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Birge penalty reversed on official's mistake

Birge penalty reversed on official's mistake

Major League Fishing announced Wednesday that it is reversing a penalty that was assessed on Zack Birge during Sunday’s final round of the Bass Pro Tour event on the Chowan River. MLF is reinstating the weight of seven bass that were removed from ScoreTracker. The weight – 14 pounds, 13 ounces – moves Birge from 8th to 7th place in the final standings.

While it was ruled that Birge violated Bass Pro Tour rule 18 A, which prohibits an angler from leaving his boat to make it more accessible to fishing waters, it was subsequently determined that he did so with the understanding that permission had been granted by the tournament director and assistant tournament director.

Birge asked for permission to remove his drain plug so that his boat would temporarily fill with water, float lower and pass under a bridge to access water that he had not previously fished. The question was asked Sunday morning prior to takeoff, and permission was granted by the tournament director, as this is not a rule violation. Birge was not reminded at the time, however, that he could not exit his boat per rule 18 A to remove the drain plug. The tournament director operated under the incorrect assumption that Birge could reach the plug and remove it without leaving his boat, and Birge understood the ruling to mean that he could enter the water and remove his drain plug so long as he didn’t let go of the boat.

“After investigating the incident, it is clear that MLF tournament officials contributed to the violation,” said Kathy Fennel, MLF Executive Vice President and General Manager. “As such, it is unfair for us to hold an angler responsible for a violation when our actions and inactions implied express permission. We are therefore reinstating the weight of the bass Birge caught after passing under the low-hanging bridge.”

The assistant tournament director was the official in the boat with Birge at the time of the incident, and he did not immediately inform Birge that exiting his boat to remove his drain plug in this situation constituted a rule violation. If he had, the situation could have been resolved in real time.

“Mistakes were made,” Fennel said. “Our team has learned from them to make sure they do not happen again.”

Here are the revised Top 10 final standings:

1st: Drew Gill, Mount Carmel, Ill., 22 bass, 58-14, $100,000
2nd: Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 18 bass, 44-14, $45,000
3rd: Dustin Connell, Clanton, Ala., 20 bass, 41-14, $38,000
4th: Jacob Wheeler, Harrison, Tenn., 12 bass, 36-1, $32,000
5th: Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., 12 bass, 31-4, $30,000
6th: Alton Jones Jr., Waco, Texas, 13 bass, 31-0, $26,000
7th: Zack Birge, Blanchard, Okla., 12 bass, 26-5, $23,000
8th: Matt Becker, Ten Mile, Tenn., seven bass, 25-10, $21,000
9th: Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., six bass, 11-8, $19,000
10th: Fred Roumbanis, Russellville, Ark., three bass, 9-15, $16,000

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