Jacob Runyan Chase Cominsky with their weight-stuffed walleye right before their cheating scandal

The Walleye Fishing Tournament Cheaters Were Sentenced to Jail Time. Is It Enough?

Anglers caught stuffing tournament walleye in 2022 plead guilty to felony charges. But will they be allowed to compete again?

You might remember the viral video that surfaced last October showing officials cutting open tournament-winning walleye—and pulling out weights from every single one. Now, the two anglers who were caught having stuffed their haul with weights and fillets at the Lake Erie Walleye tournament have been sentenced for their crimes: 10 days in jail and 1.5 years of probation.

On May 11, 2023, Jacob Runyan, 43, of Ashtabula, Ohio, and Chase Cominsky, 36, of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, pled guilty to felony charges of cheating and a misdemeanor count of illegal animal ownership. The two were sentenced to jailtime, probation, and a $2500 fine. There's no word yet if they'll receive further repercussions in the fishing community, like a lifetime ban that many are calling for.

Late last September, Rubyan and Cominsky competed in the Lake Erie Walleye tournament, where the average lake walleye that time of year weighed about four to five pounds and the best single catch of the day so far had been a 7.23 pound-er. So when Rubyan and Cominsky set fish after fish on the scale that were consistently clocking in around 8 pounds each, tournament director Jason Fisher was suspicious.

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When officials checked further, they found eight 12-ounce led weights and two 8-ounce weights sealed in the walleye.

Weights used to stuff fish in Walleye Tournament Cheating Scandal in Lake Erie


The result was caught on a now-viral video, filled with expletives and anger as the anglers were discovered to be cheaters. The video shows officials cut into each walleye and pulled out both weights as well as walleye fillets that had come from different fish.

Rubyan and Cominsky were immediately disqualified, of course, and shortly after, authorities seized Cominsky's boat, a Ranger Pro Fisherman fiberglass, and trailer, both used in the tournament.

The district attorney in Mercer County said at the time there had been a lot of rumors over the years of general cheating in tournaments, and the search warrant affidavit served for the pair's arrest stated that Runyan and Cominsky in particular have been investigated in the past for cheating at Toledo's Rossford Walleye Roundup Tournament. They were not charged on that incident, but they were disqualified from a separate Fall Brawl tournament after one of them failed a polygraph test, costing them some $100,000 in prize money.

Overall, the pair has won more than $306,000 from victories at fishing tournaments in Ohio alone.

At yesterday's sentencing, after the pair were sentenced to their 1.5 weeks in jail and a $2,500 fine—quite measly compared to not just their compounded tournament winnings but also the $29,000 they would've won at Lake Erie had they not gotten caught—Runyan said stuffing the walleye at Lake Erie was "the most ignorant decision I've ever made in my life" as he apologized to the court and "to everybody."

The pair's sentencing should satisfy some of the voices that can be heard in that viral video where people can be heard yelling, "You should be in jail!"

But many in the fishing community feel like jail time and a fine isn't retribution enough. Defense attorney in the case, Gregory Gentile, did point out that the social repercussions were going to be far greater, calling out that there's "seemingly endless public humiliation for these guys" and adding, "These guys are going to have to suffer this forever; when they go on a date, when they find a job. When they get Googled, this case is gonna show up forever."

So far, there's no word on if there will be any further consequences from fishing tournament officials. Many in the fishing community believe the pair should have at least some sort of ban from future tournaments, if not a lifetime ban.

Read More: How Officials Are Combating Cheating in Tournament Fishing