This summer's most significant weigh-in did not take place in Las Vegas before the Barrera-Morales featherweight title fight but occurred on the shores of a Canadian lake during last month's Great Ontario Salmon Derby. Local angler Gary Morrison allegedly tried to con tournament judges by ramming 7� pounds of threaded lead pipes, small rocks and various sinkers down the guts of a Chinook he claimed to have caught. The fish tipped the scales at a massive 34� pounds—nearly enough to have netted the 50-day derby's $50,000 grand prize.
Morrison had also been implicated in another suspected weight-rigging scheme earlier in the tournament (a 38�-pound salmon had been larded with ice cubes), and officials called the cops. He was charged with two counts of "cheating at play" and two of "attempted fraud over $5,000." If he's convicted on all counts—a court date is pending—Morrison's sentence would be oddly appropriate: He'd face up to eight years in the tank.
It's said that the only time a fisherman tells the truth is when he calls another a liar. Half the fun of angling is spinning yarns about the trout that hunted you out in the shallows while mayflies performed their ballet under the branches—you know, the same five-pounder that shimmied past five hooks until it found yours. But cheating?
Sorry, Charlie: In an age of steroid, ephedrine and blood-doping scandals, the noble pastime of sittin' and dreamin' and spittin' in the creek may well be the smelliest sport of all. Crooked anglers in cast-for-cash contests not only fib about the ones that got away but also stretch the truth about the ones they've caught. Lured by the prospect of big prizes for big fish, they're telling whoppers instead of landing them.
As it turns out, it's a lot easier to shoot fish in a barrel than to smuggle them into a competition. At a trial in New Zealand in July three South Aucklanders were accused of having pulled a 30-pound snapper out of the deep freeze rather than the deep water. A "seafood scientist" testified that the bait found inside the snapper was fresher than the fish itself, which, he said, was probably caught two weeks earlier. Though the defendants got off the hook—the evidence was judged flimsier than a plastic wiggler, and the anglers were acquitted—match organizers have refused so far to give them the winning $9,600 purse.
A few weeks after that verdict a fisherman was arrested for theft in Indiana at the Tippecanoe Valley Anglers Tournament after claiming a $300 prize for the heaviest catch of the day. Police say a video camera caught him wet-handed as he loaded bass from a sunken cage onto his boat; the fisherman pled not guilty.
Electronic gadgetry is being used to snag cheats as well as fish. The Bass Anglers Sports Society (B.A.S.S.), which holds 20 elite tournaments every year, requires competitors not only to catch large strings of fish over several days but also to take polygraph tests when accusations of cheating arise. Even this deterrent isn't infallible: In 1983 a Louisiana angler won $105,000 at an independent Texas fish-off by presenting judges with a Florida bass. Investigators figured the fisherman—who later admitted the deception—had beaten the lie detector by swallowing Valium.
The fishiest scam B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott ever heard of occurred at a tournament in Virginia. Despite a fair-weather forecast, a participant was observed climbing into a boat in a full-length raincoat. Under the slicker, draped around his neck, were two stringers of bass. The fish flasher had planned to dump the contrabass into one of the craft's live wells when his draw partner wasn't looking.
Scott's own test of character: "What would a person do if he knew he wouldn't be caught?"
That, of course, opens a whole new can of worms.