[Full story from Bill Egan Director of Operations for WON Bass
As most of you have heard and read in our blog, and many other forums, as I would have to assume.
Mike Hart was caught placing unnatural items in the bellies of fish presented to our scales at the third day of fishing of the US Open, at Lake Mead, Nevada.
Here is what happened and how it played out!
As I was leaving the Callville Bay Marina Bar and Restaurant and weigh in location. I wanted to run by and check on our anglers whom were having motor or boat issues. As I drove to where Mark Niccoletti and Jordan from Anglers Marine, were working on some angler boats, I was flagged down by the Nevada Fish and game. They were filleting the fish that were collected after the weigh ins, which came to the scales "DEAD". I told them that I would return in a minute or two, as I wanted to check on a few of our anglers. When I was able to return to the area where the staff was cleaning the fish that are to be given to local area homeless families, I was pulled aside and told of two different issues. One was regarding a AAA, that dumped a whole bottle of Rejuv in a livewell, and ended up killing all of his fish due to over Rejuv. Then the Nevada fish and game agent seemed to have a lump in her throat and a plastic bag in her other hand. It was mentioned, that they happened to be talking about the fish that were being filleted, and what the fish happened to be eating. One of the staff, decided by random to open up the belly of a fish and instead of finding a crawdad, a lead weight, with a fixed drop shot hook was found in stead. There were a total of four 2 oz ( not confirmed ) weights in the bellies of three separate fish at day two weigh ins.
I was sick to my stomach when I saw what was in the bags, it was like someone hit me in the stomach with a hammer. I decided to make sure that nobody, other than the people that were at the fillet station, found out that we had discovered the weights. Headed to the hotel to check in with tour stat girls, so they could look up the number of anglers, who happened to weigh in 3 dead fish on day two. There were only three anglers that day that brought three dead fish to the scales that day. It was decided between Harvey and myself, that the best way to handle it, was to pretend that we never found out, so that whom ever was responsible, would feel as if they had gotten away with it. We placed some paper clips to the said anglers weigh cards, as we were confidant that the AAA's in no way had anything to do with what had happened, based on our findings.
Day three started at the scales and things were under way for the final day of the 2010 US Open. As the anglers approached the stage, I would look at the weigh cards waiting for those that had been clipped. As I look over, I see the first weigh card come up with a paper clip attached and nothing was found in his fish. The second clipped card came up, and same deal. As the third weigh card that was clipped came up, I saw Mike Hart at the bottom of the stage. I got on the mic, and announced his name, and made comments regarding the Castaicanator. Signals were given, and Mike's fish were placed in the holding tank. As the fish are tested to make sure they are dead, I was called over by my TD, John Cassidy. As I approached the area, to feel the belly of the first fish I grabbed, it was obvious that there was something hard, and unnatural in the belly of that fish. I asked Mike to step to the side, as there was something we needed to talk about. The five fish were immediately set aside in a separate bag. Mike was escorted to the side where we had officials waiting. All five fish that had been presented to our scales by Mr. Hart where then gutted, and as most of you have seen, the lead weights where in all five fish. As I continued to keep the scales going, it was said that Mike had run. I was not made aware of the fact the Mike Hart was still around, until an angler came to me and said, that Mike was still here, but was hiding in a friends truck. I was taken to the truck, as Mike had requested to talk with me. I opened the driver side door, as Mike Hart was in the passenger side with the air on. As I got in the car, all the signs were there...... He was slumped in the chair with his hands on his face. He confessed to adding weights to the fish and was completely demoralized regarding his pour and completely unacceptable decision he had made by cheating. I mentioned that he had made it to easy for us to figure out, and it was only due to the fact that the Nevada Fish and Game happened to fillet and donate the meat to the local homeless families. I asked him, if he wanted to take the stage and face his friends family and fellow anglers, and he said he could not face it. I explained that we as a tournament organization will go after him with everything we have, and that I was troubled that we would have to make an example of him.
As you have read in our Blog.... Mike hart has been banned for life from all WON Bass tournaments, and is facing criminal charges. It is a sad day in angling history once again. I am sorry that this had to happen and take any of the deserved emotion of winning the US Open away from Clifford Pirch. He deserves everything, for winning this years event, and he does not deserve to have his moment taken away.
Mike Harts action does not, and should not reflect what so ever on any of the AAA's he happened to fish with on any of the three days of this years 2010 US Open. As there was no fish found to have weights added to them on Monday, and that we could not confirm that Mike had actually put the weights in the Tuesday fish, both the AAA's weights for Monday and Tuesday were left as is. The AAA that was paired with him today, was given his entry fee back.
Please.... lets all remember this is a human being that we are talking about. He made a horrific and unforgivable mistake and will have to live with his decisions for the rest of his life. This will no doubt show that we tournament organizations are serious about cheaters and are determined to create what ever we have to to keep the integrity of our sporty alive. It is now 1:30 AM on the day after... and I need to call it quits for today. I am sure this is not the last of this, and we will keep you posted as more information is available.
see more details at www.wonbass.com
WON Bass Director of Operations