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Weights in Fish: An Angler's Take On The Cheating Scandal That Rocked Pro Fishing

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Competitive fishing tournaments rarely go viral. But the cheating reported at the recent Lake Erie Walleye Trail in Cleveland was crazy enough to make even those who have never fished in their lifetimes reel in shock (pun intended!).

If you haven’t heard, here’s a quick rundown of what happened:

Anglers Jake Runyan and Chase Cominsky were disqualified from winning a $28,760 prize after their fish were discovered stuffed with lead weights and fish fillets. After the walleyes were split open in front of the crowd, showing the lead balls and fish fillet parts that made the walleye heavier than they actually were, tournament director Jason Fischer yelled, "We got weights in fish!"


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Many fishing fans were understandably enraged, astounded, and frustrated by the situation. Fishing tournaments are fiercely competitive, fetching thousands, and even millions, of dollars in prizes. For the Lake Erie one, it cost $300 just to enter the competition. Aside from the entry fees, some fishing enthusiasts even travel thousands of miles just to participate in these competitions. In the words of Fischer (director of the Lake Erie walleye trail tournament), "Everyone sacrifices so much. For someone to essentially cheat them out of not only money but family time, I can’t believe that they would. "

A more recent update says Jake Runyan and Chase Cominsky have been indicted by a jury for cheating, attempted grand theft, and possessing criminal tools, which could land them in jail for up to a year and $2,500 in fines. They also have a misdemeanor count of unlawful ownership of wild animals for allegedly having raw fish fillets onboard. If convicted, their fishing licenses could be suspended.


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So, what could the Ohio walleye cheating scandal mean for the fishing community?

For starters, it will definitely lead to stiffer tournament rules to safeguard those who join against those who want to rig the system. In some fishing tournaments, for instance, there are rules in place to stop cheating attempts, like having a referee in the boat, using live cameras, or running a metal detector over the fish.

Unless these rules become airtight against cheaters, pro anglers may no longer want to compete in these events for fear that not everyone is playing fair.

Also, because this isn’t the first time Cominsky and Runyan have won fishing competitions in recent years, some are also questioning whether they really won in those other tournaments, or if they also cheated. If they did cheat, it would mean the real winners in those competitions would have lost the prize money (and the honor) they deserved.

Meanwhile, we can continue to expect that tournament cheaters will face heavy penalties, as this will help restore the trust that has been shattered in these competitions.

Of course, there have been a number of fishing controversies in past tournaments and competitions. In some competitions, cheating involves releasing captive fish into the lake, or tying previously-caught big fish to a spot in the lake like a tree stump, then retrieving them for the tournament.

Despite this, fishing tournaments still draw huge crowds year after year. Maybe it’s for the sheer love of the sport or the thrill of competition. One thing's for sure: it certainly won’t do any one of us (anglers or not) any good if cheating scandals keep casting doubt on our catch. What do YOU think of the pro fishing cheating scandal?



Get to Know Sean Frado (@fishingfanatics_NTX)

Sean Frado is an angler located in Fort Worth, Texas who loves “the idea of competition between man and fish.” He hopes to unite the fishing community and encourage outdoor recreation.

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