Years ago I read a book by Carl Hiaasen, a famous author from Florida and longtime columnist for the Miami Herald, and it’s been so long that I don’t remember all the details but I remember enough that it immediately came to mind when I saw this story.
Here’s a preview of the book:
One early August morning in Harney County, Florida, the body of Robert Clinch is found floating in a lake shortly after taking his boat out to go bass fishing. Private investigator R.J. Decker is hired by sugar cane tycoon Dennis Gault, another bass fisherman, to prove that celebrity fisherman Richard “Dickie” Lockhart, his main rival on the fishing tournament circuit, is a cheat. Decker is a former newspaper photographer who was fired and briefly sent to prison after assaulting a teenager who tried to steal his camera equipment.
I vaguely recall something about megachurches, land development, and pollution intermingling with cheating in bass tournaments which is all more scandalous than this story but that’s fiction and this is real life where some dudes were caught cheating their fellow fishermen in a bass fishing tournament out in Utah. Fishermen are known for ‘fish tales’ but there’s still honor amongst fishermen. You don’t lie about catching a fish if there’s a record or money on the line. You just don’t do it. You can stretch the details on the size of a fish with your friends at the bar but not if it’s a fish from a tournament.
According to For The Win, the two fishermen now face criminal charges and alarms were raised when the tournament officials noticed the fish had different markings from the other bass caught in the lake. That’s when they were tested and it was determined those fish were caught in another lake, not the one where the tournament was being held.
Robert Dennett, 45, and Kamron Wootton, 35, both from Washington City, caught bass from Quail Creek Reservoir near St. George, Utah, and transported them to use at a tournament at Lake Powell, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
The tournament prize was $2,500 for the team with the heaviest five fish caught during the two-day event. The suspects were in second place after the first day, and led for overall biggest fish. But tournament officials disqualified them because of the suspicious nature of the fish.
“Some of the largemouth bass they’d turned in had little heads and fatter bodies, indicating a different diet than the fish at Lake Powell, which were more lean,” DWR Lt. Paul Washburn said. “The fish also had red fins, which indicated they had undergone some stress.” (via FTW)
Not for nothing, Utah’s Lake Powell is f’n gorgeous. Just look at this.
The story doesn’t end there.
They weren’t just caught and outed for being cheats. It turns out there was a pattern that had developed and this wasn’t the first time these guys were in the mix of a bass fishing tournament.
“Illegally moving and introducing fish into different waterbodies can cause a lot of damage to that fishery,” Washburn said. “In this case, there were already largemouth bass at Lake Powell, but you can still run the risk of introducing disease and causing other issues whenever you move fish illegally. We continue to be grateful for those vigilant Utahns who report suspicious wildlife-related activity to our poaching hotline.”
During the long investigation, conservation officers learned that the suspects had taken first, second or third place at eight other bass fishing tournaments earlier in the year. The illegal activity occurred at the tournament on Oct. 21, 2018. Charges were brought Wednesday. (via FTW)
According to For The Win, the pair were charged with Bribery or Threat to Influence a Contest which is a third-degree felony in Kane County’s 6th District Court.
You can click here to read more details of this story over on FTW where they have some photographs of the fraudulent bass which were caught in the other lake and submitted as legitimate catches in the tournament.