Luke Clausen has been disqualified from the Wheeler Lake Elite Series, but will compete Sunday pending an appeal after he failed a truth verification test (polygraph) Saturday afternoon.
Clausen caught 15-12 on day 3 to move into 7th place with a 45-10 total. It could all be for naught, though, as the former Bassmaster Classic and Forrest Wood Cup winner is alleged to have violated the “no information rule,” which prevents competitors from receiving information about fishing spots from anything other than publicly available sources.
Elite Series Rule C3(i), which covers “Practice and Competition,” reads in part:
“… During the off-limits periods, other than using publicly-available information (e.g. newspaper and Internet reports), competitors cannot solicit, receive or gather any information via phone, electronic devices or any other means about locating or catching fish on tournament waters. THERE SHALL BE NO EXCEPTIONS. All information must be opened or accessed prior to official off-limits periods. No exceptions. For a first offense, the competitor will be disqualified from the tournament. For a second offense, the competitor will lose his eligibility for the following year’s Elite Series events. During practice and competition, anglers cannot solicit, receive or gather any information from anyone other than another competitor in the tournament. NO EXCEPTIONS. …”
Since Clausen filed an appeal immediately following his DQ, he will be allowed to compete on Sunday. In addition, Cliff Crochet, who was in 13th after day 3, will also compete. In the event Clausen’s appeal is denied, Crochet will be credited with wherever he finishes tomorrow. If Clausen’s appeal is successful, Crochet will be relegated back to 13th.
According to Clausen, B.A.S.S. official Chuck Harbin informed him while in the bag line behind stage that he’d been randomly chosen to take a polygraph test following Saturday’s weigh-in. After going on stage and later trailering his boat, Clausen reported to the building where the test was to be administered. Only Clausen and the polygrapher were present while the test was in progress.
“I took it and it said it showed a reaction to the question about whether I obeyed the 28-day off-limits rule,” Clausen said.
Clausen said he answered, “Yes,” when asked if he had obeyed the rule. He then volunteered that over dinner Thursday evening with a friend, whom Clausen did not want to identify, the conversation shifted to content published in Bassmaster.com’s blog coverage of the tournament.
Clausen said his friend, who lives in northern Alabama, was trying to interpret where other competitors may have been fishing based on the photos posted on the blog. Clausen insists he didn’t ask his friend to decipher locations and that he didn’t solicit the information – his friend simply mentioned it in the course of conversation.
“I never asked for anything,” Clausen said.
Clausen said when he explained this to tournament director Trip Weldon, Weldon deemed it a rule violation. Clausen was then asked to leave the room and upon being called back in, he was informed he’d been disqualified.
“I was awestruck. It was unbelievable,” Clausen said. “I can’t fathom what I’m going to do about it. I never asked for anything. I never said, ‘Give me something. Give me some help.’ It was just a conversation about the blog.”
Clausen said he didn’t request that his friend stop talking about the blog because the conversation was brief.
“I never did say, ‘You shouldn’t be telling me this,’” he said. “It was never a conversation about, ‘Tell me where you think he’s at.’”
Clausen said Weldon informed him his appeal will be heard next week, but was not given a specific date.
Clausen said he did solicit information before the off-limits period, but said it hasn’t been useful this week.
“I got good information if (the fish) were out deep, but they’re not out there,” he said. “I wasn’t asked about that during the exam.”
As difficult as it may be under the circumstances, he intends to compete tomorrow and let the situation play out.
“I’m going to catch as much as I can and see what happens,” he said.