Digital cellphone technology is all that’s needed this year to police the Chris Nelson Memorial Fishing Tournament, the marquee annual event of the Minnesota Kayak Fishing Association.
But starting as early as next year, winners might be asked to submit to a voice stress test for lie detection.
“It weeds out the cheaters,” said Grant Carston, an official with the group. “As we grow, we want to make sure we don’t have any of that.”
Carston said there hasn’t been a whiff of scandal in the association’s fishing contests. But membership in the fledgling nonprofit is surging, from 770 “yak” anglers last year to 900 and counting this season.
But the association’s tournament formats can present security challenges. This year, participants can fish on any lake they choose as long as they report together in person at the beginning of the day.
The winner of this Saturday’s bass tournament will be awarded a $2,500 Hobie kayak. Order of finish will be determined by the total length of each participant’s top three bass.
Entries are submitted visually via cellphone to the tournament director. The e-mailed fish photos are embedded with GPS tracking information to show where and when the picture was taken. The fish must be photographed on a “bump board” measuring device marked with a readable length. The angler’s free hand is marked on the morning of the tournament with a code and the marked hand must be shown in the photo.
Carston said a kayak fisherman in another state was caught cheating a similar security system last year by doctoring several bump boards to exaggerate the size of his catch.
With the fish laying on top of the measurement markings, the altered rulers weren’t detected until the man kept winning and tournament directors became suspicious, Carston said.
He said the Minnesota kayak group will look to partner with a university that can administer voice stress tests by phone. If a winner were to fail the test, they could appeal and have a test administered in person at their own expense, he said.
“Mostly, it’s a deterrent,” Carston said.
This Saturday’s memorial tournament is designed to support the kayak association and honor the memory of kayak fishing enthusiast Chris Nelson, who died at age 30 of an inoperable brain tumor in 2014, 12 days after he was diagnosed. This year’s event is headquartered at Hi Tempo SnowSports & WaterSports in White Bear Lake, a business owned by Nelson’s parents.