Home > Follow-Up, Opinion > From Holy Roller to Convicted Felon: A bass fisherman’s fall from grace – Part 2

From Holy Roller to Convicted Felon: A bass fisherman’s fall from grace – Part 2

Robby Rose (Photo: Rockwall County)

Part 1 of this series covered the events leading up to Robby Rose getting red-handed caught cheating in a bass tournament.  Part 2 covers the successful investigation and prosecution of Mr. Rose.  I then share my final thoughts on the subject.

In the days after the tournament, the internet was abuzz with talk of Robby Rose getting busted and what it meant.  Naturally, the internet being the internet, misinformation was spread all about.  But there were veins of truth in many online discussions among fishermen.

Robby Rose Speaks

Directly after the tournament, Robby Rose apparently posted a brief apologetic statement on his website stating that he used bad judgment.   Shortly thereafter his website was turned off.

Based on the advice of his attorney, Robby declined to discuss the situation after that.  Apparently he would insinuate that he was looking forward to the day when he could talk about it.  When asked for an interview Robby said, “Believe me, I’d like to” (discuss the incident) to The Lone Star News.

Some were convinced, based on Robby’s attitude, that this would not be an open and shut case.  Even I was somewhat surprised when he pled guilty.

Mr. Rose, a convicted felon, has proven to be a dishonest person.  It is not unreasonable to believe that, given his tournament history, the chances are more likely than not that he has swindled Dallas area bass fishermen out of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past decade. – Bo Crawford

The Charge

There was a rumor spreading around that Robby Rose would get off scott-free because the TPWD code did not specifically address altering a fish the way Mr. Rose did, therefore they would not be able to charge him with a crime.  There is some truth to this from what I am told.  But more importantly, the punishment for the potential charges in the TPWD code did fit the seriousness of the crime.  With this dilemma, TPWD officials met with the Rockwall County Texas Criminal DA’s Office.

The DA’s office went back to the basics.  “Cheating is cheating…”, prosecuting attorney Alex Imgrund would later say.  Ultimately, the charges pressed against Mr. Rose were “Attempted Theft over $20,000 but less than $100,000”.

A Tangled Web

According to Captain Garry Collins, investigating Mr. Rose was time consuming because there were so many allegations of wrong-doing floating around about Mr. Rose.  When interviewing potential witnesses, a common response was, “I don’t know anything about that incident, but I know about the time he cheated in a different tournament” according to Captain Collins.  This required much ground work for his wardens to interview many different people that might have information about Robby Rose’s modus operandi (MO).

A Secret Compartment?

It was widely speculated that Mr. Rose’s MO was to catch large fish during the week before the tournament, somehow keep the fish alive during the week,  and then present these fish at the tournament weigh-in as if they had been caught during the tournament.  Most large tournaments check the contestants’ livewells in the morning to deter fish from being caught prior to the tournament’s start.

It is speculated that Mr. Rose had some type of system that allowed him to have an empty livewell in the mornings, and retrieve the fish during the tournament.

A man named Paul Tormanen was famously caught cheating in a BASS tournament in 2005.  He tied his fish to a submerged stump and retrieved them during the tournament.  Like Rose, Mr. Tormanen’s conviction brought into question his previous fishing achievements.

In my opinion, staking fish is still the most popular MO of cheaters in bass fishing.  Fish can be staked with a stringer, kept in a tank or a cage, and retrieved in private during a tournament.  This is very easy to do during a team tournament without an independent observer.

It was speculated that Mr. Rose took it a step further and somehow was able to hide fish alive on his boat in a secret compartment.  This allowed him to pass inspection during morning livewell checks.

It has also been suggested that Mr. Rose had one or more accomplices to help him swindle Dallas area tournament anglers through the years.  This is an easier cheater’s solution than building a custom hidden tank in a fiberglass bass boat.

Both theories are plausible.

DNA

To take these theories a step further, one easy way to cheat in a big bass tournament is to visit a big bass factory during the week—say Lake Fork—catch magnum bass, and weigh them in at a different lake where bass of that size are less common, like a Lake Ray Hubbard.

Rumors on the internet were that Robby Rose was spotted on Lake Fork in the days immediately prior to the Lake Ray Hubbart BLT event.

This theory could be easily tested by genetic testing.  By testing a fish’s DNA, biologist can tell where a fish came from.  Luckily, prior to its release, Deputy Carbone collected scales from Robby Rose’s fish so that such a test could be performed.

Unfortunately, Mr. Rose pled guilty before the DNA test was completed.

