AMERICAN COUPLES SERIES - 2016 RULES

(NOTICE: UPDATED – October 15, 2015)

The following rules shall apply to all American Couples Series tournaments during the 2016 season.  These rules may be changed by American Bass Anglers (ABA) at any time upon notification to its members, which will be published on the ABA web site at www.americanbassanglers.com.  Interpretation and enforcement of these rules will be left exclusively to the Tournament Director.  

1.      RULES VIOLATION:

In the event of a rule violation, ABA may impose such sanctions, as deemed appropriate, including, without limitation, disqualification, forfeiture of prizes and/or entry fee, probation and prohibition from participation in subsequent tournaments.  The decision of the ABA shall be final in all matters.  Each competitor agrees to report to the Tournament Director any violation or infraction of any Tournament Rules.  Failure to report violations, or suggestions to another competitor that they violated these rules, or false verification of weigh-in forms, will be cause for disqualification.  Rules violations must be reported to the Tournament Director on site in writing within 15 minutes after the announcement “The scales are closed”.

2.     PENALITIES: Penalties may include the following:

i.)     Loss of one or more fish in question. 

ii.)    Loss of catch for the day

iii.)   Disqualification from the tournament in question

iv.)   Disqualification from future ABA events.

v.)    Any different or additional penalties determined by the Tournament Director including but not limited to monetary forfeiture, probation and/or loss of Angler of Year points.

3.      PARTICIPATION, REGISTRATION AND ELIGIBILITY:

i.)      This tournament is open only to current members of ABA who are over 12 years of age.  Contestants over 12 but under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a person over 18 years of age and have a parent or guardian signature on an ABA Liability Release form prior to entering the tournament.  Contestants 12 years of age must wear a PFD during tournament hours while in the boat.  Contestants under 14 years of age are not permitted to operate a boat in any ABA tournament.  Contestants under the age of 18 years must be accompanied by their guardian or an adult over the age of 18 and guardian must sign a liability release form.  Proof of age to the satisfaction of tournament officials is the responsibility of the potential competitor.  ABA may at any time decline to accept tournament entries for any reason.  Any candidate who, in the judgment of the ABA, is disabled in such a manner as to unfairly hinder their partner or endanger the safety and well-being of their partner or themselves will not be eligible.

ii.)    Excluded participation; – Anglers who have participated in two or more events with an entry fee of $650 or more within the previous six months are prohibited from entering the event.  Competitor may not buy or barter a fishing location from any person, including guides, for use during any competition day within 30 days prior to the event.

iii.)   During official practice and competition days, competitors may not operate a boat unless that contestant has current documented proof of a minimum of $100,000 boating liability insurance covering the boat being used.  A copy of proof of insurance must be with the boat being used and must cover the competitors using that boat.  Random checks may be conducted at tournament registration and/or at tournament weigh-in.  Any competitor not in compliance may be disqualified. 

A properly completed and signed official entry form and entry fee must be received by ABA HQ prior to the event deadline date, or at the official on-site registration.  Entry deadline date for each event will be ten (10) days prior to the event.  Entries received after the entry deadline date will be assessed a $5.00 late fee.  Entry fees will only be refunded and/or transferred if notification is made to ABA Tournament Department prior to WEDNESDAY 5pm CST, prior to the scheduled event, NO EXCEPTION.  There will be a $20.00 processing fee per tournament for refunds.  Contestants are expected to compete every day for which they are qualified and registered, failure to do so will result in a penalties assessment under PENALITIES above.  

