KVD’s penalty vs Hackney’s DQ

During the championship round of Friday’s Bassmaster Classic Bracket, Kevin VanDam fished briefly outside the tournament boundary line, just south of the railroad bridge on Niagara River.

While out of bounds for approximately 10 minutes, VanDam caught a 1-pound, 13-ounce smallmouth. Tournament Director Trip Weldon was the official in the boat with VanDam. While weighing the fish Weldon notified VanDam they needed to review the boundary. Both determined the fish had been caught just outside the south boundary of the tournament, and thus that fish could not be counted as part of VanDam’s total weight.

That was the penalty, as well as the time lost while out of bounds. VanDam immediately moved his boat back into tournament waters.

This tournament is unique, because a tournament official, or boat official, was in the boat with every angler.

At the time, Weldon called Chris Bowes, who was the tournament official in the boat with Brett Hite, and notified Bowes to inform Hite of the ruling. Hite protested the ruling. Both anglers were allowed to continue fishing, and after the competition day was over, tournament officials carefully reviewed the rule and upheld the original decision. First though, Weldon checked with VanDam, and the tournament officials who had been with him, to see if he had fished over the line any other days. He had not. If he had, VanDam’s previous days would likely have been disqualified. 

Hite later said his protest was simply to get clarification on the ruling.

You may recall that in the Busch Beer Basmaster Elite at Cayuga in June, Greg Hackney’s entire Day 1 catch was disqualified for fishing in an off limits area. More specifically Hackney fished in a boat basin that was verified by the state of New York as off limits. Those marinas and boat basins were identified in maps given to Elite Series anglers.

When fish are caught out of bounds, and by rule can be marked or verified, those specific fish may not be counted. When the out of bounds fish cannot be verified, the whole day’s catch may be disqualified. In Hackney’s case, he continued to fish throughout the day, and his catch couldn’t be verified whether or not the fish were caught from the off-limits area. The format of the Bassmaster Classic Bracket tournament, with officials in the boats, made it easy to verify the legitimacy of every catch.

Weldon explained that in a regular Elite Series tournament, anglers who have fished an off limits area, can call tournament official immediately and confer on how to handle the situation. At that time any fish caught in the off limits area may be released back into the fishery. And the angler may continue his tournament day. Those discussions with tournament officials may vary based on the situation.

Some fans also asked, “Why was KVD’s Marshal allowed to tell him his fish were caught out of bounds, while Hackney’s Marshal could not do that?” The answer is, Weldon, who was in the boat with VanDam, was the Marshal, and in this special tournament, he also served as the boat official. The boat officials had the role of weighing the fish and conferring on rules as needed. Marshals on the other hand are in the boat as observers only. That includes reporting any infractions directly to tournament officials after the end of the competition day.