EDITOR'S NOTE: This column was originally written for The Daily Iberian by their outdoors editor, Don Shoopman, and published on March 9.
A cage, or basket, of big, live bass was discovered in Lake Fausse Pointe’s Sandy Cove the week before the Children’s Hospital Bass Classic held March 1 out of Doiron’s Landing, Stephensville.
The news made me sick to my stomach because the discovery in all likelihood meant one or more bass fishermen planned to use them to cheat in one, or more, bass fishing contests.
But a commercial fisherman reportedly stumbled across the trapped bass, emptied the cage and ate the fish. However, he also reported his finding to the Enforcement Division of the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which contacted Children’s Hospital Classic tournament director Brad Rodrigue of Pierre Part.
In an email sent Thursday by Adam Einck, media relations director for the LDWF’s Enforcement Division, Einck wrote, “Our agents received word about this on Feb. 28. However, since the fish were taken home and eaten, they didn’t have any evidence to pursue and have not been able to investigate any further.”
Einck urged anyone who could shed light on this cheating scheme that was nipped in the bud to call 1-800-442-2511.
Rodrigue responded prudently to the issue. After St. Martinville’s Randy Durand and Gregory Bourque won the first-place prize of $12,500 with five bass weighing 19.66 pounds, including the tournament’s biggest bass, a 5.63-pounder worth another $1,250, Rodrigue instructed them to go to Livingston the following day, Sunday, to take a lie detector test at 1 p.m.
Durand and Bourque passed the stress evaluation test with flying colors, Rodrigue said. It was administered by a detective with the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, he said.
Somewhere out there, though, is at least one dishonest scumbag, perhaps more, who deliberately put bass in a cage for future use.
Bourque, for one, was disgusted. He welcomed the lie detector test, he said, although it necessitated a long drive the day after the tournament, a fundraiser to benefit the high cost for medical helicopter used to transport children in need of immediate care to Children’s Hospital.
“It didn’t bother me, for that amount of money (for tournament officials to order the test),” Bourque said Thursday afternoon, noting after he and his CHC partner passed the test they were told about the bass in a cage in Sandy Cove, where they fished that Saturday,
“I just don’t go in that direction. I’ve been fishing tournaments for a long time. I don’t stoop that low,” he said, adding he disqualified himself one time for having to get out of his boat in a Hawg Fight.
Considering all the boat traffic and fishing pressure in Sandy Cove, and the extreme fluctuation of water levels before and after hard cold fronts, whoever put the bass in a cage “had to be an amateur” or, at the least, very dumb.
“With all the people in Sandy Cove, how are you going to get fish out without somebody seeing you? There’s just not nobody that stupid,” he said.
Plus, he said, assuredly the cage would be visible when the water dropped out of the large, shallow cove, a perennial spawning area, after a cold front.
Rodrigue was disappointed but relieved there was no cheating scandal to rock his prestigious fundraising tournament, which he has overseen since 2003. But the threat was real.
“It is pretty sad, you know,” the tournament director said, noting he was told of the situation before the start of the major event.
“It was in the best interests of my tournament to keep my mouth shut and see if anybody had anything in our tournament,” he said. “Everything we heard was, whoever found them, which I understand was a commercial fisherman, took home the fish. The good thing is they didn’t get the fish. The bad thing is the guy ate them.”
Rodrigue said he makes it mandatory to have “legitimate polygraph tests that will be upheld in a court of law and in the event of a civil lawsuit.”
“It’s one of the things you’ve got to do in order to keep a legitimate tournament,” he said.
Some Teche Area bass anglers aware of the attempt have talked about the case since last weekend.
A few said perhaps the caged bass were meant for another bass fishing contest, perhaps the Louisiana Sportsman Open Bass Championship on March 15-16, which will pay out $35,000 to the Top 25, including $12,000 for the heaviest five-bass stringer.
There have been some big local bass tournaments held recently with more scheduled in the future.
Hopefully, tactics like this weren’t used and won’t be used.