4.     SPORTSMANSHIP/CODE OF CONDUCT: Anglers participating in ABA sanctioned event shall observe this code of conduct and the applicable rules for the specific event in which he/she is participating.  Anglers shall, at all times, conduct themselves in a manner becoming ABA anglers and their actions will not reflect unfavorably on ABA, its members, officers or representatives, tournaments or sponsors.  To this end, anglers shall use their best efforts to demonstrate professionalism and integrity in support of the sport of bass fishing.  Any angler who violates any of the provisions of the Angler Code of Conduct will be subject to fines, forfeiture of tournament winnings, probation, suspension from competing in ABA sanctioned events, permanently banned from competition, or any combination thereof deemed appropriate by ABA. Competitors are expected to follow high standards of sportsmanship, courtesy, safety and conservation. 

i.)     The use or possession of illegal drugs by any competitor during official practice, tournament hours or during pre and post tournament activities will be cause for automatic disqualification from this and all future tournaments.  (Exception; those prescribed to the angler by a licensed physician)  The consumption or possession of alcohol during tournament hours is prohibited.  Tournament hours are defined as check-out in the morning through weighing of fish in the afternoon.

ii.)    Maximum courtesy must be practiced at all times, especially with regard to boating and angling near non-competitors.  Any act of a competitor which reflects unfavorably upon efforts to promote water safety, fisheries conservation, clean waters and courtesy, will be reason for disqualification.

iii.)   All competitors are bound by the prevailing statutes and regulations of the state within which the tournament is being held.   

iv.)   Chemical substance addiction or abuse, crimes involving moral turpitude, conviction of a felony not specifically exempted by ABA, or other conduct reflecting unfavorably upon efforts to promote safety, sportsmanship, fair competition and compliance with tournament rules shall be grounds for rejecting any application for participation and/or for disqualification.  Any disqualification, suspension from or disciplinary action imposed by fishing organization will be grounds for rejecting any application for participation in a tournament and/or disqualification from a tournament after circumstances are reviewed by the Tournament Director.

5.     MEDIA COMMENTS, PUBLIC ATTACKS: The favorable public reputation of ABA as a sanctioning organization in the sport of fishing, the integrity of its officials, and the reputation of its media properties are valuable assets and tangible benefits for ABA.  Accordingly, it is an obligation of competitors to refrain from comments to the news media that unreasonably attack or disparage the integrity of tournaments, tournament officials, sponsors, fellow members, fellow anglers or the ABA organization.  Competitors are encouraged to express themselves and have the right to question rules officials.  Responsible expressions of legitimate disagreement with ABA policies are encouraged as opposed to attacks upon the integrity of the rules or officials.  However, public comments that an angler knows, or should reasonably know, will harm the reputation of ABA, ABA officials or sponsors shall be considered conduct unbecoming a professional and will result in disciplinary action.

6.     PRACTICE AND COMPETITION: During regular season events, there will be no off-limits or official practice days.  During post season, ABA may establish off-limits and official practice days which may be posted separately.

         i.        During competition a competitor can only have the assistance or advice of another competitor for the purposes of locating or catching bass on tournament waters.

        ii.        Testing of engines after the weigh-in for multiple day tournaments is only allowed with permission from the Tournament Director and all rods/reels must be stowed away in rod lockers while testing.  No Exceptions. During the official practice and during the tournament, a competitor may not "SKIN DIVE" OR "SCUBA DIVE" in the tournament waters.

       iii.        Competitor may not buy or barter a fishing location from any person for use during any competition day.

       iv.        During the official competition days of the tournament, a competitor may not use a CB radio, a VHF marine-band radio, a cellular phone, or any other type of communication device for the purpose of locating or catching fish.  Competitors are permitted to transmit by radio or telephone only in the event of an emergency.  If so equipped, competitors may listen to the marine-band weather information.
v.) A designated tournament official must be granted access to the competitor's boat at any time during competition.  Failure to grant such access may result in immediate disqualification.

7.     POLYGRAPH: By his/her signature on the official entry form, each competitor agrees to submit to a polygraph examination/truth verification method as determined by ABA and abide by its conclusion, should he/she be accused of any rule violation.  The Tournament Director will have the discretion to determine the need for a polygraph/truth verification examination.  ABA will arrange for an independent expert to administer and interpret the results, and establishing the scope of the questions to be asked during the examination.  The competitor will make himself/herself available at the location selected by ABA and shall cooperate in all respects with such examination.  In the event competitor fails to pass the examination, he/she will be disqualified from the event in question and other disciplinary action taken as deemed appropriate in accordance with Rule 2 above.  Anglers taking a polygraph/truth verification method examination will be responsible for any and all cost incurred, anglers refusing to acknowledge payment will be disqualified.  Cost of the polygraph/truth verification: if the protested party does not pass the polygraph they will be responsible for the cost, if the protested party passes the verification test the cost will be borne by the protesting party. 

