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Bass tournament officials: Angler caught cheating

A professional angler found to have stuffed lead sinkers down the throats of fish he submitted for weigh-ins has been banned from competitions.

Mike Hart, a successful Southern California pro whose career earnings total more than $200,000, was accused of cheating during the recent $100,000 U.S. Open held at Lake Mead.

An official with the Western Outdoor News bass tour said Hart confessed after he was caught, GrindTV.com reports.

Western Outdoor News will not pursue criminal charges against Hart, but the episode has tournament organizers around the country speaking out against cheating and seeking ways to prevent their events from being similarly tarnished.

"On the one hand, it was a day of infamy for organized bass fishing in America," Harvey Naslund, director of the circuit, told GrindTV.com. "But on the other hand, it was a major victory for all who have long cared for and taken steps to protect the integrity of bass-fishing tournaments."

In all, nine sinkers were removed from bass that Hart turned in. Naslund said each sinker was torpedo-shaped and weighed 2 ounces. Each was attached to a short line and tied to a small treble hook, presumably to catch in the throat and hopefully keep the weights from entering the belly and be detected if the bass was cut open.

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