DECATUR, Ala. -- In a Bassmaster Elite Series season marked with ups and downs, Skeet Reese saved his biggest downer for the final day of the Dixie Duel on Lake Wheeler.
Reese, moments after weighing in 10 pounds, 3 ounces and moving into the final day 12-man field, found a sixth bass in his livewell that forced him to disqualify his catch Day Three catch and cut short his late-season rally.
“He turned himself in,’’ said Trip Weldon, Bassmaster tournament director.
According to Weldon, after Reese weighed in, he returned to his boat to stow his tackle and get ready for the final round. While doing that he found an additional bass in his livewell.
Weldon said he immediately called Chuck Harbin, assistant tournament director.
“Our rules state that if any angler goes over his limit that he immediately stops fishing and then we cull down to the 5-fish limit,’’ Weldon said. “Obviously the catch was gone and we couldn’t do that, so he lost his catch for the day.
“We appreciate his honesty. It’s a tough break for him he’s a champion in our book.”
Reese couldn’t be reached for comment. The disqualification cost Reese his last hope at making the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, ironically being held on the Red River where Reese won in 2009.
“It’s unfortunate he made a mistake, but we are all human,’’ angler Davy Hite said. “I know he wanted to give himself a chance going into the final day and then have something like that. It’s tough”
Several of the anglers standing behind the stage mentioned that Reese did the honorable thing, pointing out that he could have simply loaded his boat and discarded the fish later.
“That’s not Skeet,’’ John Murray said. “I don’t expect anything less from him. He’s too top level.”
The Lake Wheeler event has been marked by drama as Kevin VanDam has rolled to a seventh Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title, and anglers up and down the standings are battling for a spot in the Bassmaster Classic and the upcoming post-season Toyota Trucks All-Star week.
The fishing has been up and down for many, coming in flurries at different times of the day, which is what Hite believes contributed to the sixth fish in the livewell.
“The way these fish are once you get them fired up, you’d better catch them and catch them fast,’’ he said. “I can see where that kind of mistake could made.”
Reese was coming off a 2010 season that by any measure was a dream season for any angler. He won two events last year, finished second at another and had a handful of top five finishes to go with that.
This year, though, he’s only made five top 50 cuts and this would have been his first final-day performance all season. His only chance to make the prestigious Classic would have been to win this event.
With the disqualification, Reese finished the event in 33rd place.