The top two finishers at the February 2005 Bassmaster Tour event on the Harris Chain were Floridians Peter Thliveros and Jim Bitter. It was Peter T’s fourth win with B.A.S.S., and the $102,000 paycheck dwarfed his previous largest check, although he beat that amount in both 2006 and 2007 by winning two majors that paid $250,000 apiece.
While the Harris Chain event may be memorable to Peter T, to most fishing fans it is historically significant for other reasons. Do you remember the controversy that surrounded it?
To figure out why it was meaningful, go down to 96th place.
David Dudley’s tournament performance at the Harris Chain may not have been notable, but during practice he opened up a hornet’s nest through what he termed “defensive” fishing. Specifically, there were obvious spawning fish waiting to be caught, but he knew that with a late boat number he’d almost certainly find them gone when he arrived. Therefore, he went and stuck a couple of bass during practice to ensure that they wouldn’t bite again during the tournament.
Some pros, notably Thliveros and Roland Martin, perceived his actions as a crime against the sport’s integrity. Others admired his savvy, even if some of them were afraid to say so. Either way, Dudley’s efforts showed a marked change in the sport. Perhaps due to the relatively recent six-figure paydays, strategy had become as much an element of the sport as simple fish-catching know-how.
Dudley’s efforts were made possible – he might say “were made necessary” – by the systematic grid system that BASS employed to determine boat numbers at the time. Prior to the draw meeting, anglers knew which flight they’d be in, and Dudley, who called the system flawed, knew that he’d be among the last of the last out on Day One.
While BASS subsequently stated that Dudley broke no tournament rules, the grid system was gone the next year.