By Pete Robbins
One of the most controversial aspects of Major League Fishing is the rule assessing a penalty each time a landed fish touches the floor of the boat. If your fish even brushes the carpet, you’re forced to sit there and do nothing – can’t cast, can’t work on tackle, can’t even drink a Sqwinchers. Some people love it, thinking it promotes conservation. Others hate it, believing that it doesn’t serve any purpose.
Normally, I’d be pretty much agnostic on the topic. If all of the MLF owners-slash-participants want to keep the rule intact, that’s their business, and if they want to scrap it or replace it with something else, that’d be fine, too, but upon further consideration, I kind of like the drama of it. It’s not so much the time out, although I guess that affects strategy and efficiency, but rather the way that the competitors react.
Every time a fish hits the carpet, whether it’s a full-on belly flop or just a glance that might escape the judge’s eyes, you can see the wheels inside the angler’s head start to spin. Did that really happen? Am I going to get penalized? Why now? Should I have grabbed the line? And then, after a painful wait, just as he thinks he might get away with it, the judge says “Fish landing violation. Two minute penalty.” I’ve never seen an angler contest the call, claiming that the official was wrong or had an obstructed view (the occasional retort of “if you had one more eye you’d be a Cyclops,” would be nice), but every last time the chastened angler looks like he wants to throat punch the dude who just delivered the bad news.
Someday an angler will be on the mother of all schools of fish, a few pounds out of the cut with just minutes to go, and his fish is going to flop to the carpet and he’ll end up sitting the rest of the period on his butt. I don’t know how long you have to sit out the next round for punching an official, but I have a feeling we’ll find out.