TYLER, Texas (Legal Newsline) – A company that sponsors a professional fishing team says the 2015 season was fixed to have a rival win Angler Team of the Year, while the defendants are asking a federal judge to toss the lawsuit.
Chicky Tackle filed its lawsuit in December in Rains County District Court in Texas, alleging Mike Vallentine and the Crappie Masters series wrongfully awarded first place to another team in 2015. The defendants have removed the case to Texas federal court in Tyler.
In the complaint, Chicky Tackle states that the Johnson Fishing Team, comprised of Scott and Billy Williams, was assisted by Vallentine and his associates. The help landed the Johnson team first place as Angler Team of the Year in the annual Crappie Masters series of fishing tournaments, it alleges.
Chicky Tackle's interest in the event involves the team it sponsored - the Rockport Rattler Team of Whitey Outlaw and Mike Parrot.
“As an example of defendant's fraudulent conduct, in January 2015 at the St. John's River One-Day Tournament, the Lucas Oil Team of Matt Morgan and Kent Watson witnessed the Johnson fishing team boat and defendant Vallentine's boat literally touching approximately 150-200 yards off in the distance," the lawsuit says.
"Matt Morgan witnessed Scott Williams returning two batteries to defendant Valentine at the weigh-in trailer and heard Scott Williams thank defendant Vallentine for use of the batteries. The loaning of the batteries by defendant Valentine violated tournament rules."
As a result of these actions, according to Chicky Tackle's filing, the Williams team tied for second, a win that helped it secure the Angler Team of the Year award.
Other witnesses to alleged fraudulent incidences were Parrott and Outlaw, the members of Chicky Tackle's sponsored team who claim they saw the Williams team being shown around Stumphole Woods by an agent of Vallentine, a day before the competition at the Santee Lake Marion Tournament.
“Mr. Sturkey's showing the Johnson Fishing Team locations to fish violated tournament rules and allowed the Johnson Fishing Team to unfairly earn points toward the Angler Team of the Year Award. Despite the violation being quite public, defendants did nothing to correct the impropriety or adjust award points,” the complaint stated.
“As a result of the fraud, plaintiff lost valuable business and sponsorships in an amount exceeding $50,000 in actual damages.”
Chicky Tackle has also requested a recalculation of the tournament scores and to have Chicky Tackle declared the winner of the 2015 Angler of the Year award.
The complaint alleges several other rules violations, such as:
-Crappie Masters staff showing the Johnson Fishing Team where to fish at the March 2015 Lake Greenwood tournament;
-Vallentine escorting the Johnson Fishing Team to a boat ramp to show it where to fish at the August 2014 Turman Lake tournament; and
-The Johnson Fishing Team telling a competitor who was in 70th place to interfere with the plaintiffs during the entire second day of the Grenada Lake tournament.
"As a result of the pattern of contest fraud and cover up by Defendants, the Johnson Fishing Team won the 2015 Angler Team of the Year Award by a single point over Plaintiff, which had won the prior two years," the lawsuit says.
However, the defendants responded to the allegations by filing a motion to dismiss on Feb. 16. They claim that the complaint “fails to allege facts showing that plaintiff has standing to assert this action on behalf of the fishermen it sponsors,” according to the motion.
“The complaint also fails to allege any facts plausibly showing that Chicky Tackle has suffered any damages. It merely asks that court to declare the Chicky Tackle sponsored team to be awarded first place in the Crappie Masters’ 2015 Angler Team of the Year race rather than the team sponsored by Johnson Fishing Tackle.”
They also assert that the complaint did not prove that the defendants had any duty to the plaintiff and refuted that the Texas courts had the jurisdiction over the defendants.
Vallentine is identified a resident of Missouri and therefore, the motion claims, the Texas court has no jurisdiction over him.
“He is the president and principal owner of Crappie Masters, which operates out of his home in Clinton,” the motion stated.
“Mr. Vallentine’s assisting in a one-day fishing contest in Texas on four different occasions does not constitute continuous and systematic contacts with Texas.”