After a comprehensive investigation into alleged rule violations at Bass Pro Tour Stage Five on Cayuga Lake, Major League Fishing has disqualified Arkansas pro Spencer Shuffield for intentionally removing a hook in a bass that was caught while sight-fishing before his MLF official could verify that the fish was hooked inside the mouth.
Shuffield will forfeit his Cayuga winnings, points and weight, including a fish weight toward Heavy Hitters 2024 qualification. Some anglers will receive additional winnings and points following the adjustments in the results of Stage Five.
The investigation began after livestream video indicated the possibility that some anglers may have weighed fish while sight-fishing that were not verified by MLF officials as being hooked inside the mouth, and that some anglers may have caught the same bass twice while visibly targeting it. These actions are violations of Bass Pro Tour Rules 9 (d) and 9 (e).
MLF’s Rules Infraction Committee conducts a thorough investigation whenever an alleged violation occurs. Standard procedures include interviewing MLF officials, competitors and any other individuals with potential knowledge of alleged violations. In addition, the committee examines SCORETRACKER® weight, time and GPS-location data, and reviews photos and video from both MLF livestream cameras and the POV/action cameras required by rule on each angler’s boat. A polygraph is administered whenever evidence is inconclusive. MLF’s licensed polygrapher has administered more than 5,000 polygraphs and has extensive knowledge and experience with tournament bass fishing.
As a result of the investigation, several anglers were selected for polygraphs. The anglers selected were the only competitors who could have possibly scored the same bass twice in the same day while sight-fishing, or who had the opportunity to manipulate hook placement in a fish that was caught while sight-fishing before their MLF official could verify that the bass was hooked inside the mouth. MLF could not rule out a possible violation among these anglers based solely on physical evidence, data or MLF official interviews.
The anglers were asked the following polygraph questions:
All of the anglers, except Shuffield, passed the polygraph and have been exonerated. Shuffield failed both questions about hook manipulation. This result was consistent with video evidence from the tournament.
MLF has also updated Bass Pro Tour Rules 9 (d) and 9 (e) in consultation with the MLF Anglers Association starting with Stage Six so that once a bass is located visually, it can only be caught one time per day. The updated rules also more explicitly require anglers to immediately present any bass caught while sight-fishing to their MLF official, who will provide visual verification that the bass is hooked inside the mouth.
Unrelated to the investigation, Bass Pro Tour angler Todd Faircloth’s Stage Five finish, points and winnings were adjusted to reflect an error in a fish weight entered into SCORETRACKER® at that event. Faircloth self-reported the entry error.