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Bassmaster Disqualified for Overstepping Boat Rules
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Bassmaster Disqualified for Overstepping Boat Rules

Sports

Bassmaster Disqualified for Overstepping Boat Rules
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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is the sound of a fisherman's dream going down the tubes.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOAT ENGINE)

Unidentified Man #1: What's up with that.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah. Shouldn't have done that.

BLOCK: Gerald Swindle was disqualified from the second day of competition in the Bassmaster Classic over the weekend, after he was ruled to have run his boat too close to other boats on Lay Lake in Alabama. And that caused a wave of an uproar in the angling community.

Mark Zona joins us to explain why he hosts the Bassmaster Tournament Trail on ESPN. And Mr. Zona, tell us about Gerald Zwindle and why his disqualification this weekend is such a big deal.

MARK ZONA: Well, you know, I - the Bassmaster tournament throughout the - the tournament that we just got done with, you know, that he was disqualified from there, it's kind of like the Daytona 500 of professional bass fishing, you know. And it was all wiped clean in one day's action right there.

BLOCK: And what does that mean for an angler like Gerald Swindle - a native Alabaman; this was in his home state.

ZONA: Well, you know, all of his fans are there. He worked all year to get there. And not only that, there's a half a million dollars on the line. And Gerald was having a great tournament. You know, that being said, everything kind of got flushed down the drain.

BLOCK: Yeah. And he had a news conference. He's a fan favorite, as I understand it - has a lot of sponsors. And when he announced his own disqualification in Birmingham, he broke down in tears and then explained it this way. Let's take a listen.

GERALD SWINDLE: I just want everybody here to know: I didn't cheat. I didn't try to cheat. I wasn't trying to gain an edge. I made a simple judgment error.

BLOCK: So break down what he's saying there for us.

ZONA: Well, OK, well, he wasn't trying to get an advantage over another competitor in the tournament. What he did was he just - he ran his boat at a high rate of speed near a non-competitor that I believe complained to the tournament director. And more so than anything, I'm sure if Gerald could erase what he did, it was a split, unintentional second, is what happened.

BLOCK: Mark, can you give us a sense of the scope of the interest and the money attached to bass, bass fishing?

ZONA: Sure. You know, a tournament like the Bassmaster Classic, you can sit here and say, you know, a guy like Gerald Swindle had the opportunity to win a half a million dollars. But more so than that, that is a career-changing event. And what I mean by that is the endorsements that go along with it, you know, reach up into the millions. So, you know, a mishap that Gerald had on day two, potentially, could have cost him millions of dollars if he would have gone on to win the event.

BLOCK: Well, why don't you tell us about who ended up winning?

ZONA: Another Alabaman was Boyd Duckett. And he was actually, probably, one of the biggest underdogs coming into the event. It was his first classic he has ever qualified for. And he really did. He took down the giants the last day. I mean, he took down some of the biggest, you know, pros in the sport.

BLOCK: What was the reaction among Gerald Swindle's fans when he was disqualified?

ZONA: Oh, I think the reaction was very similar to Gerald's. You know, very disappointed - for the simple fact that they, you know, they followed Gerald Swindle all year long. You know, that's 12 years of seeing a guy really grind it out to make it to this event and then, go home early.

BLOCK: Well, there's always next year.

ZONA: There's always next year.

BLOCK: Mark Zona, thanks so much.

ZONA: Thank you.

BLOCK: Mark Zona hosts the Bassmaster Tournament Trail on ESPN.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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