Fishing Tourney Cheaters May Face Jail Time

Bill on governor's desk would make rigging some contests a third-degree felony

By Andrew Tanielian
|  Thursday, May 12, 2011  |  Updated 12:14 AM CDT
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A bill on Governor Perry's desk would make cheating in a fishing tournament a 3rd degree felony if the tournament's prize is worth $10,000 or more.

Andrew Tanielian, NBCDFW.com

A bill on Governor Perry's desk would make cheating in a fishing tournament a 3rd degree felony if the tournament's prize is worth $10,000 or more.

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A proposal to make it a felony to cheat in fishing tournaments may soon become reality.

The bill is sitting on the governor’s desk waiting to become either a law or another failed idea.

People have been known to stuff fish with lead so they’ll weigh more or catch fish before the tournament and count them like catching them during it.

Judges crack down on cheating by patrolling the water and sometimes being on the same boats as fishermen.

“There’s a lot of money at stake, so if people can come up with good ways of cheating, they’ll come up with them,” fly fisherman Stephen Woodcock said.

Woodcock, who sells fly-fishing equipment at Backwoods in Fort Worth, said there’s hardly any cheating in fly fishing but plenty in other types such as bass fishing.

“There are a lot of devious people out there who want to do this,” he said.

Professional fishermen who compete in tournaments for a living may be hurt the most by cheating.

For them, tournaments are full-time jobs and they’re sponsored like NASCAR.

“There’s oftentimes $50,000 prize money going. It could be a new bass boat. It could be way more than that,” said Woodcock.

If Gov. Rick Perry signs the bill into law, it would one of the easier ways to get a third-degree felony.

For example, a third-degree theft felony in Texas involves stealing property valued between $20,000 and $100,000. But if a fishing tournament's prize is $10,000 or more, cheating fishermen would be charged with a third-degree felony under the bill.

Those convicted could serve jail time, be fined or both.

People convicted of cheating in a tournament without a hefty bounty would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.

“If people are going to be unscrupulous, then I’d say fine them if they are not playing by the rules. That’s just not, that’s just not fair,” said Woodcock.

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