Kevin Short

Polygraphs and such

by Kevin Short

K-Pink-head-shot-bass-fishing-160317Looks like we made it through an entire Elite event without any major drama. Just when we all thought that VD lost his mojo, he managed to find some great ol’ bigguns on a Strike King crankin’ bait (imagine that) and stuck it to the entire Elite field yet again.

He did so despite the fact that he had numerous spectator boats following him, fishing behind him, and even graphing and marking waypoints right beside him WHILE he was fishing. And that’s why he’s the greatest angler EVER. He gets it done even with a whole world of distractions swirling around him. Props to you, VD. Props to you.

I’ve had several people email/ message me the past week wanting to know my take on the lie detector dilemma leftover from Wheeler. Some of these messages have whined about how polygraphs are inaccurate, how B.A.S.S. is picking on/singling-out Clausen because he didn’t fish the Elite Series after he won the Classic, how the selection process for anglers tested wasn’t fair, blah-blah-blah. Having made a couple of trips to see “the man” the past few years, I know a thing or three about the hows of these tests.

For starters, here is the official wording of the 2016 Elite Series rules pertaining to truth-verification tests. This wording has been the same for several years now, to the best of my recollection:



Paragraph 2

By signature on the Elite Series participation agreement or the official entry form, each competitor and Marshal agrees to submit to a truth verification test and abide by its conclusion should he/she be accused of any rule violation. The B.A.S.S. Tournament Director or rules committee or such person designated by the Tournament Director shall have the discretion to determine the need for a truth verification test.

Two things to understand here:

1) The word “polygraph” does not appear in the above paragraph, and

2) when the test is finished, anglers will live with the results. Yes, Elite anglers have the right to appeal under Section C23, which reads as follows:


Appeals for penalties assessed under Rule C1 (b), (c), (d), (e) & (f) or under C7 Angler Code of Conduct must be presented in writing to the Tournament Director within 48 hours from the time of the ruling being appealed.

If/ when an angler loses that appeal (and the odds of an angler winning an appeal are historically NOT in his favor) he needs to STFU and move on.

Personal experience

Here’s how the two tests I’ve taken worked. The first was given to two anglers in the Top 50 on Saturday afternoon. The two anglers were selected from random numbers assigned at the registration meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Trip asked one of the anglers in line to pick two numbers from 13 to 50. One of those numbers was the place I finished the tournament, which happened to be 24.

I’m comfortable in saying that was about as random as you can get. I mean, c’mon man, two numbers were picked THREE DAYS before anyone knew where any angler was going to finish in the derby. Pretty damn random.

The last time I took a test was given to an angler in the Top 12, again on Saturday afternoon. Just after the Top 12 was decided, Chuck Harbin walked up to the 12 anglers with a small box that had 12 pieces of paper in it, each with a number on it from 1 to 12. I volunteered to draw a number out of the box to see who would take the test.

I pulled the slip of paper out that had a ‘12’ on it, which was my spot in the standings. Off to see “the man” I went. Again, that’s about as random as you can get and I’ve seen it done that way or some variation of that every single time that B.A.S.S. has administered a random test.

I’m typing this slow for those of you that need extra comprehension time – it’s random.

NOT polygraphs

Neither of the past two tests I have taken have been polygraph tests. I’m having a hard time remembering the last polygraph that I took, in fact. Even the local team and draw derbies have testers that administer voice stress analysis tests instead of polygraphs.

I’m no expert on either polygraphs or VSAs, but I do know people who are and they say that VSAs are much more reliable than polygraphs in every aspect.

All I know is that if you go in a room and the tester dude doesn’t hook anything to you in the way of wires or finger-clippy things, you’re taking a VSA and not a polygraph. While I can’t say that B.A.S.S. uses a VSA on every single occasion, I’d be willing to bet a dollar they do.


I don’t believe for a minute that Clausen was singled out or railroaded by B.A.S.S. or anyone within the B.A.S.S. organization While there may be people in the B.A.S.S. org who hold grudges, Trip Weldon and Chuck Harbin are not those guys. Period.

Clausen had the chance to sign up for the inaugural Elite Series season back in the fall of 2005 just like every other 2005 Bassmaster Tour angler. He was one of those who decided to move to FLW and declined his invite to the Elites. Again, s-l-o-w typing – he declined his invite to the Elites in 2005. No problem. Initial deposits for the Elite Series were due in October of 2005, if I remember correctly, and all of us who wanted in ponied up our money and signed on the dotted line.

Along comes the Classic in January and Luke wins it. After winning, he decides he wants to sign up for the Elite Series. Oopsie. Should have thought about that in October, Mr. Clausen. That deadline has come and gone.

