Jacob Wheeler did the right thing — twice

Back when I was fishing bass tournaments on a regular basis, I couldn’t have imagined running 150 miles by boat.

Granted, I wasn’t fishing for $100,000 or representing a long list of sponsors.

But even if I had been, I don’t know if I would have had the mental fortitude to run that far, fish for a little while, then turn around and make the run back again.

I never considered it seriously enough for the dangers involved to enter my mind. 

But as Jacob Wheeler proved during last week’s Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River presented by Econo Lodge, there are plenty of dangers involved with such a run. 

Wheeler was making the 150-mile run through Galveston Bay to the Houston area when his boat became lodged on a sandbar.

He trimmed the motor up, gave it plenty of gas and tried to get himself moving again, but it didn’t work. Then he got out of the boat himself and tried to push it off the sandbar. It still wouldn’t budge.

So finally, he asked his marshal to get out of the boat as well.

That did the trick, but it also put Wheeler in violation of Rule C13 that says “Marshals are not allowed to help the pro in any way.”

Wheeler self-reported the violation and had his day’s catch disqualified.

I think he did the right thing — twice.

When I talked with him right after the incident, he said, “Hey, I knew the dangers of making that kind of run — 150 miles through saltwater in an area I’ve never ran before. When you do that, there’s always a chance something like that can happen.”

That’s called acceptance.

Still, I’ve heard criticism of Wheeler for asking his marshal to exit the boat when he knew it was illegal.

But what was he supposed to do?

If he had been stuck 10 miles away from the launch site, he could have easily called for help and gone right on fishing. But since he was stuck 110 miles away, he basically had two choices — make the boat lighter or live there.

Since he just built a new house in Tennessee, he figured he didn’t want to live on a sandbar in Galveston Bay. I’m guessing his marshal didn’t either. So they made the only decision they could make.

Then Wheeler called B.A.S.S. officials and turned himself in.

Again, he made the right decision on a day when he needed a good limit to make the cut and earn a check — even though he knew it would probably lead to the disqualification of that day’s catch. 

The griping hasn’t been reserved for Wheeler. B.A.S.S. has also been criticized for the enforcement of the rule that led to the DQ.

Before I get into things like that, I always like to remind people that those kinds of decisions are made inside rooms I’m not even allowed into. B.A.S.S. officials don’t ask for my opinion — and when the decisions are made, I usually find out a day or two before you do.

But for the record, I agree wholeheartedly with the rule.

I think it should be illegal for a marshal to help an angler — period. 

If you write that rule vaguely — if you say it’s illegal for a marshal to help an angler in most situations — you’d have some sort of dispute at every event. Think about all of the ways that could be interpreted. 

Plus, marshals come in all shapes and sizes. Some are 25-year-old marathon runners, while others are 70-year-old guys who limp down the ramp and need help getting in the boat. 

It’s not ethical or fair for anglers to ask those folks for help — unless you’re stuck on a sandbar and it just can’t be avoided.

It’s also not fair to criticize Jacob Wheeler for simply doing the right thing.

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