Polygraph Controversy: To Test Or Not
It's really not a question
By Debra Dean, Editor of Honey Hole Magazine
Amongst fishing Internet chat room participants lately, scuttlebutt has offered some hotly debated commentaries on the act of using polygraph examinations for fishing tournaments. Like most people involved with similar events, I have read with a great deal of interest and growing concern the misunderstandings about this issue.
Understand me, I absolutely hate paying $300 a pop to someone who isn't even an entered contestant in the event and didn't pay a dime into the pot. We'd prefer to pay back these funds to the fishermen. But also understand me - there is no alternative. And if you'd been around as long as I have you'd remember what tournaments were like before polygraphs showed up.
When fishing tournaments were "un-policed" as it were, cheating was pretty rampant especially where any goodly sums of money were offered. Cheating still exists today. So do a lot of other things in our lives that shouldn't and while I'm in favor of running off cheaters, I am not in favor of running off the only present method of deterring at least a portion of them.
But I will give you this, there are people who can clear polygraph examinations just as there are people who cannot "pass the test" on a good day. It's more because a polygraph test is not a lie detector but more of a bodily functions monitor. Innocent people have been tainted by not "passing" and by the same token the guilty have walked because they were not "caught."
Still, like the good old US Postal Service - it's the only game in town. It isn't perfect, but not many things are in our world. If all the people who derided polygraph tests in the chat rooms get their way, and team events cease to have polygraphs, the most likely scenario won't be more "fun" at tournaments but more cheaters at tournaments. And someday such major changes in events that will alter the original intent (that is having fun while competing in an open atmosphere).
Polygraph examiners claim they can catch you if you use any of the described methods offered for sale online and elsewhere in bookstores. The people who write the books and sell the information claim they can show you how to "beat the box" in just a few hours of reading. Both sides are probably about 90 percent correct. But by its very nature, a polygraph machine isn't going to be correct all the time because all people are different. Sometimes we just have to accept that not all good things are 100 percent good.
If you want to be as confused as ever just do an Internet search for polygraph. It's all there, pro and con and all points in between. But I'm here to tell you that nothing else will deter cheaters the same way and even polygraph tests won't deter someone who can cheat and beat the box. The more research that I do, the more questions I have.
But I also know that team tournaments are fun. I don't want to fish with a stranger drawn for me that day who may or may not be fun to be with. Maybe that's not the way the big dog "professionals" do it, but it's the way I like to do it. I want to share more than just a day of competition with the person in the boat with me. I want to fish with my family and friends not a stranger and if that makes me less of a true competitor somehow, then so be it. And I'd venture to say that a lot more people want to compete with loved ones than want to fish with strangers. So while the big ouffits claim "purity" in their events by way of the draw as the "only way to do it" I still say team events with YOUR chosen partner can work just fine - and hate the thought of seeing that change because of growing distaste for polygraph examinations.
There have been comments made about "policing ourselves." That isn't going to work all by itself people. I'm sorry but no one can be everywhere at once on our big Texas lakes and wardens can't have eyes in the backs of their heads. And cheaters aren't even deterred from doing so in events where all they can win is a plaque and a few bucks so there simply isn't a replacement for the standard polygraph examination.
By all means, if you see someone doing something they shouldn't during an event - file a protest! Not nearly enough of this is done. I can't tell you how many people I've talked to over the years that had complaints about another competitor doing something wrong. I ask, did you file protest? The answer is always no.
TPW is already seeking to obtain tournament permitting system once again and issues like this will serve only to fan the flames of their desire to control events. And if you want to see some major changes in tournaments, just let TPW be in charge. But on second thought, one could just look at how well they handle everything else and assume that tournaments would be treated with equal, if not greater, "administration."
What a thought.