The Washington Times - November 7, 2009, 09:17AM

I can understand scoundrels trying the cheating game during a fishing contest, but now people are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of judges in outdoor photography contests.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association a few days ago withdrew semi-finalist recognition from five entries that had been entered in the 2009 Refuge Photo Contest.


It appeared that after a close review, several images submitted by a Sarasota, Fla., photographer raised more than one question.

Five photos that were submitted by the Floridian received semi-finalist recognition by the contest judges and were placed on the Winning Image Gallery on NWRA’s web site, But soon thereafter, the contest staff discovered that several images might be in violation of contest rules regarding digital alterations. Not only that, they found that the locations the photographer said the photos were shot in actually came from different places.

The man eventually admitted that he had altered the images and misstated the locales of his photo shoot.

Since there were no big prizes promised to the photo winners, why try to pull a con?

However, it’s a different story when it comes to sport fishing. The stories about cheating attempts during cash-for-cast bass fishing tournaments are almost common.

Ever since the 1960s when Ray Scott founded the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) and saw the growth of fishing tournaments – they used to be called fishing derbies — grow from neighborhood gatherings to huge national events that promised fat checks to the winners and runners-up, the urge to cheat was overpowering for some.

To Scott’s lasting credit, the few times contestants tried to cheat in one of his BASS contests they were caught and barred for life.

I can recall one attempt back in the 1970s. A fellow was caught red-handed when he already had some fine bass in his aerated livewell inside the boat — before the contest began. He didn’t know that the holding tanks in each boat would be checked by tournament officials before the gun sounded.

Incidentally, the cheater turned out to be a used car salesman when he wasn’t fishing.

In another bass tournament that Scott was not involved in, a contestant was seen by a lake shoreline resident pulling a wire mesh basket from the water near a boat dock. He emptied the basket that had four or five large bass in it. The lakeside resident who witnessed the cheating snapped a few photos and then showed up at the weigh station to pass along what he’d seen.

The tournament officials questioned the culprit who eventually broke down and admitted his sin.

There have been stories of bass tournament cheating from all over the country, but none more serious than those from Texas where bass fishing is almost a religion. In one sad case some years ago, when a contestant was accused of cheating, the shame of it drove the man to suicide.