8.     PRE-REGISTERED ENTRIES: It is recommended that contestants pre-register through National headquarters. Contestants desiring to register at the ramp must do so in person during the official registration period.  Registration period is defined as 1 and ½ hours preceding 5am local time during daylight savings time and 6am local time during standard time or the time established by the local tournament director.  Failure to attend the pre-tournament meeting of any ABA tournament will result in forfeiture of entry fee and disqualification from the tournament in question.  Teams may also register on line at www.abacouples.com by phone at 1-256-232-0406, or by mail at: American Bass Anglers, Inc. Attn: American Couples Series, P.O. Box 475 Athens, AL 35612.

9.     On Site REGISTRATION: All Teams desiring to register at the tournament site must register in person prior to 5AM local time during daylight savings time or 6AM local time during standard time.  One member of each team must attend the mandatory safety/rules briefing at the tournament site the morning of the tournament.  Failure to attend the safety/rules briefing will result in forfeiture of entry fee and will not be entered in that tournament.

10.   TEAM COMPOSITION: Once a team has been registered, the team must fish together throughout the year to be eligible for point accumulation and qualification for the Championship.  Both members of a team must fish the first event together to establish the team.  After the establishment of a team, in the event one partner cannot fish a tournament, the remaining partner may fish that tournament alone.  Throughout the year a representative of the original team may fish only one tournament alone to accumulate points.

11.   GUIDES: Individuals, who are serving as a licensed guide or are paid for guiding on tournament waters within the previous 30 day period, are not eligible to compete in the American Couples Series events on that lake(s).

12.   SAFETY: Safety is paramount and anglers must recognize that; Fishing from an open boat in itself is inherently dangerous, and as a result American Bass Anglers seeks to limit those hazards with reasonable safety rules.

i.)     Safe boat conduct and speed limits must be observed at all times by competitors.  During official practice and competition, competitors must wear a US Coast Guard-approved chest-type life preserver and must be worn at all times while the combustion engine is in gear.  Contestants under 14 years of age must wear a PFD during tournament hours while in the boat.  This life preserver must also be strapped, snapped or zippered securely and maintained in that condition until the combustion engine is no longer in gear.  Violation of this rule shall be reason for disqualification.   “Fanny Pack” preservers are not allowed.  In the event a boat is being towed, all anglers in the towed boat must wear a life preserver.

ii.)    Tournament officials may delay, shorten, restrict tournament waters or cancel the start of an official tournament day because of bad weather or other factors that would endanger the safety of the competitors. 

iii.)   ABA reserves the right to impose boat speed limits during any or all tournaments.  The decision to impose a speed limit, the area covered by the speed limit and/or the actual speed limit shall be left exclusively to the discretion of the tournament director.  

iv.)   In the event of an emergency, competitors should call 911 immediately and then notify tournament officials.  Competitors are allowed to leave the boat and seek safe shelter in bad weather when danger may be imminent, at which time all fishing must cease. 

13.   BOAT CHECK: All boats will be checked for safety equipment and all live-wells check to insure adequate aeration is available for a limit of bass.  Tournament Director will establish boat check procedures and location.

14.   TACKLE AND EQUIPMENT: The use of a landing net is allowed.  The use of grippers in landing bass is prohibited.  Only artificial lures may be used.  Alabama Rig/Umbrella Rigs are prohibited.  No “live bait” or “prepared bait” will be permitted during official practice and competition, with the exception of pork strips or rinds.  Only one casting, spin casting or spinning rod (8 foot maximum length from butt of handle to rod tip) and reel may be used by a competitor at any one time.  All bass must be caught live and in a conventional sporting manner.  When visually fishing for bedding bass, bass must be hooked inside the mouth.

