BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Nate Wellman, winner of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open on Lake Erie last week, has been penalized for rules violations during the tournament.
B.A.S.S. officials today released the following statement:
“Bassmaster Elite Series angler Nate Wellman has been fined and placed on a one-year probation due to violation of B.A.S.S. tournament rule 3(vii), which prohibits ‘suggesting to another competitor that he violate these (B.A.S.S.) rules.’ After an investigation, B.A.S.S. officials found that the outcome of the tournament and the final results were in no way compromised and did not result in changes to the final standings of the Bassmaster Northern Open on Lake Erie. The fine monies will be donated to the Ohio B.A.S.S. Federation Nation to support its conservation efforts.”
The action centered on statements made by Wellman to his co-angler on the final day of competition. Although Wellman said the statements were made in jest, his co-angler reported to B.A.S.S. officials that Wellman’s comments made him uncomfortable and were suggestive of a rules violation.
“Our system of tournament angling, pairing a professional angler with a co-angler or even another professional, has been tried and tested for decades,’’ said Trip Weldon, B.A.S.S. tournament director. “It’s a great system, as this instance proves. Our co-angler did the right thing by reporting it. He is to be commended. At this level, there isn’t room for questions on the integrity of our anglers. And there certainly isn’t room for suggestions or jokes that could do anything to break down that integrity. That is why this action was taken.”
Wellman, who was reached for comment Thursday, was apologetic.
“There were some things said during that tournament that were definitely taken the wrong way,” he said. “I was trying to lighten the mood on the boat a little bit.
“There were some things said that should never have been said. They were . . . said, in part, because I was under an extremely stressful situation, leading the tournament. It was wrong for me to have said them even in a joking manner.”
Wellman added, “I want to apologize to my co-angler for that day, for the situation that we were both put in. I know it was an uncomfortable one for both of us. I cannot express how sorry I am that that happened. I also want to apologize to B.A.S.S., the whole staff, everybody that had to deal with the situation. None of us were in a good situation. I can’t emphasize how bad I feel that everybody had to be a part of it.”
Wellman was fined $2,500 for his remarks during that event and placed on a one-year probation. During the course of the next year, any infractions of any B.A.S.S. rules could result in harsher penalties.