Congratulations to Brian Waldman for winning the first Bass Fishing Archives Trivia Contest with his correct answer! Read below for the answer.
The 2004 FLW Tour event on the Atchafalaya Basin was the sole victory in Louisiana pro Sam Swett’s FLW career and accounted for $100,000 of his $173,415 in FLW Outdoors winnings. It was a low-weigh event in which it only took 23-03 over two days to make the cut to Day Three, and a mere 11-15 (four fish over two days) to claim the 75th place check.
Swett certainly remembers his home state win, where he used his knowledge of tides and a clear water bayou near the Gulf of Mexico to outlast his competitors, but the tournament was historically significant for another reason.
Do you remember why?
You’ll need to look just below the money cut-off to figure it out.
There, in 78th place, is Tony Christian and this was the last FLW Outdoors event he fished. If you didn’t follow the sport back then, you might wonder why he gave it up so abruptly, especially since he’d won 9 of the FLW Outdoors tournaments he’d entered, and finished in the top ten six additional times. Eight of those wins were at the BFL level, including the 2003 All-American, but he’d also won the EverStart championship on Lake Martin the year before. The circuit had nicknamed him the “Big Fish Magician.”
Indeed, the magician title was apt, because it later came to light that Christian had been manufacturing catches where none might otherwise have occurred.
There had been subtle hints that something underhanded might have been afoot: “I have fished a thousand docks so far,” he said at Martin. “But the fish here have been hit a lot. I haven’t been able to get a limit all week. One dock we caught four fish on and mine just happened to be the big keeper. I quit fishing by 9:30.”
BassFan provided a quote that is similarly eerie in hindsight: “Due to his diligent study of big fish over the last few years, Christian said he’s developed a sixth sense for when a big one is going to bite. ‘I don’t want this to sound weird or make it out like I can just go down a bank calling my shots with big fish because it’s not that way at all,’ he said. ‘But at times I do get this overwhelming feeling that I’m getting ready to catch a big fish.’”
By the Atchafalaya, the jig was up. A month earlier at Okeechobee his Day Two weight had been disqualified because he had separated from his partner prior to signing their weigh-in slips, a violation of FLW Tour rule 11. At Atchafalaya, Christian’s Day Two weight was discounted once again. FLW didn’t explicitly say why (in fact, they never did), but noted that it was because of a violation of their sportsmanship rule.
Rumors have abounded for years about what Christian actually did to merit the DQ. The most frequently propounded theory was that he’d rigged up an elaborate underwater cage full of quality tournament keepers. He’d starve them for a couple of days, then pitch a jig into a small, outward-opening top and in a matter of a few “miraculously” fill out his limit.
Christian later denied the rumors to BassFan and provided a non-enlightening interview to ESPN’s Loudmouth Bass television program, but Louisiana was the last time anyone saw him in tournament competition.
There have been allegations of cheating since then: against Paul Tormanen at a 2005 Red River Bassmaster Open; against Robby Rose in Texas; at the 2010 US Open in Nevada; and, of course, with respect to Nate Wellman at Erie last year. Each time these allegations come forth, Christian’s name and story get a little ink, but less than a decade later, the story is a footnote more than a reminder.