World

Fishing tournament rocked by lead weight cheating scandal


Something puzzling is going on in the world of competitive fishing.

Winners of nearly $29,000 at an Ohio fishing tournament were disqualified on Friday, after it was discovered their fish was stuffed with lead weights and fish fillets.

Jason Fischer, director of the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament, told CNN he was immediately suspicious when one team’s fish weighed nearly twice what he expected at the Cleveland Championships.

Walleyes in the crate look like they each weigh about 4 pounds, but the total weight suggests they should be at least 7 pounds, he said.

“I think, there is no way,” he said. “I could also hear the crowd grumbling, like ‘no way, no way.’ “

“I can feel the fish physically, I can feel the hard objects inside the fish,” he said.

The moment Fischer discovered the alleged fraud was captured in several viral videos now posted on social media, showing Fischer, surrounded by competitors, wielding a knife. butchered the fish and pulled out what he said was a lead marble. Jacob Runyan, a member of the group of two people accused of cheating, stood silently watching a video that Fischer shared with CNN.

Fischer shouted: “We have fish weight”. The crowd rushed to insult Runyan.

“You just lost everything,” one was heard telling the angler. The video also shows Fischer telling Runyan to leave and telling the crowd not to touch him.

Runyan and his teammate, Chase Cominsky, won the $28,760 prize pool, Fischer told CNN. The prize money at each tournament he hosts comes from the entry fee each angler pays to compete.

Fischer hosts about eight tournaments a year, drawing competitors from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, he said. Competitors face off to see who can achieve the highest total weight for a bucket of five ponies caught in Lake Erie.

Neither Runyan nor Cominsky responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Fischer said league officials are in contact with local authorities.

Stephanie O’Grady, communications and outreach specialist at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, told CNN the department collected evidence Friday and is preparing a report for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.

“As this is an open investigation, we have no further comment at this time,” she wrote in an email to CNN.

Fischer was “absolutely disgusted” to discover the alleged fraud, he said. “This is a family atmosphere,” he said. “We are all proud of this sport.”

“Everybody makes a lot of sacrifices” to get on stage and compete in tournaments, he said.

He added, arranging a big event would waste his family’s precious time. “For someone to basically trick them into not just money but family time, I can’t believe they would.”

Fischer said he knows Runyan and Cominsky from other tournaments, noting that they have won several tournaments before.

But he said they won’t be competing in the Lake Erie Walleye Trail any longer.

“They’ll never be able to fish in my mine,” he said.

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