THIRTEEN inches right? Or so?

THIRTEEN inches right? Or so?

The fact we don’t hear of many instances of tournament anglers being docked for bringing in “short” fish (those less than the prescribed minimum size for an event) is a departure from earlier days. It might even reflect a stronger ethical climate in the West.

And after agonizing a few times, myself, over fish that barely make it, or maybe don’t, I understand there is a crisis moment. When you need that fifth fish, even if it barely adds a pound or so to the total weight.  There’s that risk.

The bends match, but not the ends of these two boards.

The bends match, but not the ends of these two boards.

Anglers today are surely more conscious of the damage to their careers or reputation if this were to happen. If it appeared they were pushing the envelope, hoping to catch a busy weighmaster not recognizing one fish as an eighth of an inch (or more) short of the line.

More, a competitor knows he can ruin his chances in a given event if he were to lose both the weight of the short fish, plus another 2 pounds, as is a common penalty for such an infraction.

But measuring is a bit more subjective than you would think–at least for the angler. The late tournament director Harvey Naslund would often respond to an angler’s plea: “I measured the fish four times,” with “We’re only going to measure it once.”

In other words, better be sure.

THE STANDARD is just not standardized.

THE STANDARD is just not standardized.

On the other hand, I also sense that positive angler behavior has changed enough that there are no weighmaster vendettas at work. While these officials look at every bass, they tend to expect the competitor has done his or her due diligence with a measuring board.

Oh, and doing a little research, I noted that having one “touch the line” is subject to something else: mass production of measuring boards. They’re not all the same!

Recently, I tested (unofficially, of course) a Golden Rule with Bass Pro Shop board, stick ruler, Stanley tape ruler, plus Berkley stick on and even the pull out ruler of a popular culling system. Fact is, it was very hard to find two that matched up. In other words, the board you are counting on with those barely fish could ultimately encourage or discourage you from bringing one in. Even a legal fish.

THE CLOSEST match was BPS and yardstick.

THE CLOSEST match was BPS and yardstick.

I don’t have an answer. I fret about these close calls and have dumped three bass that later (by remeasuring the specific device) proved they would have kept. But I’ve gained some confidence that the organizations understand and if an angler can “make” the fish touch (mouth open or mouth closed per tournament rules) oficials are willing to give a thumbs up. So I’m more ready to trust my board.

Though I may still carry several to be safe.