15.   HORSEPOWER REGULATIONS: Maximum horsepower for all outboard motorboats used in official tournament practice and in tournament competition will be 250 HP.  Horsepower cannot exceed the limitations set by the U.S. Coast Guard or the manufacturer’s rating plate or the maximum horsepower set by ABA.  In the event there is reason to suspect the horsepower is exceeded, competitor agrees to submit their boat and outboard motor used in the tournament, to an inspection by factory-trained personnel. Changing or altering standard factory parts of a competitor's engine to increase the horsepower over the factory horsepower rating is forbidden, and will result in disqualification.  

16.   BOAT AND MOTOR: During official practice and competition all boats must be equipped with an operational and approved type of ignition kill switch and single lanyard.  Lanyard must be attached to the driver's body any time the combustion engine is in gear and driver must be in the driver's seat in full control of the boat.  Fishing boats that are less than 16 feet in length may not be used.  Any raised platforms or decks cannot be higher than the gunnels of the boat.  Fishing while standing on the outboard motor or boat seats is not allowed.  An electric trolling motor may be used for slow maneuvering; however, trolling as a method of fishing is prohibited.  All bladder tanks and any other type of auxiliary gas tanks that are not installed by the boat manufacturer are prohibited.  Boats that do not have factory-installed gas tanks are restricted to a maximum of 18 gallons of gasoline in tanks, properly secured or strapped, and meet U.S. Coast Guard regulations.  No portable gas tanks or containers capable of holding gasoline can be placed anywhere on tournament waters or shoreline for use by any tournament competitor.  No “barges” or similar craft or “stick steering boats will not be permitted.

17.   BASIC BOAT EQUIPMENT: During official practice and competition every boat must have all required US Coast Guard safety equipment.  During competition every boat must have live-well space, properly aerated, to adequately maintain alive a limit catch of bass.  Tournament officials shall have the sole responsibility for determining whether aeration and capacity is proper and adequate. 

18.   BOAT IDENTIFICATION: Prior to each day's start, each boat will be given an inspection check by a tournament official.  Boats will be given a launch numbered card which must be displayed upon request of tournament officials and must remain with the boat until turned in at the check-in.

19.   PERMITTED FISHING LOCATIONS: Tournament waters and off limits areas shall be established by the Tournament Director for each tournament.  Specifically any water within boundaries posted “Off-Limits” or “No Fishing” by state or federal agencies as well as the live-bass-release area established by the Tournament Director will be OFF-LIMITS and announced at the Tournament Briefing.  Only that water open to all public fishing will be considered tournament waters.  All angling must be done from the boat. 

20.   OFFICIAL CHECKPOINT: There shall be only one official point for check-out in the morning and check-in in the afternoon.  These points shall be designated at the tournament briefing.  At the time of check-out, all competitors and their boats shall be in full conformity with all rules set forth by the Tournament Director.  At check-in, all boats shall identify themselves by means of the numbers described herein, all fishing must cease and proceed immediately to the designated weigh-in area.  Angler’s not weighing bass may trailer their boat.

21.   TOURNAMENT HOURS: Official start and weigh-in times for each flight will be announced at the pre-tournament briefing.  Our best effort will be given to allow at least 8 hours fishing time. In the case of adverse weather conditions the tournament may be delayed and/or hours cut short for safety reasons. 

22.   SCORING: Tournament standings, auxiliary awards and final winners shall be determined by the pounds-and-hundredths weight of each competitor's catch during the competition days of the tournament.  Only Largemouth, Smallmouth, Spotted or Redeye bass will be weighed.  The limit for each team shall be 5 fish of the above species and varieties per day.  The official length for bass shall be established by the Tournament Director.  Culling must be performed immediately upon catching a sixth fish.  In the event tournament officials observe more than the allowable limit is in boat or at weigh-in, tournament officials will cull beginning with the largest fish.  Only bass measuring the official length or more on the longest straight line, shall be weighed.  Short fish will accrue a penalty of 1 pound and that bass will not be weighed.  Any bass that appears to have been mangled, mashed, mauled or otherwise altered will be weighed only at the discretion of tournament officials.  Once a competitor's catch is verified by, no additional fish may be added to the catch.  Placing bass on a stringer is prohibited, however culling tags or clips may be used.  In the event of a mechanical failure (boat is inoperable) anglers may have their catch counted by one of the following methods ONLY: 1) Boat is towed to the weigh-in site by another boat; 2) One partner may take both anglers catches (clearly marked) and board another competitors’ boat only for a ride to weigh-in.   A team must not allow any bass caught by them to be counted on the score by another team.  Mechanical failures do not extend established weigh-in times.

