Man charged in connection with Texas fishing tournament fraud

(KXII photo)
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GRAYSON COUNTY, Texas (KXII) A man is accused of fraud for violating rules in a high school fishing tournament.

Ryan Lovelace was the supervisor for the team of students in the competition.

He's charged with "freshwater fish tournament fraud," a Class A misdemeanor in the Parks and Wildlife Department.

Game wardens said Lovelace turned himself in this weekend and paid $1,000 to bond out of the Grayson County Jail Sunday morning.

He didn't want to speak on camera, but said he was just the boat captain for high schoolers, not the one competing.

"This is a case regarding a fishing fraud investigation," Grayson County Game Warden Daron Blackerby said.

Blackerby said at a high school bass fishing tournament on Lake Texoma in the fall, officials had questions about the overall number of bass caught by Lovelace's team.

Gainesville ISD Superintendent Dr. DesMontes Stewart said Lovelace is a teacher for the district and volunteered to be a boat captain, or supervisor, for the Gainesville High School bass fishing team.

The job of boat captains is to "make sure that they do things safely and properly while they're out there," Blackerby said.

Blackerby said each team gets to turn in five bass, and at the end of the tournament, the heaviest weight wins.

Students even have the chance to get scholarships.

"Also some prizes, fishing rods, fishing reels, all sorts of gear and stuff like that. So this is kind of a really big deal," Blackerby said.

But he said through phone calls and witness interviews, it was brought to their attention that there may be a violation regarding the total bag limit submitted by that team.

The Texas High School Bass Association lists out the rules for boat captains including that they cannot fish in any event or contribute to the team's creel, or it's an immediate disqualification.

Blackerby said Lovelace turned himself into the jail after county game wardens issued a warrant for his arrest.

"All the responsibility is on the captains," said Steve Corcoran, who manages a Gainesville tackle shop.

Corcoran used to be a boat captain for Lindsay high school students.

"They're there to catch fish. You're there to make sure they follow the rules," Corcoran said.

"So we definitely want to you know make sure that nothing like this happens in the future in these high school tournaments," Blackerby said.

Blackerby said Lovelace could face as much as a year in jail and a fine of as much as $4,000.

Stewart said as of right now, Lovelace is still employed with Gainesville ISD.

He said the district has taken appropriate action, but would not elaborate stating it's a personnel matter.

He did say that Lovelace will not be able to volunteer for anymore fishing tournaments.