Kevin VanDam has been disqualified from competition in this week's CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series event on Santee-Cooper Reservoir, tournament personnel announced Monday evening.
According to Trip Weldon, Bassmaster Tournament Director, VanDam unknowingly violated Rule 12 of the Elite Series Competition Rules.
The rule, titled Boat Operation and Expense, states, in part, "Non boaters are only allowed to drive the boat in emergency situations in both practice and competition with the exception of loading and unloading from trailers."
Weldon said that VanDam had spent part of Monday — the first day of the official practice period for the Santee-Cooper Showdown Presented by MotorGuide — standing on the front deck of his boat while his co-angler, Jim Stawiarski, idled the boat through spawning areas of South Carolina's Santee-Cooper lakes.
"We had another professional call us and tell us he had witnessed Kevin (VanDam) on the front deck, while his co-angler was running the motor," Weldon said. "The professional said it appeared as if Kevin was looking for (spawning) beds.
"I called Kevin and asked him if this had occurred and he readily admitted that was what he had done. He wasn't aware it was against the rules. I told him I had no choice but to disqualify him."
Weldon said that the wording of Rule 12 had been changed in the past two years to address that specific practice.
"If one angler has a co-angler and another doesn't, in that situation that gives him a clear competitive edge," Weldon said. "That's why we made that rule."
A full disqualification was in order, Weldon explained, because VanDam could have gained an advantage that might have lasted for the entirety of the four-day event.
VanDam, the top-ranked angler on the Bassmaster Elite Series Power Index and the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion, could not be reached for comment.
Stawiarski also was disqualified from the tournament for his part in the rule violation. Co-anglers are sent rules in advance of any tournament and Stawiarski confirmed receipt.
The tournament will take place March 30-April 2 and daily weigh-ins will begin at 3 p.m. at John C. Land III Landing on Greenall Road in Summerton. Coverage of the event will air on "The CITGO Bassmasters" on ESPN2 on April 8 at 10 a.m. ET.