're doing?"

I pointed to a spot near the bank and told him, "Skeet, I'm fishing from that point to this grass line over here. Does that work for you?" He said yes and added that he would not encroach into my area. And he did what he said he would do.

That's the way you handle a territory issue.

What Are the Rules?

So, specifically, what are the rules? Well, in fact there are no written rules. But here is what I believe are the guidelines:

 
  • 1. You never encroach on a competitor to a level that you inhibit him from fishing.

     

  • 2. You stay farther than a cast away from your competitor's fish. Generally, you just make sure you don't bother another angler's fish.

     

  • 3. You never cast over another angler's line.

     

  • 4. Although there is no "ownership" of a hole, you have to respect the person who's there first. And you respect a person's hole even more on Day 2 of a tournament than Day 1.

     

  • 5. Communication is the key. Politely explain to the other angler what your intentions are, come to an agreement and then do what you said you were going to do.

Why Disrupt A Tournament?

Speaking of respecting others, for the rest of my life I'll never forget what happened to me last year on Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee.

A local fisherman, probably in his sixties, parked his boat for three straight days right on one of the best spots I had ever found - a spot that I firmly believed was good enough to help me win the tournament.

This wisecracking guy sat on that spot for three days, and he knew I wanted in there. He warned me not to come in, so I stayed back. But I thought he would eventually leave.

I watched him catch more than 20 fish one day, and it didn't look like a single one of them was less than four pounds. What made it worse was that he would catch one, hold it up in my direction and yell, "I'll bet you wish had this fish!"

To this day, I have no idea why I didn't call the game warden. He was waaay over the limit.

But the point is, even though I really wanted him out of there, I stayed back. And I stayed back because, hard as it was to swallow, it was the right thing to do.