Rules are rules: Whistleblowing

By now, you’ve probably heard about Greg Hackney’s disqualification during the Cayuga Lake event. It was an unfortunate situation, and one that saddened a number of people, including many of his fellow competitors.

Greg inadvertently entered an area designated by state law as “off limits” to fishing. In New York, marina owners are allowed control of the waters bordering and/or adjacent to their facilities. And though the incident raised the issue over riparian rights, it did nothing to help Hackney. He finished the tournament in last place.

I’m opposed to riparian rights as they are interpreted in some states. I feel no lakeside landowner — commercial or residential — should have control of the water bordering his or her property. But that’s a separate issue — one I discussed in detail in “Whose Water Is It Anyway?

What I want to talk about here is how Hackney was DQed.

Policing Our Own

You may not be aware that he was reported by a fellow competitor. But before you start thinking about “snitches” or “stoolies,” know that the reporting angler was actually obligated to do so by tournament rules.

While I won’t divulge the name of the angler who blew the whistle, I will tell you this: he’s one of the most — if not the most — credible and well respected anglers on tour. And, like Greg Hackney, he would never intentionally break a rule.

I know him well. And I’m certain that having to report the infraction was as upsetting for him as it was for Hackney.

Our Elite Series Competitor Handbook is full of rules, many of which are specific to conduct and sportsmanship. And any time we witness a rules infraction, we’re obligated by those rules to report it to officials — whether we want to or not.

Even so, no one wants to see a fellow competitor DQed, especially for doing something unintentional. What Greg did could have happened to any of us. He wasn’t out to improve his chances by entering an off limits area. He simply wasn’t aware of the boundary.

It’s happened to a lot of pros. It even happened to me on Lake Seminole years ago.

It was a really tough tournament, and after catching a good bag, I returned early to check-in, to make sure I would be in on time.  When I arrived, I had a few extra minutes, so I motored to a shoreline opposite the check-in area and made a few casts. When I finally checked in, an official told me to see the tournament director.

Puzzled, I waited for weigh-in to conclude, then learned that I had entered an off-limits area and that my day’s catch had been disqualified. Talk about mad … I was ready to kill somebody!

Looking back now, however, I realize I have only myself to blame. As it is with the law, ignorance of the rules is no defense.

What Goes Around …

As for the angler who turned Hackney in, well, I can speak firsthand about that as well.

During a B.A.S.S. MegaBucks event on the Harris Chain of Lakes, I noticed a fellow competitor riding with an attractive female during practice. She was the ex-wife of a local tournament angler and guide.

Initially, I dismissed it. But later, when that angler ended up leading the tournament, I made a comment to another pro that I had seen the angler with the woman scouting the lake. That pro put two and two together, then reported it to the tournament director.

Shortly after, I was summoned by officials and asked why I didn’t report the information myself. I told them that I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I just assumed they were dating. Unfortunately, that excuse didn’t hold water, and I was disqualified from the event … along with the tournament leader!

It was an unfortunate situation for all of us, and one I regret to this day. But the bottom line is this: rules are rules, and it’s essential that we follow them … no matter how painful the consequences might be.