A lot of fans have written in about the DQ of Kevin Snider at the Wheeler BFL Regional. Most have been in favor of reinstating Snider as the winner. A few haven't. All make good points.
I've been thinking about it, and while it's good that a problem with FLW's Rule 9 has come to light, I have to say that I don't see the DQ as cut and dried as many do. At least not yet. Here's where I'm coming out:
1) Kevin told BassFan editor Jon Storm that he had no plate on the boat – when he checked it after the DQ. Regardless of whether Kevin had the plate at the start of the day, when the boat was checked, he didn't have it. I'm no tournament director, but to me that means he was clearly in violation.
2) But in violation of what? As we all know now, the FLW Outdoors rule that applies to this situation is technically incorrect. But it appears that if he had any plate there whatsoever, whether it said Coast Guard or not, FLW likely would have found that okay. Kevin also was running a 225 Merc. That's within the 250 hp maximum in FLW Rule 9, and I'm pretty sure that 225 didn't overpower his 20' 1" Viper.
3) If Kevin's boat never had a plate, it was his responsibility to know the applicable rule and not fish without it. That said...
4) The BFL Regional was a 3-day event with a cut to six boats on the last day. You would think that to avoid this kind of embarrassment to itself and one of its customers, FLW would check those six boats (all of them) before (and after) the day 3 blast-off.
5) Kevin was DQd for all 3 days. How is that possible? How do FLW/BFL officials know for certain he didn't have that plate for all 3 days?
6) Co-anglers fish by the same rules. How is it that Kevin's co-anglers weren't DQd on any days?
7) I have to agree with several BassFans who feel that the punishment didn't fit the violation. Like I said, I've never been a tournament director, but it looks like Kevin should've gotten at most a DQ on the last day, and that's it.
8) But given what was at stake and the range of possible penalties (DQs, weight penalties, future penalties, etc.), is it time for a clear list of penalties in bass fishing? All sports have rules, but other sports also have clear penalties for violations of those rules. If people knew they could get DQd from all days of a tournament for not having a T crossed or an I dotted, they'd make darn sure everything was kosher before they went out there.
9) Should a tournament director have the power to completely DQ an angler on the last day of a big tournament without the penalties for violations clearly stated in advance? Baseball, for example, gives discretion to umpires for game ejections, but I'm pretty sure umpires can't handle multi-game (multi-day) ejections. That's up to the league. In this case, and in all cases, maybe the tournament director should have discretion to DQ for the day, but not the entire tournament (assuming no gross misconduct). That should be up to the league – and maybe it was in this case. We don't know.
10) Last but not least, was Kevin protested? FLW wouldn't say, and in my opinion that's bull. The perennial FLW excuse about such issues being between them and individual anglers is a cop-out. Is this a sport or not? Whatever FLW thinks, the people who fish FLW Outdoors tournaments believe it is a sport. I do too. It's a strong sport, so news of one rule violation won't "make or break" it (or a league), nor will news of 100. And I still feel that rule violation transparency will make bass fishing more interesting to more people. BASS, to its credit, has become more forthcoming in this area. FLW should too.