TOLEDO, Ohio — Lake Erie is part of the attraction to Ohio. It brings in an estimated $1 billion to the economy. This weekend, the lake was the scene of a fishing tournament with anglers from all over the world.
The Lake Erie Walleye Trail's official weigh-in at the end of the tournament generated buzz when a contestant questioned the winners. The viral video shows walleye sliced open and lead weights being pulled out of the winning fish, which has sparked outrage in the fishing community.
Other people in the video claimed the two winners, Jake Runyan and Chase Cominsky, have cheated in tournaments before and have essentially stolen the money they've won.
Louis Pawliski is the owner of Krusty Lures, an online-only local fishing lure company, and podcaster covering the sport of fishing. He said participating in the sport costs thousands of dollars in entry fees, travel and equipment, and to see people who appear to be cheating is shameful.
"It ruins the tournament for everybody," Pawliski said. "The tournament director, he's obviously going to take a hit. Everybody's going to have a little bit of a bad taste in their mouth. It stings to see that happen on a pretty big tournament like this. Especially one that's so close to home."
The director of the Lake Erie Walleye Trail disqualified the contestants. The pair is now under investigation by the Department of Natural Resources, which is submitting a report to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office Tuesday, and could be charged with attempted theft, which is a felony.
Pawliski said if the pair has cheated, the way to make things right is to give the money back.
"They can make them pay restitution," Pawliski said. "I think there's definitely jail time for this. I think there's 'fixing of game' laws (being broken), something along those lines. There's a whole slew of things they could get charged for."
Jason Fischer, the director of the Lake Erie Walleye Trail, was live on Facebook Monday night and said the incident was the worst case of cheating he'd seen in competitive sports. He also announced his intent to implement new weigh-in protocols at future tournaments.