Two of the top money-winning tournament walleye fishermen in recent memory have seemingly been caught red-handed cheating in a big dollar event on Lake Erie by stuffing large lead sinkers in their fish to boost walleye weights and pocket $30,000 in winnings.
On Saturday afternoon, Oct. 1, Chase Cominsky of Hermitage, Pa. and Cleveland’s Jacob Runyan were weighing their two-angler team limit catch of five walleyes at Gordon Park on Cleveland’s Lake Erie waterfront. But Jason Fischer, tournament director of the event, wanted a close inspection of their catch because of the remarkable run of recent walleye tournaments Cominsky and Runyan had racked up.
“I knew right away that something was very wrong with those walleyes,” Fischer told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “When I felt something hard in the belly of their first fish, and their limit of five walleye seemed excessively heavy, at more than 33 pounds, for their length, I called for a fillet knife.”
A cut to a walleye stomach immediately showed a large barrel sinker rolling out, then another and another.
“We’ve got weights in the fish,” said Fischer, who’s a Cleveland area police sergeant.
The crowd witnessing the weigh-in and the revelation of nearly a dozen heavy lead sinkers in the walleyes, immediately went bonkers. Many people were accusing the cheating pair of theft and calling for police intervention.
Sinkers had been wrapped with walleye fillets when stuffed inside the whole fish to help conceal the hard-surface of the lead inside, photos and videos show.
Obscenities were yelled at the two fishermen from other tournament participants and spectators, many of whom were videoing the scene with cell phone cameras. Video footage of the incident has been splashed all over social media, with written stories detailing the event even appearing in the New York Times (NYT).
Fischer told Runyan to leave the area fearing what may have resulted from the increasingly enraged anglers on the scene. Cominsky had already left, locking himself in a vehicle nearby.
Fischer reported to the NYT that he’d contacted Ohio’s DNR about the incident and said, “Everything was turned over to law enforcement.”
Many walleye tournament insiders were increasingly suspect of Cominsky and Runyan as they were consistently winning Lake Erie walleye tournaments. The Toledo Blade reported the cheating pair won three previous Lake Erie Walleye Trail events in June, July and September this year. They also won other walleye tournaments in other locations.
Those tourney wins pocketed the pair many tens of thousands of dollars in cash, plus high-dollar prizes such as boats, motors and trailers, according to tournament director and police sergeant Fischer.
Recovering the ill-begotten tournament cash and prizes from the cheating pair is an uncertain path, but it’s one many tournament participants and anglers are seething with anger about recovering.
Fischer said the pair had passed lie-detector tests following other tournament wins and passed. They also had an observer in their boat in one tourney, according to Fisher.
“If they were able to clear all those hurdles, they’re obviously very good at deceiving people,” he said.