On my Facebook page, I was asked my opinion about the Brandon Palaniuk situation from the La Crosse event. I answered the post there, but thought it would be a good time to discuss why the rules are so important in our sport.
It's a coincidence that I wrote about integrity just before the event, and that integrity goes to following the rules of the tournament as well.
Brandon proved exactly what I was talking about. He handled the situation with integrity and like the class act that he is. In case you missed it, he unknowingly broke a rule by culling in Minnesota waters. When it was brought to his attention he didn't try to hide it, nor did he run off and hide. He took it like a professional and moved on.
While I feel for Brandon and —like most anglers and fans —wish it hadn't happened, it did, and the way it was handled was as the rules are written. Was it unfortunate? Yes. But was it right? Again, yes.
We have rules and the rules are there to keep the playing field as level as possible for the entire field of anglers. Brandon has stated and it's been confirmed, that the violation wasn't really a factor in his weight for the day. He would still have been leading the event had he not unknowingly broke the rule.
That's not the point, though. The point is that we have rules and everyone needs to follow them.
In this example, it may not seem like it would have mattered, but what isn't clear to non-competitors is how many anglers avoided Minnesota waters altogether in order to avoid that problem. I know that I made a point to stay out of Minnesota waters for the tournament and pre-fished there very little just to be safe. So, while breaking the rules might not have helped Brandon's weight, staying safe and following the rules might have hurt other anglers' weights.
While I hate to continue to bring up this sore subject for many, I think it's important to note that the rules are there for everyone to follow. More than just follow them, it's our duty as anglers to know the rules, too.
I'm not sure who protested Brandon, and I doubt we'll ever find out, but whoever it was was also following the rules. I'm sure that wasn't an easy call or conversation to have, as none of us really want to be the bad guy, but that's a rule, too. To summarize it, if any of us see a rules infraction we must report it or face a penalty ourselves.
I understand that Brandon's disqualification was very unpopular, and trust me I feel as bad for Brandon as anyone, but rules are rules and we have to follow them, not to the best of our knowledge or ability, but to their very letter.
It's our job to understand the rules just as it's anyone else's job to understand the rules of his or her workplace. Every angler from the Elite Series level all the way down to the local club level needs to follow the rules for the good of our sport.