Louisiana Man Arrested After Stuffing 2.5 Pounds of Lead Weights into Bass at Fishing Tourney

A fish being cut open with lead weights inside, the lead weights used to try to cheat in a fishing tournament.
A fish being cut open with lead weights inside, the lead weights used to try to cheat in a fishing tournament.

A Louisiana man was arrested Thursday after game wardens determined he had placed 2.59 pounds of lead weights in a bass during a May 17 fishing tournament on Toledo Bend. It’s the latest — though by no means novel — cheating attempt in a string of high-profile fishing tournament scandals in recent years. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents took Aaron Moreau, 38, of Pollock into custody for “alleged bass fishing contest violations” in Sabine Parish, according to a statement by the agency. Officials were first contacted when Moreau reportedly submitted a bass to weigh-in. “…A fish was weighed in by an individual that indeed was recognized [as suspicious] by my bump man immediately,” said Big Bass Splash spokesman Chris Bennett in a video statement posted to the tournament’s Facebook page, where it has received more than 42,000 views in 24 hours. (A bump man is the tournament official who “bumps” a fish’s nose against the end of a tape to measure its length and ensure the fish is legal before weigh-in.) Bennett did not identify Moureau by name, nor give any details about the fish’s measurements. “At that time we took proper protocol, sent signal to the weighmaster, and held that fish until authorities arrived,” Bennett continued. “When the authorities arrived they, along with a state biologist, determined that that fish indeed had been manipulated by lead weights. Since then they have asked us to cooperate with them for a few days while they did their thorough investigation.” According to LDFW, agents found “that Moreau placed 2.59 pounds of lead weights in a fish he used for weigh in and then fled the scene.” After several days of investigation that involved at least eight LDFW agents, Moreau turned himself in Thursday and was transported to the Sabine Parish Detention Center. “For the individual who did this, we have no idea what possessed him,” said Bob Sealy, the founder of Sealy Outdoors and host of the annual Big Bass Splash tourney. “But he’ll never be able to fish another Sealy Outdoor event.” The temptation to cheat in fishing tournaments is likely driven by large cash prizes and gear that are awarded to top finishers, with $500,000 up for grabs at the Big Bass Splash this year. The fisherman who ultimately finished in first place at the Toledo Bend tournament took home a total payout worth more than $100,000, which included $10,000 in cash, a new boat, trolling motor, and other equipment. Just a handful of tournament anglers typically walk away with cash and prizes. Final tournament results indicate 2,247 anglers from across the country participated in the Toledo Bend tournament, weighing in 710 fish for a total of 3,134.66 pounds. “We’ll be praying for him and his family,” Sealy adds at the end of his video statement. “And hopefully things that transpire with law enforcement, hopefully this will turn him around and put a different perspective to his life.” Read Next: Elite Series Angler Riles the Industry by Sharing ‘the Truth’ About Professional Bass Fishing Bennett emphasized that rule-following participants weren’t getting edged out by cheaters. Tournament rules are designed for safety and for ethics, he says, and most violations were for minor infractions, not blatant attempts at cheating. For example, not wearing a life jacket while running the outboard. “When those rules are broken, those are mistakes by good honest anglers,” says Bennett. “When they are broken, we address them just as that. The most that will happen, you will withdraw your fish and we’ll move on. What we won’t tolerate is malicious activity such as altering the length of a fish or manipulating the weight of a fish. … We look forward to moving forward and getting past this. I want to assure you we’re doing our jobs and we’re going to continue to do our jobs to protect the honest angler.” It’s unclear if Moreau remains in jail, if he’s been released on bail, or the full extent of the charges he’s facing. LDFW noted that “fishing contest fraud brings up to a $3,000 fine and one year in jail” in Louisiana.