So B.A.S.S. has no reason to diss Clausen. He made the choice not to fish. B.A.S.S. stood behind their guidelines. End of story. No conspiracy. Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

As for the appeals process B.A.S.S. uses, I’ve been a part of that process and it too is about as fair and simple as you can get. Two B.A.S.S. anglers who did not compete in the event from which the appeal comes, and one B.A.S.S. employee not affiliated with the Tournament Department compose the committee.

I was on a committee with another Elite angler and a person from the accounting department. The appealing angler was allowed to present his argument and witnesses as to why he should not have been sanctioned in the event and the tournament director was allowed to present his case for sanctioning the angler. The three of us could ask questions of the appealing angler and the TD and we voted to uphold the initial ruling by the TD or overturn it and side with the angler. Again, about as fair and simple of a system as I could come up with.

So for all those who see black helicopters, second shooters from the grassy knoll, and Trip Weldon with horns and a pitchfork, just drop it. It ain’t happening. There may be some aspects of the B.A.S.S. machine that I have issues with, but the way  Trip and Chuck run the Elite Series from a rules and regulations standpoint is not one of them. Scads of that respect from me in that area.

Move along.




  1. Michael J. Lee

    May 19, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Here’s the problem Kevin, you only dealt with the process, you did not deal with the actual situation, and what actually happened. In the case of what you write here, every angler DQ’d is automatically guilty, just based on, and I’m typing slow here, an air tight process. I read the comments that Clausen made, and how he related what happened. I find it very hard to believe that he was guilty of receiving information.

    • Kevin Short

      May 24, 2016 at 11:08 am

      Point taken.
      Playing devils advocate here; if Luke didn’t receive any info, then why did he fail the test?

      If we don’t use and abide by the results of some sort of truth verification test, how do we regulate those who will not follow the rules?

    • Sean

      May 24, 2016 at 11:32 am

      It’s a “he said, she said” situation. I read it too, and based solely on Luke’s account, I’d agree with you. But who’s to say he’s telling the truth to us? He met up with someone he knew who lived on or near the lake he was fishing. It’s up to him to guard himself against potentially receiving anything that could be even perceived as illegal information. Was the conversation innocent? Was there really more to it? None of us truly know. But ask yourself this: If someone even suggested that any angler was fishing a certain area and doing well, wouldn’t you use that information to look up data and try to figure out their pattern, which could be considered receiving information?

  2. Tony

    May 19, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    I agree rules are rules but there are times when rules need to be reviewed & changed. This is one time where I believe they need to review the rule. I know Kevin you have fished the Elites from the start so after seeing what has transpired in this situation what percentage of anglers would you say should be DQed from each event. The one thing I think B.A.S.S. failed in doing was supplying Luke with a copy of the polygraph tape. He requested it & they declined. That only raises more doubt in the anglers & fans minds.

    • Kevin Short

      May 24, 2016 at 11:18 am

      I think the first thing we have to understand is that BASS owns everything when it comes to the derbies. Elite anglers sign an agreement that, in a nutshell, says it’s all BASS’s circus and the anglers are just the monkeys. BASS has the upper hand in any and all decisions regarding rule violations. They have no obligation to anyone to explain themselves. This isn’t a publicly traded company or government agency we’re talking about here. Bottom line: BASS can do whatever they feel is in the best interests of BASS.

      If the anglers don’t want to play by the rules, no one is making them fish.

      If we the fans don’t like what we see, no one is making us follow.

      Is there a better way to do all this pro bassin thing? I think there is.
      Stay tuned.

  3. Ward

    May 25, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    What everyone seems to be forgetting in the “well all elites have broken this rule” defense is this….why then haven’t others failed this question? Did they all learn some Jedi trick Luke didn’t get the memo on?

    Lotsa truth verifications in the history of BASS that covered this exact same ground without a hitch.

  4. Mike

    June 7, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    I don’t think Bass’s process is flawed, I think their information rule is. This is an unenforceable rule. What constitutes illegal information can be “grey”. There are clear cut examples of illegal information but what about someone coming up to you and blurting something out? You can’t possibly hold anglers accountable for something someone else says. By the same token an angler can take advantage of someone blurting information out. And if you’re really a dirty player you could actually put someone up to sabotaging your competition by giving him illegal information during a tournament. We have all heard things in life that we felt we shouldn’t have and felt guilty about knowing. Feeling guilty about hearing something you feel you shouldn’t have heard would certainly trigger a false response during a test of honesty. Several pros have accounted experiences where someone pointed out fish to them while they were fishing or said something about an area to fish. Although the intent of this rule comes from a good place it is not something that can be fairly policed because intent can’t always be established. I don’t know Luke, don’t have a feeling one way or the other on whether he intentionally violated the information rule but I can certainly imagine scenarios where anglers not intending to break this rule could be found guilty of breaking it…..and unless you believe in magic bullets or you haven’t looked at the evidence, Oswald did not act alone! LOL

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