Rules are rules: The dead fish penalty

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B.A.S.S.
Ray Scott and the Bassmaster Classic scales are about to give Dalton Bobo some very bad news.

No pro wants to kill a bass … especially during competition. It’s just not in our DNA.

Regardless, B.A.S.S. rules state that for every dead fish we bring to the scales, we’ll suffer a 4-ounce penalty. On a five-fish limit, if all five expire, that’s 20 ounces … or 1 pound, 4 ounces. It’s like deducting a keeper from your total catch, and that’s tough to swallow … especially when we work so hard trying to keep them alive.

The rules also say that we are not allowed to cull dead fish. So it doesn’t matter how many we catch after the fact, any dead fish that’s part of our catch must go to the scales.

All tournament boats are required livewells with fully functioning aeration systems, and they are checked prior to each competition day. In addition, we carry ice and chemicals, such as Catch & Release or Rejuvenade. These lower a fish’s metabolism and stress levels while protecting its slime coating.

My Ranger even has an optional Oxygenator, designed to force millions of tiny bubbles into the water. It works great.

Still, from time to time, a fish is hooked too deep and can’t be saved. And the cost of that dead fish can be monumental.

Bobo’s nightmare, Hibdon’s dream

No one knows the cost more than Dalton Bobo, the former Alabama pro who — if not for the dead fish penalty — would have won the 1997 Bassmasters Classic.

Like every other competitor in the field, Bobo tried to keep his fish healthy and alive, but one expired prior to reaching the scales. The resulting penalty was a 4-ounce deduction off his total weight. When all was said and done, he lost the title by 1 ounce to Dion Hibdon.

What’s worse, had it been a year earlier, Bobo would have been the victor … even with that dead fish. At that time, the penalty was two ounces — not four.

Bobo never qualified for another Classic.

Shaw shanked … no redemption

In 2007, Shaw Grigsby was competing on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in the final event of the Elite Series. It had been a good year, and he was solidly on track to make the Classic when, suddenly, his championship hopes were derailed.

It happened on the first morning of competition. Shaw ran to a schoolie hole where he knew he could catch plenty of fish. And, like clockwork, they were there and biting. In less than an hour he was culling. He even had a 5-pound kicker to boot. At some point, however, the boat’s aerator shut down and with it, the supply of oxygen to his fish.