When Jason Fischer saw that the five fish he had estimated to be around four pounds apiece, for a total of 20 pounds, instead weighed in at over 34 pounds, he grew suspicious. On Friday, participants in a fishing contest held in Cleveland expressed scepticism as well. “No way,” one guy replied.
During the inspection of one of the walleye, the director of the competition, Mr. Fischer, who was also known as the Lake Erie Walleye Trail, felt what seemed to be an unnaturally hard item in the fish’s gut. He said, “It’s not like they’re eating rocks,” in response to his question.
Jacob Runyan, who was part of the two-person team that brought the fish to be weighed, watched as he took a knife and began to cut open the fish as he did so. The subsequent events sent shockwaves across the world of competition fishing.
After that, he addressed Mr. Runyan directly as if he were an angry umpire ejecting a disruptive player from the game. “Get the hell out of here!” ” he yelled, interrupting the demand with an obscenity in the middle of it.
According to Mr. Fischer, Mr. Runyan and his partner, Chase Cominsky, would have finished in first place and won a reward of around $30,000 had they not been disqualified when the lead ball — and then many other balls — were found in the fish.
The controversy, which was exposed in The Blade of Toledo, tainted their past victories and made them seem less impressive. According to Mr. Fischer, they were victorious in a number of other competitions as well as all three of the earlier Lake Erie Walleye Trail events that took place this year in June, July, and September. As a result, they took home tens of thousands of dollars.
According to Ross Robertson, a professional fisherman and author who has written extensively about fishing, the increased use of technology and the growing value of prizes in recent years have made fishing a more competitive sport, which in turn encourages anglers to cheat.
According to Mr. Robertson, fishing competitions are plagued by a greater incidence of dishonesty than many anglers realise. He enumerated the numerous methods that people use to accomplish this, including: having friends deliver pre-caught fish to them; fishing in restricted areas; putting fish in cages prior to the competition; stuffing them with ice to add weight during the weigh-in in a way that leaves no trace behind; and fishing in restricted areas.
Mr. Fischer, who is a police sergeant in a suburb of Cleveland, said that he had discussed the incident with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. According to what he claimed, “everything was given over to police enforcement.”
It was unclear to Mr. Fischer what legal options were available to him for recouping the money that had been lost in earlier competitions won by Messrs. Runyan and Cominsky.
He said that the guys had been subjected to voice-stress and polygraph tests for his tournaments, which is a standard method for determining winners of such competitions, and that they had passed both. During one of the prior competitions, according to Mr. Fischer, an observer was also present on their boat.
Mr. Robertson described the event as a “black eye” for the sport and said that he had been contacted by fishermen from all across the nation who were curious about what was going on. But he was also of the opinion that the incident may turn out to be a gift for the sport if it used the opportunity to learn from it.