Death, disgrace, and a handful of knockers: inside the secret world of competitive bass fishing cheaters.
Great story here from Grantland. Here’s the first part of the story:
Danny Ray Davis wasn’t just a fisherman, he was a champion. You’d know that had you ever seen him around Grand Prairie, Texas. They say he always wore the prize “$50,000 Winner” silk jacket he got for taking down the 1983 Texarkana Labor Day bass tournament. Davis was known as someone with a lot of luck out on the water and not much luck in the rest of his life. By 1984, he was 33 years old and had been divorced four times. His body was badly burned in an explosion while he was on the job as an electrician with Dallas Power & Light. The injuries caused extensive nerve damage and scarring. He said he learned to fish to regain the use of his hands after the accident. Fishing was one of the few things that brought him some much-needed joy, not to mention some much-needed money. In the spring of 1984, Davis caught an 8.7-pound bass in the KYKX Big Bass Classic. It wasn’t big enough to stuff and mount on the wall, but it was big enough to qualify for the $105,000 first prize. Winning two major bass fishing tournaments in less than a year? He was lucky. He was ecstatic. He was in deep shit.
The contest judges raised questions about the 8.7-pounder and a number of other fish that had been caught in the tournament. They disqualified six contestants, including Davis. Turned out Davis had been under suspicion for a while in Texas. He had routinely failed the polygraph tests given to winners of tournaments. (He blamed his nerves from the accident).1 The guy who won the Big Bass Classic the year before, Gary Parkerson, confessed to cheating in that event. In fact, he didn’t even know how to fish; Parkerson told the police he had never even put a hook in the water.
Now the police were setting their sights on Davis. They wanted him to come up to Tyler, Texas, to testify in front of a grand jury. They suspected that both Davis and Parkerson were part of a bass-fishing cheating ring that stretched from Florida to Texas. A Louisiana State Police officer involved in the investigation told reporters that “some of the individuals involved could try to retaliate against witnesses. They have ties to types who could do away with you if they wanted to.”2
Davis asked his dad, Oris Davis, to go with him to Tyler. According to Oris, Danny Ray was scared. “He told me that if he testified,” Oris Davis says, “he was a dead man.”
Danny Ray’s grand jury testimony was set for Wednesday, August 29, 1984. On Tuesday, a neighbor found him on the banks of a gravel pit lake near his family home, a shotgun blast blown right through his head.
See the rest of the story here: grantland.com