IMAGE: Lake Erie Walleye Trail Facebook

RIGHT on top of Greg Finney’s piece on fishing grubs in the October edition of the mag comes the story of the walleye tournament cheats being busted in Cleveland, USA.

Greg wrote that he’d seen quite a few cases of cheating in ANSA and GFAA competitions over the years and that he doesn’t fish competitions where prizes or money are on offer and isn’t a member of any fishing club. He refers to lies told and line classes altered with the hope of winning a TV, reel or something similar. That’s small time when compared to the Cleveland exercise. The two fishos there were on track for an A$47,000 first price when a judge twigged that five 1.8kg fish shouldn’t have had a total weight of about 15kg.

These two guys had won three previous tournaments, presumably with the aid of the same tactic of stuffing lead weights and fish fillets down the throats of the dead fish being weighed in. The judge noted that in these comps “ounces can mean tens, or hundreds, of thousands of dollars”.

So, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that with that level of temptation this occurred. Doubly so in an era where we sadly expect that some of our senior politicians and bureaucrats will routinely lie, cheat and in some cases enrich themselves to the point that some end up in gaol. But I like to think that most fishos reading this would find the actions abhorrent.

Like Greg, I’m not a fishing club member nor do I fish in comps. Back in my early 20s I was in a club for a couple of years and won a few prizes. But even then, there was cheating at weigh ins, over starting times and even a bit of fish poaching from fellow competitors on the rock platforms where the comps were held, so I didn’t last long. Later fishing with charter skippers I heard tales of game fishing comps where competitors threw their tags over the side on day one and then colluded to claim that they’d actually tagged fish with them.

Sure, not all comps are like that, aimed at big prizes. Some of my fellow writers love the atmosphere and camaraderie of barra comps, where the ultimate prize might be a modest trophy featuring a barra on a stick. For ten years I fished the Johnson River on Melville Island with the same group of mates. Two teams of three, with the team catching the longest barra for the trip winning our regular comp. Prize? Boasting rights, and the ability to sledge the” losers” for the following year…or longer.

It’s when big dollars and big rewards come into play that there’s two major problems. One’s practical and one’s philosophical. Practically, can we defend rec fishing against the increasing team of critics of the pastime if it’s just a money-making enterprise, even if only for some? And philosophically, aren’t the main objectives of angling to have good

times with friends and family, to have an interest and passionate involvement that doesn’t require the hitting of a ball and to provide some food for the table? What do you think?

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