- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, the premier fishing tournament organization in the land, has let its participants know about a new rule that could change the results of big-bucks contests.

No more outside information can be accepted by the pros. In addition to not being able to fish at an upcoming tournament site 30 days before the event, the pro angler also may not call, write, e-mail or meet in person with local insiders who might provide information — sometimes even more than that. Read on.

It is a poorly kept secret that some of the touring pros, those with the necessary funds, hire local fishing hotshots at certain venues, pay them to fish their hearts out before the tournament, then mark maps showing where the bass hung out and what the fish preferred by way of lures. Although it wasn’t the most ethical thing in the world, the practice was widespread among some of the top names in professional angling.

A notable exception has been the four-time world champion of bass fishing, Rick Clunn, of Missouri. Clunn knew what some of his fellow pros were doing, but he never asked anyone for fishing information, preferring instead to approach fishing waters without preconceived notions of where the bass ought to be. “I’ll find my own fish,” he’s fond of saying.

So now if the BASS tour organizers catch a tournament participant asking for outside help within the 30-day off-limits period, he or she is immediately disqualified. Get caught a second time and the pro is out for the season, which can be costly if prize money is how he or she earns a living.

Calling a fishing guide or a skilled local angler within that forbidden time frame to get inside information on where and what the bass are biting is one thing. To do something known as “planting bass” is another.

Scuttlebutt for years has been that big-name pros have paid a local to catch some fat bass and keep them alive in a boat’s aerated tank (known as a livewell), then go to a barren, open cove, where a lone brush pile previously had been placed. The bass are released near that spot. The disconcerted fish, being strangers to the area, swim about looking for a hiding place, but there’s only open water and one brush pile in the middle of the cove. Bet your last dollar that these fish will swim to it and stay there for some time. The pro comes into town, follows the GPS numbers or map he was given and heads straight to the sunken brush. He flips a plastic worm or a jig around the edges of it and — bingo! — a bass will be on the hook.

The bass angler’s partner might never get wise to what happened, especially if it’s a draw-partner in a pro-am event, meaning the man in the back of the boat is an amateur who works a regular job during the week and now has a chance to admire the “knowledge and skill” of the professional.

And if you think that’s despicable, imagine what goes on in little neighborhood club “buddy tournaments” that allow you to bring your best pal to help you catch fish. There have been a number of cases over the years when buddy tournament participants were caught cheating as they picked up a submerged sack of previously caught bass. The two would return to the weigh station hoping to win a meager paycheck, sometimes as little as $50 and a $5 trophy. Go figure.

Pure Fishing buys Sevenstrand — Pure Fishing Inc., the owners of stellar tackle brands like Berkley, Abu Garcia, Fenwick, Red Wolf, Mitchell, Johnson and Spider, has added yet another name to its stable of tackle companies. Pure Fishing has acquired the assets of the Sevenstrand Tackle Corporation, which will enhance its position in the saltwater fishing market.

Sevenstrand has been a leading manufacturer of saltwater fishing wire, crimping sleeves and offshore lures since 1936. Its former owner, Bill Buchanan, will head a saltwater division for Pure Fishing Inc.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected] times.com.

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