By now, you’ve probably heard about the Ohio walleye tournament that set the professional fishing world on fire over the weekend. If you haven’t, here are the details: Two successful pros from the Lake Erie fishing district are in hot water after they cheated at a weigh-in and were caught red-handed in front of a crowd of angry spectators and other tournaments. fishermen. The whole ordeal has been covered by such national media as New York TimesCBS and Washington Post– just to name a few. F&S got exclusive video footage from a kayak angler who was at the weigh-in when the chaos occurred.
Teammates Jacob Runyon and Chase Cominski were up to $30,000 in prize money and a “Team of the Year Award” when Jason Fischer, director of the Lake Erie Walleye Trail Tournament series, doubted their catch of the day. After asking the anglers to pose for photos with their fish, Fischer called Runyon back to the weigh-in table so he could take another look. Here’s what happened next.
For anyone with sensitive ears, note that the video below is littered with F-bombs.
Fischer made the discovery in dramatic fashion, cutting open the walleye’s belly with a knife and removing several egg-shaped sinkers the pair had stuffed down the fish’s throat. By the time he had finished examining their catch, he had pulled out a total of ten lead weights and several fillets of fish.
According to tournament angler Chuck Earls, who competed in the event from a kayak and participated in the weigh-in, both Cominski and Runyon have been suspected of cheating before. Earls is a Lake Erie kayak fishing guide and the creator of the Lake Erie Walleye Trail Kayak Fishing Division.
He said Cominski was disqualified from a fall wall tournament last year after a failed polygraph test. “Earlier this year, someone warned me about them and said they’d heard they were stuffing the worms into the fish before they were weighed,” says Earls. He suspects the men added the fish fillets to mask the unnatural look, feel and sound of the bullet. “Out of five fish, they had eight kilograms of lead,” he says. “I think the wall fillets were probably to keep the lead from snapping, or maybe to keep the fish from throwing it up.”
Cominski and Runyon eventually left the weigh-in stage, but Earls says they didn’t go quietly. “They were flipping us all over as they drove away,” he says. “They showed no remorse. Some of the other guys got ripped off a $130,000 fishing boat and were spending $300 to $400 on gas alone to fish this tournament. So I can see where all the emotions [in the video] came from.”
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After the weigh-in chaos died down and the rightful winners claimed their prize money, Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) officials showed up to investigate the incident. In an official statement given F&S via email, ODNR public information officer Stephanie O’Grady said officers collected evidence and are now preparing a report for the Cuyahoga County District Attorney’s Office. No further comment was made due to the ongoing investigation.
Earls says he hopes Runyon and Cominski’s misdeeds don’t completely overshadow the community-oriented nature of the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament series. “After they left, we came together and finished the event properly,” he says. “There is always a silver lining. I think this will bring us closer as a community and a league. And maybe it will bring about some changes in the tournament world that will prevent this kind of cheating in the future.”