Here at FishStrong, I’m not in the business of censoring anything or protecting anyone’s or anything’s reputation. I’m here to bring it to you straight. Many people would prefer the fantasy narratives and whitewashed tales of fairy land and group hugs, but it’s not always that way. FishStrong advocates truth and fairness in our sport and will call out all instances where this may be in question.
Why?… because when it’s not, it only marginalizes our sport and prevents it from reaching new heights.
So, with that said, here’s the latest…
This past weekend at the FLW Open on Wheeler Lake, a competitor was allowed to fish who in my opinion should have been disqualified.
This competitor was practicing on the lake AFTER the off limits period. In addition to this violation, he was also on the lake with an illegal partner… i.e. one who was not signed up for the event and one who is not immediate family.
That makes two violations.
A fellow competitor and eyewitness to the infraction — who happens to be a police detective in the area who personally knows the rules violator — discovered the violator’s truck and empty boat trailer at the launch site a day after the off-limits began. He called the violator on his cell phone to see what he was doing. During the call, he heard the sound of winds in the background. As the eyewitness was staring at the violator’s truck and empty boat trailer, the violator freely admitted to being on the lake. At this point in time, the whistleblower informed his friend of his violation of the off limits period.
After getting caught red-handed, the eyewitness urged his friend to turn himself in. The violator was reluctant, but agreed to do so… then changed his mind later, saying “he wasn’t really fishing” and had yet to “make a cast”.
To be fair, the violator was not intentionally breaking the rules. He merely misread them or forgot about it.
Long story short, the whistleblower detective ended up turning the violator in to FLW’s head tournament honcho, Bill Taylor. Taylor insisted that he would contact the violator about the incident and ban him from the tournament if he was in fact on the water.
Taylor ended up talking to the violator about the incident, but something else happened.
The violator, after having plenty of time to concoct a believable story, claimed he “never took a cast” and stayed “inside the harbor”, which is allowed since those waters are off limits to competition . He claimed to Taylor that he did launch his boat, but tied off to the dock to wait for his two sons before realizing his infraction and leaving the premises.
The whistleblower detective saw the violator’s truck and empty boat trailer parked at the launch site for an extended period of time. He even drove around the launch site to look for the boat, to see if he was near the ramp. The violator was nowhere in site. In addition, the violator was on the water with a friend from his local club, not waiting on his two sons at the dock… which would have been clearly visible to the whistleblower as he drove by the ramp.
Keep in mind that the violator admitted on the phone to the whistleblower that he was “on the river”. The violator also admitted that he was totally oblivious to the actual rule at the time. He only learned of the rule after the whistleblower contacted him about it… after he had already been on the lake for a substantial amount of time.
To my surprise, especially after the tough talk, FLW decided to allow the violator to fish the FLW Open event, in spite of the eyewitness protest. Taylor said he would polygraph the violator AFTER the tournament to determine the truth.
… “After” the tournament? After he’s already taken up space and spots on the lake that could have been had by a legitimate competitor?
Neither the whistleblower or the violator made the Day 3 cut. After the Day 2 weigh-in , the whistleblower contacted Bill Taylor about the polygraph, assuming he would be needed for testing… so that he could have a chance to confirm the truth of his account. Taylor informed the whistleblower detective that the violator in question took his test and passed it.
That’s it. The issue was put to rest. FLW was done. They never polygraphed the whistleblower to cross reference results. After talking to Bill Taylor myself, I have learned that it is FLW policy to only polygraph the accused, not the accuser.
Judging by last weekend, I see four possibilities concerning FLW’s polygraph test. Keep in mind these are just possible explanations, not a list of accusations…
Possibility #1 The polygraph test used by FLW at the event has the legitimacy of that mail order time machine on Napoleon Dynamite. I wonder if they put crystals in it before turning it on!
Possibility #2 The polygraph examiner used by FLW is not certified, accredited, and/or has no idea what he/she is doing, making him/her unfit to interpret the results correctly. The other possibility is that the test could have been rushed during the hustle and bustle of the weigh-in, making it harder to get good results.
Possibility #3 FLW never really polygraphed the violator, figuring it didn’t matter that much since he wasn’t in contention to win (although he did win money). The whole polygraph thing is mostly used like a placebo, for its psychological effect in deterring cheaters and placating those who worry about them. They may have preferred to just not deal with it and save the headache. They don’t want to spend the money on it unless $125,000 is on the line. I’ve been told that FLW pays $900 for these polygraph tests.
To be sure, FLW does polygraph its competitors. I know people that have been polygraphed by FLW. Their accounts of the experience are in fact legitimate. But in this particular case, I sense something very questionable.
Possibility #4 The whistleblower is telling bald faced lies. He never saw his friend’s truck and empty boat trailer parked at the launch site. He never talked to the violator on the phone and heard the violator admit to his being “on the river”. The story is nothing but one guy trying to sabotage his friend.
In my experience, the whistleblower involved is not somebody who concocts wild stories just for fun. He’s a veteran police officer and detective who has a lot of integrity. He’s not just snitching on some stranger. It’s one of his friends. Somebody he has to see again… Somebody from his relatively small hometown. I can personally attest to the whistleblower being extremely frustrated and perplexed by the fact that the violator was allowed to fish and passed the polygraph test even after the violating angler admitted his wrongdoing to him personally.
This is the kind of thing that causes you to lose faith in the system.
I give props to FLW for at least using the polygraph every now and then, which is better than B.A.S.S. which rarely if ever polygraphs anyone (B.A.S.S. once had an angler offer to pay out of his own pocket for a polygraph examiner to work at every event. B.A.S.S. declined.).
BUT, there needs to be consistency and transparency. Proof of the polygraph examiner’s credentials need to be advertised and transparent. The test needs to be done on BOTH the violator in question and the whistleblower. This is the only way to give it true legitimacy. It’s entirely possible that two conflicting stories could “pass”.
As it stands now, FLW is calling a veteran police detective a liar and awarding the badge of truth to an admitted rule breaker who should have never been allowed to fish the tournament in the first place.
Shame, shame, shame.
This sport needs to get its act together and take this kind of stuff seriously. Every attempt possible must be made to tie up loose ends. Stuff like this only contributes to the glorified “Tuesday Nighter Jackpot” reputation that “pro” fishing has. It only makes it more of a joke to the general public. Lackadaisical and selective enforcement, favoritism, lack of transparency, etc… All of this, at every level, does our sport a disservice.
Whoever is hired to perform these polygraph tests should be escorted onto the stage during the registration. This person needs to be introduced to the field and the credentials advertised to all. This would get respect and promote confidence in the system.
To the ears of Bill Taylor, it sounded like a “he said/she said” kind of incident. To FLW’s defense, the polygraph is all they really have to go by — unless your video crew catches the violation. Unfortunately, in this case, I believe the system failed.
Are lie detector tests always right? I doubt it. But what else can be done?
It may not be FLW’s policy to polygraph test more than one person, but in this case I believe it was warranted. Somebody else could have won that $5,000+ dollars… somebody who fully obeyed the rules.