Daily Limit: Honest, I would

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Courtesy of Guillermo Gonzalez

The integrity shown by Guillermo Gonzalez has created quite the dialogue on fishing ethics.

WOULD YOU TURN YOURSELF IN?

A kayaker turning himself in for a bass fishing tournament infraction has made a lot of Bassmaster fans ponder their own integrity.

Guillermo Gonzalez of Fort Worth, Texas, caught the winning fish to claim the title in the Kay4it Tournament of Champions early this month. But in the excitement of catching a 9.5-pounder, Gonzalez answered his phone in violation of tournament rules. He turned himself in to officials and lost a five-figure purse.

After telling his story, B.A.S.S. asked readers on Facebook, “Would you turn yourself in if you realized you broke a rule during a tournament?” Most all the respondents said, yes sir, indeedy, they would.

It started some good discussion and introspection from guys like Jeff Segers, who reported he has turned himself in at an event.

“I unknowingly caught a fish in a restricted area, and after double checking with the tournament officials, disqualified myself. No one would have ever known, but I would, I wasn’t raised to cheat unknowingly or otherwise. Thanks Mom and Dad.”

“Yes, I have to be honest with everything I do!” wrote Rooster Hood. “I also have to know that even if I could hide what I did from man, God almighty would still know, and I would rather have a clear conscience on the day of Judgment!”

Amen, brother.

“Yes, I would definitely explain what occurred and let the chips fall as they may,” wrote William Welch.

Gonzalez, a regular on the circuit who offers rules suggestions to the owner, said he felt even more compelled to be forthright because a cheating scandal recently rocked the kayak world.

In most kayak events, competitors take photos of their fish on an official measuring board. They need to show the entire fish on the board, along with a daily sticker, a wristband and a tournament card. The cheater had cut and glued measuring boards.

At the TOC, images of the fish are shown on a big screen and competitors watching actually helped report missing identifiers that disqualified fish. More than 30 fish total were DQ’d, Gonzalez said, adding one of the other leaders’ long sleeves covered his wristband, disqualifying that catch.

While Gonzalez missed out on the big purse, he received boatloads of respect as many realized, “There is hope for our future.”

Yet there’s always one. We won’t name this commenter, but he, or she, said “It’s only cheating if you get caught!”

That’s having no scruples, or a conscience, which doesn’t fly with 99.9 percent of the bass fishing family. Anglers might be cutthroat sandbaggers, but they will bend over backwards to do right by their fellow man. When actually cheated on, they turn their backs on offenders.

There are many anglers who have inadvertently broken a tournament rule and turned themselves in, like Gonzales. Everyone who knows him, or even hears the scenario, knows he wasn’t intentionally trying to cheat.

Michael Stearns offered the potential of a different outcome in Gonzales’ case, and a great many more might agree.

“If I came in second that day I would ask that they not disqualify his catch. I think he did the right thing, but if I was one of the other anglers I definitely would want his catch to count. In this instance a 20 second phone call wasn’t cheating, it was just an honest mistake,” Stearns said.

It’s rough to watch an upstanding young man lose in such manner – especially after he blew away the field – but there’s little chance a tournament could ever become totally democratic, like presenting info to anglers and giving them a vote. Honest mistakes in tournament fishing have occurred for some time, and they’ll be more.

With the high stakes nowadays, it seems that every nuance of every rule needs to be in writing, then followed to a T. If down in black and white, most rules can’t be argued, and falling on the wrong side simply becomes a self-inflicted wound, because everyone knows the rules are the rules. 

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