A dramatic tale unfolded at the conclusion of the Cleveland-based 2022 Lake Erie Walleye Trail Championship as two fishermen, who thought they won the tournament, were exposed as low-down, dirty cheaters.
Pennsylvania native Chase Cominsky and Jake Runyon from Ohio, pulled up to weigh their catch, hoping to secure yet another top prize — worth thousands of dollars in cash and gear — at the close of the popular annual fishing tournament. Their total weight, which was taken from their five heaviest fish, came out to about 33 lbs.
The crowd, which included other competitors and onlookers, gathered around the judges as the duo’s fish were officially weighed. It didn’t take long for the onlookers to become suspicious when the combined weight of Cominsky and Runyon’s fish was double that of their closest competitor.
The disparity in weights, plus the crowd’s growing anger, prompted one of the judges to authorize that the duo’s fish be opened up to see if they had been stuffed. And stuffed they were. The fish were loaded with lead weights and pieces of stripped flesh from other fish, all to bump up the total weight and secure a victory, including the top prize purse of $5,000.
Those watching erupted, understandably, in fierce anger as the judge pulled weight after weight out of the bellies of the walleye fish. Runyon was standing by the judge as the weights were exposed, and he remained silent the entire time.
“You’re out of here,” yelled LEWT tournament director Jason Fischer, like a ticked-off baseball umpire.
Serious Controversy in Pro fishing tournament as multiple-time winners caught stuffing lead weights and other fish filets in their fish to have the heaviest catch to win hundreds of thousands in prizes. pic.twitter.com/Sxqeo2XC0K
— Billy (@Billyhottakes) October 1, 2022
The Daily Mail noted:
The pair have now been called out as ‘cheaters’ on the Lake Erie Walleye Trail Championship official Facebook event page and will be banned from all future tournaments.
‘Disgusted guys and gals, I’m sorry for letting you down for so long and I’m glad I caught cheating taking place in YOUR LEWT at the same time.
‘I can’t think enough to post results, but congrats Tsczyko and French and TOY Hendricks and Ulmer. Same goes to the yak and open winners. I hope you know now that when I say “you built this LEWT and I will defend its integrity at all costs”, I mean it.’
It gets worse, as Runyon and his partner have a shady past on the pro fishing circuit, having been accused of cheating multiple times. It has happened often enough that Runyon has obtained legal counsel in past instances of being accused so that he and his partner could try to claim their winnings. The two men don’t appear to be “reel” smart — if you know what I’m sayin’.
The Daily Mail added:
At another event, the Rossford Walleye Roundup in Ohio, several competitors shared their suspicions that the pair’s fish ‘looked old’ and may have been stashed away prior to the start of the event.
Following the event, the pair decided not to donate their catch to a local food bank as most of the other fisherman proceeded to do.
The organizers of these previous tournaments may now be weighing up the options of taking legal action against the pair for alleged fraud and deceptive practices.
One of the competitors, angry about the situation, asked: “Don’t we need to file a police report?”
It’s now a valid question, as the two seemingly have a sketchy past and have probably cheated their way to victories, earning thousands of dollars in the process, which could amount to fraud, if proven.
WKYC reported that a man called Adam VanHo, an avid fisherman and a defense attorney, said he wouldn’t be surprised to see criminal charges come out of the situation.
“We call it ‘theft by deception,'” VanHo explained, “which essentially is [when] you tried to steal something by making what you’re turning over different.”