The Weight

In the final analysis, investigators did not have to extensively investigate possibilities since the 16 oz weight was the virtual smoking gun.

Pundits, including me, expected a defense attorney to claim that no one witnessed Mr. Rose put the weigh in the fish’s mouth, thus creating reasonable doubt.  But Robby Rose had a big problem using this defense—it was only a matter of time before investigators tied the weight to Mr. Rose.

A 2 oz weight is the heaviest weight a bass fishermen needs—most do not have one over an ounce in their tackle box.  I don’t even know what a 16 oz weight would be used for—as an anchor for a kayak?  To fish for grouper 150 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico?…I don’t know.  But I do know that it is not standard equipment for a tournament bass fisherman.

Investigators were able to find that the weight was sold out of a Garland, TX sporting goods store.  Had Mr. Rose pled not-guilty, they would have found evidence that proved Mr. Rose bought the weight that ended up in the fish’s stomach.

The weight was the virtual smoking gun that tied Mr. Rose to the crime.

The Sentence

On the morning of April 13, 2010, in the 392nd State District Court, Robby Rose calmly entered a plea of guilty.  Judge Brett Hall sentenced him to:

  • 15 days in jail
  • 5 years probation
  • surrender of fishing license for duration of probation
  • $3,000 fine
  • 600 hours community service

With the bang of the judge’s gavel that was that.  By all accounts Mr. Rose was calm and polite–there were no high-drama moments in the court.

Did the punishment fit the crime? (Opinion)

Prevailing opinion among fishermen is that Robby Rose should have received a stiffer sentence for this crime.   At a minimum, most would like to have seen his fishing license revoked for life.  I can’t disagree with this logic.

We have to remember that he was being charged for the October 21, 2009 BLT tournament only—all of his previous tournament successes had no bearing what so ever on this sentence.

Court of Public Opinion (Opinion)

For the past few months many people have been extremely cautious in sharing their opinions of Mr. Rose.  The word “alleged” was sprinkled liberally around when we did talk about him.  It was more than fair to wait and give Mr. Rose his day in court before making a final decision with your personal opinion.  Well, he has now officially had is day in court.

In a criminal court, you have to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before pronounced guilty.  As an American citizen, the burden of proof you need before forming your personal opinion is up to you alone—it does not not have to be the same standard as a criminal court.  Your first amendment rights allow you to think what you want to think, so long as you do not cross the line into slander.

Having said that, here is my opinion;  Mr. Rose, a convicted felon, has proven to be a dishonest person.  It is not unreasonable to believe that, given his tournament history, the chances are more likely than not that has swindled Dallas area bass fishermen out of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past decade.

Pleading Guilty leads to lack of Closure for Victims (Opinion)

The BLT Officers, the TPWD Officers, and the Rockwall County DA’s Office, all deserve much credit for bringing Mr. Rose to justice in such a professional way.  Realistically, you cannot ask more of these organizations.  They did their jobs well.

However, Robby Rose pleading guilty is not all positive.  With the case closed the investigation will end.  Unanswered questions remain, such as:

  • How many other tournaments did Robby Rose cheat in?
  • Was the Lake Ray Hubbard fish actually caught in Lake Ray Hubbard?
  • Who were Mr. Rose’s accomplices?
  • How did he get away with this for so long?

As I think through this I put myself in the shoes of the anglers who gave their best effort on the Bass Champs or similar circuit and came up short against Robby Rose.  Every angler has had those tournaments when you are mentally and physically exhausted, and doubt your own abilities during the long drive home.  How many of those anglers had misplaced self-doubt as a result of Robby Rose’s dishonesty?  Were life changing decisions made as a result–such as giving up the sport of tournament bass fishing?

This is the group that deserves answers the most.  Unfortunately, as a result of Mr. Rose pleading guilty, we may never learn the finer details of exactly how his systematic stealing scheme worked.

This story might not be over, however.  Departments of government share files.  There is nothing stopping Van Zandt County investigators from picking up where Rockwall County left off…





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  1. haynesdad
    April 15, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Nice plug for Bo and the site at dallasnews

  2. tiger6761
    April 16, 2010 at 9:35 am

    The guy must have SOME skill. Or else he has friends with skill. They still had to catch some pretty damn big fish. Personally I think the guy should have lost his hunting and fishing license for life plus jail time. I hope to see pursuit from other folks/government agencies. If he cheated this time then he more than likely cheated A LOT. Just ridiculous. Great stories Bo.

  1. April 14, 2010 at 7:53 pm
  2. April 14, 2010 at 8:12 pm
  3. April 25, 2014 at 6:01 pm

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