A viral video has taken the fishing community by storm and lit social media ablaze. Seen is an angry mob of fishing competitors turn irate on another angler, Jacob Runyan the supposed “winner” at the Lake Erie Walleye Tour event this weekend in Cleveland, Ohio. Beware of language in the video.
Runyan and his teammate Chase Cominsky had a 5 fish walleye bag weighing in at nearly 34 pounds. This had many in disbelief with some saying “No way!” Jason Fischer the tournament director was suspicious as he estimated the 5 fish to total 20 pounds- 4 pounds each. While inspecting one of the fish, its stomach bulging, he felt something hard and unnatural.
This led to Fischer grabbing his knife and cutting the stomach open of the first fish and out came an egg size lead sinker as Runyan looked on.
Fischer shouted “We’ve got weights in fish” prompting bystanders to swarm over in rage. The crowd demanded that the police be called and accused them of theft, leaving many questioning how many times they have done this in other tournaments.
Fischer proceeded to cut open all of the fish in front of the crowd as evidence that they had cheated.
All in all, there were 10 lead weights, totaling 8 pounds. There were also other fileted walleye- four filetes- and a reported set of pliers. The duo who would have won first place and nearly $30,000 were immediately disqualified. Fischer talked about the situation on the Bigwater Podcast.
“I’m fairly accurate with my weights … I see a lot of fish go across the scales … I’m usually within a pound or so. So I’m watching them put their fish in the basket and I’m thinking there’s a 4 pounder and I’m thinking okay this is a 20-plus pound bag. You know you have a 4 pound average. You got 5 fish. That’s 20 pounds. You know if it’s a 4.2 or a 4.3 you’re going to go over 20 pounds. So I’m expecting that. And the scale jumps to like 33.9 almost a 34 pound bag. And to me that’s better than 6- or 6 1/4-pound average. You’re almost looking at a 7-pound average to get to 35 pounds. I’m just like there’s just no way. There’s zero chance that those fish weighed that.”
Thankfully the crowd did not become violent. Fischer can be heard telling the crowd “ I don’t want anyone to touch these guys.”
Evidence was turned over to the local authorities and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. As there is an ongoing investigation a spokesperson said there would be no comment.
Reports from the Toledo Blade state that the duo had been disqualified from another Lake Erie Walleye Trail event in 2021. But Runyan told the Blade that they had in fact passed a second polygraph test.
Fischer said that the two who had won previously at his events passed voice stress and polygraph tests, which is common practice for winners. Also mentioning that an observer was on their boat in a previous competition.
Many online have pointed out that Runyan and Cominsky could face legal charges for fraud. In an online post and comment states that the criminal offense they committed was “Attempting to fraudulently obtain earnings from a contest.” Others have suggested their fishing licenses be taken away and other charges from DNR. While others have noted that their sponsors could have a legal case made against them for misrepresentation opening up a lawsuit.
Hopefully this moment will make other cheaters think twice.
As this video brings a black eye to the sport, don’t let this overshadow the great things the sport is doing. Fischer highlighted the good things that are happening in the sport in his official statement regarding the situation. These anglers give a lot of time and money back to their communities. Raising money for charities, taking veterans out fishing and teaching the younger generation. They support local tackle shops earlier and later in the season than the average fisherman, and help support the local economy in other ways such as gas stations, hotels and restaurants.
We personally know tournament angler Curtis Cronkwright who gives back to his local youth Bass Masters team. Teaching and passing the love and passion for fishing on to the next generation. One of his team members Anthony Romanelli won the Ontario High School Championships.