23.   CATCH AND RELEASE: CULLING OF DEAD BASS IS PROHIBITED. A penalty of 8 ounces (.50 pounds) per dead fish will be assessed and deducted from the day’s total weight.  In the event the anglers' big fish is dead, a penalty of 8 ounces (.50 pounds) will be deducted from the big fish total weight.  The Tournament Director will have sole authority for assessing dead fish penalties.  For fish care, ABA only recommends the use of TH Marine G-JUICE U2 Pro Formula. 

24.   LATE PENALTY: Competitors who are not in the official checkpoint area as described in Rule 17 at the appointed time shall be penalized at the rate of one (1) pound for each minute.  Late penalty will be deducted from the total weight of their catch that day, including any weight to be counted toward a “big bass award”.  No weight will be awarded if the net weight after penalties is zero or less.  Any competitor more than 15 minutes late will lose all credit for that day's catch.  Exact starting and check-in times will be announced at the Tournament Briefing..

25.   TIEBREAKERS: Ties will be broken using the following criteria:

i.)     Largest number of legal fished weighed.

ii.)    Largest number of legal live fish weighed. 

iii.)   Largest bass weighed

iv.)   If the tie is not broken by applying the foregoing procedures, place monies will be split evenly, and place points will be awarded accordingly.  Other ties will be will be awarded duplicate points and monies divided.  Event winners’ tiebreaker may result in a fish-off.

v.)    Yearend Divisional point's tiebreaker will be the total weights for the angler from his divisions' yearly events.

26.   TRANSFERS/REFUNDS: Entry fees may be transferred or refunded provided American Bass Anglers, Inc. receives notification prior to entry deadline.  Those entries on the waiting list that are not accepted into the tournament will receive a full refund after the tournament.  There will be no charge for transfers, however, all other refunds will be assessed a $20 fee.

27.   POINT SYSTEM: Points are accessed on a 200 point scale based on a full field with 200 points awarded to the first place team.  Maximum points are awarded for a minimum of 20 Teams.  For tournaments with less than 20 teams, 1 point per team short of the minimum will be deducted from the total points available.  Points will be awarded in 1 point decreasing increments depending on place of finish (i.e. 1st-200, 2nd-199, etc.).  No team weighing a fish in the tournament will receive less than 75 points regardless of place of finish.  All teams not weighing fish will receive 50 show points.  A perfect score after 5 district team events is 1000 points.

28.   COUPLES CHAMPIONSHIP: The top 200 teams nationally (based on points) will be invited to compete in the American Couples Series Championship.  Qualification requires teams; must have fished in three divisional events.  The winning team will be invited to compete in the no entry fee 2016 Ray Scott Championship to compete for over $100,000 in cash and prizes.  The Championship location, date, and rules will be published on www.abacouples.com

29.   CONTINGENCY PROGRAMS: These are sponsor based programs developed to reward competitors based on a predefined set of criteria.  Participation in contingency programs is at the anglers' discretion.  Should an angler elect not to participate in a sponsor contingency program, the angler will be excluded from any benefits, such as prize purse, or qualification for supplemental tournament competitions associated with the respective contingency program.

30.   TAXES: Where and when state laws require income taxes be paid on cash awards to non-residents, the taxes may be automatically deducted prior to the awards being presented to the winners.  Anglers are responsible for all applicable taxes and rules on both cash and merchandise awards.

31.   WAIVER AND RELEASE: As a condition of participation in each tournament, competitors must execute a waiver, release of liability, and a name and likeness release.