by Kevin Short
Looks 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 olâ€™ bigguns on a Strike King crankinâ€™ 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 thatâ€™s why heâ€™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.
Iâ€™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 didnâ€™t fish the Elite Series after he won the Classic, how the selection process for anglers tested wasnâ€™t fair, blah-blah-blah. Having made a couple of trips to see â€œthe manâ€ 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:
C3. PRACTICE AND COMPETITION
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 â€œpolygraphâ€ 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:
C23. RULES VIOLATIONS AND APPEALS COMMITTEE:
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.
Hereâ€™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.
Iâ€™m comfortable in saying that was about as random as you can get. I mean, câ€™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 â€˜12â€™ on it, which was my spot in the standings. Off to see â€œthe manâ€ I went. Again, thatâ€™s about as random as you can get and Iâ€™ve seen it done that way or some variation of that every single time that B.A.S.S. has administered a random test.
Iâ€™m typing this slow for those of you that need extra comprehension time â€“ itâ€™s random.
Neither of the past two tests I have taken have been polygraph tests. Iâ€™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.
Iâ€™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 doesnâ€™t hook anything to you in the way of wires or finger-clippy things, youâ€™re taking a VSA and not a polygraph. While I canâ€™t say that B.A.S.S. uses a VSA on every single occasion, Iâ€™d be willing to bet a dollar they do.
I donâ€™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 â€“ 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, Iâ€™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 ainâ€™t happening. There may be some aspects of the B.A.S.S. machine that I have issues with, but the wayÂ 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.