The Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club holds several tournaments each year. Most are traditional catch/weigh-in tournaments, but one is a little different.
The Massey’s Fish Pics Tournament is a catch and photo tournament that lasts nearly all year and is open only to members of the club. There is no entry fee, but the idea is for a year-long fishing contest that allows members to potentially catch a contest-winning fish each time they are out on the water fishing in their kayak. Eligible fish must be photographed, with a specific tournament token on an approved measuring device. Participants must then submit a properly completed Catch Entry Card, along with the photograph of the entered fish.
The popular contest has taken place for the last few years and is sponsored by Massey’s Professional Outfitters.
But this year’s event, which concluded on Nov. 30, was marred when one of the contestants was allegedly caught by tournament officials attempting to submit a last-minute photo that was determined to be fraudulent.
Josh Reppel, a wildlife tour and kayak fishing guide, was confronted by Massey’s tournament officials and BCKFC officers after the submission. Reppel entered a photo that appeared altered to make the fish longer. If it had been accepted, he would have been in first place and could have won a new Hobie Outback kayak valued at more than $2,500.
“It is with a mix of both disappointment and anger that we announce that we were notified ... of a fraudulent entry into our Massey’s Fish Pics Tournament submitted by angler Josh Reppel,” BCKFC president Aaron Larose said in an online post on the club’s website.
After the club was notified by Massey’s manager and tournament director Dave Woodard, several of the club’s officers and board members also reviewed the photo, which made a 41-inch redfish appear to be about 44 inches long.
“Upon confronting Mr. Reppel about the photo, he immediately admitted to falsifying the entry and apologized for his actions, stating a more formal apology was forthcoming,” Larose wrote.
Reppel was immediately disqualified from the tournament, as well as all future club-related tournaments and banned from the BCKFC.
Angler Wayne Lobb was named the winner of the conventional tackle division, and received his Hobie Outback in early January at Massey’s in New Orleans.
Many sportsmen are not aware that cheating in a Louisiana hunting or fishing contest can be a felony if the highest prize value in the contest is $100 or more.
The specific statute is as follows:
LSA-R.S.14:214. Fishing or hunting contest fraud
A. The crime of fishing or hunting contest fraud is the act of any person, who, with the intent to defraud, knowingly makes a false representation in an effort to win any prize awarded in any fishing or hunting contest.
B. When the most valuable prize offered in the contest amounts to a value of less than $100, the offender shall be fined not more than $500, imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.
C. When the most valuable prize offered in the contest amounts to a value of $100 or more, the offender shall be fined not more than $3,000, imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than one year, or both.
The 2018 Massey’s Fish Pics Tournament will go on as planned, but some new requirements on submissions will be added to help prevent any future issues.
“I believe it is important that we all take what we have learned from this unfortunate development and apply it in the most positive way possible as we move on to future business,” Woodard added. “Thank you everyone for your patience and participation this year and I look forward to working with everyone again in 2018.”
Editor’s Note: The author, Chris Holmes, is a member of the BCKFC.