An Ohio man and another from Pennsylvania have been denounced as cheaters after a scandal erupted at the Lake Erie Walleye Trail closing event in Cleveland on Friday.
Jacob Runyan of Cleveland and Chase Cominsky of Hermitage, Pennsylvania were sent to weigh the tournament after tournament director Jacob Fischer cut the fish caught by the two men and found lead weights.
A short video posted to YouTube shows the moment the fish was cut up and the weights discovered amid very angry outbursts.
A more complete and very uncensored video showing the anger of the other competitors when the weights and fillets of other fish were discovered was posted on Reddit.
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“You can hear the utter outrage of the local people…they yelled at these guys, demanding answers and even threatened to call the police. Runyon was asked on camera if he had anything to say – but he said nothing and just watched,” TMZ reported.
WARNING: The following video contains graphic language that some viewers may find disturbing.
Commercial fisherman caught cheating at Lake Erie Walleye Tournament pic.twitter.com/4Oc7tmfGAC
— Captain Jim James (@JimJame74888138) October 1, 2022
“Disgusted guys and gals, I’m sorry I let you down for so long and I’m glad I caught a cheat in YOUR LEWT at the same time,” tournament director Jason Fischer wrote on the Facebook page of the Lake Erie Walleye Path.
“I hope you now know that I mean it when I say, ‘You built this LEWT and I will defend its integrity at all costs.’ You all deserve the best,” he wrote.
The fish were inspected because they “looked smaller” than their weight, Fischer said, according to Cleveland’s WOIO-TV.
Matt Markey, writing for Toledo Blade, commented while covering the scandal, noting that weights were found in more than one fish.
“The duo had apparently, allegedly and obviously, dropped these items down the throats of their ‘fang’ to add weight and thereby improve their standing in the tournament,” Markey explained.
Fischer, Markey wrote, “thrown her out of the tournament in a gesture reminiscent of the home plate umpire who threw out former New York Yankees manager Billy Martin.”
Serious controversy in the pro fishing tournament as multiple winners stuffed lead weights and other fish fillets into their fish to have the heaviest catch and win hundreds of thousands of prizes. pic.twitter.com/Sxqeo2XC0K
– Billy (@Billyhottakes) October 1, 2022
The two who bounced off the event were leading the tournament at the time. They have also won previous tournaments, making it uncertain whether previous wins could be forfeited.
Markey noted that the two men at the center of the scandal were denied a $100,000 prize money last year after tournament officials said a man failed a polygraph.
Runyon, he noted, insisted he was innocent at the 2021 event and allegedly sued to get the money.
Discussing Friday’s event, Markey noted, “Though it’s moving at a snail’s pace, justice is being served. If guilty as charged, these two will lose everything since their credibility is already in the dustbin. Some will say that even imprisonment is not an appropriate punishment.”
“My concern at this point is with tournament walleye fishing and the hundreds of good guys who have always played by the rules, followed the guidelines and shown nothing but character at every fishing event. A mess like this slanders everyone associated with tournament fishing on Lake Erie Walleye and that is remarkably unfair,” he wrote.
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