Two Fishermen Accused Of Cheating In High-Stakes Tourney Face Major Consequences After Pleading Guilty

walleye fishing

iStockphoto / Piter1977

The professional fishing world was rocked by a scandal last Fall. It happened at the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament when an angry mob confronted a duo accused of cheating and stuffing weights inside of the fish to juice the scales.

This wasn’t the first time a high-stakes fishing tournament had been rocked by a cheating scandal.

The 2016 White Marlin Open grand prize of $2.8 million changed hands after a judge declared the initial winners invalid. And two men in Utah were convicted on felony charges for bringing their own bass to a lake in a plot that was straight out of a Carl Hiassen novel.

This Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament scandal, though, made a lot of headlines for several reasons.

Firstly, the duo of Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky has previously been disqualified from the “Fall Brawl” on Lake Erie tournament after one of them failed a polygraph test. That was a huge red flag.

Secondly, they were cheating so egregiously that the fish they caught weighed vastly more than they should’ve and that incited an angry mob at the fishing tournament weigh-in to lob accusations of cheating.

Fast forward to the present day and they’ve both pleaded guilty to cheating and unlawful ownership of wild animals, according to Fox 43.

They’ll now face major consequences over this fishing cheating scandal

What they were accused of, and eventually pled guilty to, is stuffing the walleye fish with 12-ounce, egg-shaped metal sinker weights to discretely make the fish weigh more than they should’ve.

As part of a plea deal, Runyan and Cominsky pleaded guilty to cheating and unlawful ownership of wild animals and agreed to three-year suspensions of their fishing licenses. Cominsky also agreed to give up his bass boat worth $100,000.

Both men are scheduled to be sentenced on May 11. Prosecutors plan to recommend a sentence of six months’ probation and later ask for an expungement of their convictions if they successfully complete their probation, said James Gallagher, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors reportedly agreed to drop the charges of Attempted Grand Theft and Possessing Criminal Tools.

Should they have won the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament last Fall and avoided the fishing cheating scandal, they would have gone home with a $28,000+ grand prize.

If this is at all fascinating to you, I mentioned a Carl Hiassen novel above. The book ‘Double Whammy’ was published in 1989 but it’s a great read for avid fishermen.

The description on Amazon reads:

One early August morning in Harney County, Florida, the body of Robert Clinch is found floating in a lake shortly after taking his boat out to go bass fishing. Private investigator R.J. Decker is hired by sugar cane tycoon Dennis Gault, another bass fisherman, to prove that celebrity fisherman Richard “Dickie” Lockhart, his main rival on the fishing tournament circuit, is a cheat. Decker is a former newspaper photographer who was fired and briefly sent to prison after assaulting a teenager who tried to steal his camera equipment.

Go check out ‘Double Whammy’ if you’re looking for a good read about the weird underbelly of Florida.

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