August 3, 2021

2 fishermen face felony charges after cheating in a fishing tournament

Two fishermen in Utah face criminal charges for cheating in a fishing tournament. The bass fishing tournament took place at Lake Powell. The alleged cheating was pulled off by catching fish from a different lake and using them at the weigh-in, a scheme that tournament officials uncovered because the bass looked different than other fish at the weigh-in.

Utah Fish and Wildlife allege that Robert Dennett, 45, and Kamron Wootton, 35, both from Washington City, caught their bass from Quail Creek Reservoir near St. George, Utah (over 140 miles away).

The tournament prize awards $2500 to the team with the heaviest five fish caught during the event. The suspects were in 2nd place after the day 1 and they led with the biggest overall fish. Tournament officials disqualified the men because of the suspicious nature of the fish they turned in for weigh-in.

“Some of the largemouth bass they’d turned in had little heads and fatter bodies, indicating a different diet than the fish at Lake Powell, which were more lean,” DWR Lt. Paul Washburn said. “The fish also had red fins, which indicated they had undergone some stress.”

“Illegally moving and introducing fish into different waterbodies can cause a lot of damage to that fishery,” Washburn said. “In this case, there were already largemouth bass at Lake Powell, but you can still run the risk of introducing disease and causing other issues whenever you move fish illegally.”


Photos shared from the Utah DWR show the differences..

This is a fish they turned in, note the red fins…

cheating in a fishing tournament

What a normal bass from Lake Powell looks like.

cheating in a fishing tournament
Photos of a suspicious bass and a normal bass for comparison are courtesy of Utah DWR.

DWR conservation officers were alerted and subsequently had the fish tested at a University of Utah lab, along with fish caught from Lake Powell, and the results determined that the suspicious bass had come from Quail Creek Reservoir.

Charges brought against the 2 men

During the long investigation, conservation officers learned that the suspects had taken first, second or third place at eight other bass fishing tournaments earlier in the year. Their success is considered suspicious by investigators, but there is no evidence to substantiate their suspicion. The illegal activity occurred at the tournament on Oct. 21, 2018. Charges were finally brought this past Wednesday.

So what kind of charges do you get hit with for cheating in a fishing tournament?

Dennett and Wootton were charged with bribery or threat to influence a contest, a third-degree felony; unlawful release of wildlife, a class A misdemeanor; and unlawful captivity of protected wildlife, a class B misdemeanor. It is illegal to transport live fish to other areas of the state without proper certification.

The men have an initial court appearance on June 4th.

Related Story: Fishing at Haulover Inlet