You’ve seen it time after time on Major League Fishing. An angler reels in a bass, and the fish slips out of his hands and lands on the boat’s carpet.
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“A fish landing violation occurs when an angler brings a fish inside the boat, and it comes in contact with anything inside that boat, other than the anger’s hand,” said Competition Crew Chief Dan Hayes.
Hayes says they enforce the rule to ensure proper fish care. If the angler doesn’t release the fish properly, that’s also a two-minute penalty. The angler must release the fish at or below the gunnel of the boat. Hayes says even if the bass weighs less than 1 pound and doesn’t count toward the angler’s score, an angler can still get a penalty if he doesn’t release it properly.
“What happens a lot of times, the anglers forget,” Hayes said. ”They’ll catch a small fish that’s an unscorable bass. And, in other competition formats, they’re just used to taking off the hook and just tossing it. And it happens a lot, especially with the new anglers that are learning the MLF rules.”
Fish landing and releasing violations are the most common penalties in MLF, but there are other ways an angler can end up in a ‘timeout’. For example, forgetting to wear a PFD (personal floatation device) while the engine is in gear is a three-minute penalty.
“Major League Fishing always takes safety as a number-one priority,” Hayes said.
Hayes says the penalty starts at the moment of infraction, right after the boat official announces it.
“At that time, the angler can do absolutely nothing except talk to the camera,” Hayes said.
Hayes has been an MLF O
“When I say they can do nothing, they can’t eat, they can’t drink, they can’t use the bathroom, they can’t smoke if they’re smokers. They can do absolutely nothing.”
The anglers can’t even change out their baits or re-tie lures because a penalty is a punishment, not a chance for anglers to regroup and strategize.
“I know it sounds harsh, but you have to realize professional anglers will not take time to do any of these things when it’s time to fish,” Hayes said. “They won’t stop to drink, they won’t stop to eat, they won’t stop to do anything. So what’s happened in the past, when we first started these penalties, the anglers would take this as a break.”
If the angler is called out on a fish landing or releasing violation, that fish still counts (as long as it’s 1 pound or more). But Hayes says telling an angler that he can’t fish is the worst punishment there is.
“When you take away that rod out of his hand, he has to sit there and do nothing, the two minutes feels like two hours to them,” Hayes said. “They just go crazy.”
If an angler gets a penalty at the end of the period, that penalty will be assessed at the beginning of the next period. If it’s the final period of that day, and the angler is advancing to the next round, then the penalty will be assessed at the start of their next round of competition.
“Everyone else takes off and they have to sit at the ramp for two minutes. And believe me, it’s a long two minutes for those guys,” Hayes explained.
Unsportsmanlike conduct can also get an angler into trouble, and the penalty would be up to the MLF Commissioner. Hayes says an unsportsmanlike conduct violation has never occurred in MLF history, but it certainly could in the future.