Two fishermen in Ohio were caught red-handed having put lead weights into the walleye they caught in an effort to win a fishing tournament, the discovery causing a mob of tournament anglers to react angrily.
The incident occurred Friday in Cleveland at the weigh-in of the Lake Erie Walleye Trail event, the last one of the 2022 season, as reported by the The Blade.
Evidence appears to suggest that Jacob Runyan of Cleveland and Chase Cominsky of Hermitage, Pa.—winners of past walleye tournaments—have cheated before.
In this case, video shows the walleye being weighed on stage and tournament director Jason Fischer declaring the duo as the new leaders with 33.91 pounds, overtaking the 16-plus pounds that had been leading.
Minutes later near the stage, and with Runyan watching, Fischer is seen cutting into one of the walleyes and producing a large lead weight. He held it up in the air and declared loud and clear, “We got weights in fish!”
The fishermen who had been milling about nearby immediately congregated around Runyan (Cominsky was onsite nearby) and began assailing him with expletives and chastising him, as Fischer cut into other fish, discovering more weights. Online commenters chimed in with their disgust as well.
Video of the scene was captured by an angler and was subsequently posted on YouTube (strong warning for language):
After the weights and walleye fillets were removed from the fish, Fischer turned to Runyan and asked, “Do you have anything to say Jake? You got anything to say?”
Runyan said nothing; he just stared down at the fish. He declined comment to The Blade, and Cominsky was unreachable for comment.
The Blade reported that police officers arrived on the scene and “likely saved” the pair from the angry mob.
Legal experts told The Blade that the duo’s “apparent cheating…constitutes fraud and is a felony.”
Runyan and Cominsky had already collected first-place prizes and sizeable amounts of money in several LEWT events, including last year’s season-sending championship.
They took “top money” in this past spring’s Rossford Walleye Roundup, and received a huge payout in the 2021 Walleye Slam, The Blade reported.
They also were in line to win more than $100,000 in the finish of last year’s Lake Erie Fall Brawl in which the duo weighed in the apparent top catch, but they were disqualified after one of them failed a polygraph test, typically administered at big-money events.
Runyan went to great lengths to proclaim, repeatedly, that they were innocent [at the Lake Erie Brawl] and had caught their fish by following all of the rules. He secured legal counsel and has been trying to sue the Brawl to claim their so-called winnings.
After the pair were awarded the first-place money in the Rossford event, several other competitors shared, off the record, their suspicions that something shady had taken place. Other anglers claimed that Runyan and Cominsky’s fish “looked old,” like these walleye had been caught prior to the start of the event and stashed in a live well.
Adding fuel to that charge was the additional factoid, laid out by several competitors in the event, that Runyan and Cominsky declined to donate their catch to local food banks, as most of the tournament fishermen did.
“Every penny and prize he has ever won needs to be paid back,” one commenter wrote on the YouTube post showing the tournament weigh-in of the fish and the initial discovery (at the 14:40 mark).
Many fishermen on the LEWT Facebook page were applauding Fischer for his actions in cutting open and checking the fish, though it was unclear what prompted him to do so.
The fishermen undoubtedly will soon be facing legal challenges.
“Their judgment day is coming,” wrote The Blade’s Matt Markey.