Editor's note: This article was originally published on October 3, 2022. It was updated after one of the fisherman's boats was seized by law enforcement.
After two anglers were caught cheating during this year's Lake Erie Walleye tournament, one of the men's boats was seized by law enforcement for an investigation. A viral video showed Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky getting discovered by tournament director Jason Fischer putting lead weights inside the walleyes they submitted. They were immediately disqualified, and many called for the duo to be held accountable for crimes of fraud and theft. And now, authorities have taken "the Ranger Pro Fisherman fiberglass boat and a trailer belonging to Chase Cominsky," because it was "necessary to preserve them as evidence of criminal violations and because they are subject to forfeiture," according to Cleveland.com
A detective under Mercer County, Pennsylvania, district attorney Peter Acker worked with Ohio Department of Natural Resources investigators to seize Cominsky's boat for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley, the officer examining the fraudulent act. The five fish submitted by Runyan and Cominsky held eight 12-ounce lead weights and two eight-ounce weights in the walleye. But Acker said, "There have been a lot of rumors over the years, not just of these guys, but of cheating in tournaments."
According to the search warrant affidavit, Runyan and Cominsky have been investigated in the past for cheating at Toledo's Rossford Walleye Roundup Tournament by Rossford police. The law officials turned the case over to the prosecutor, who then declined to charge the accused. But Cominsky's boat was seized because it was, "the below-described fishing boat and trailed to participate in the 30 September 2022 fishing tournament sponsored by Lake Erie Walleye Trail." And as of now, no criminal charges have filed.
Original Story Below
Over the weekend, two anglers were exposed for cheating during the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament. In a now-viral video, Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky were disqualified after tournament director Jason Fischer found several 12-ounce lead weights inside one of the walleyes the pair submitted. Fischer told the Sharon Herald that Lake Erie walleye weigh around four to five pounds in late September, but the fish Runyan and Cominsky caught weighed 7.9 pounds. Here's what you need to know about the cheating scandal.
The expletive-laden video initially caught the attention of anglers, both competitive and not, when it was posted online after the tournament's weigh in. WARNING: Strong language used throughout the video, viewer discretion is advised.
You can see a longer, fuller version of the incident here.
Reports stated that tournament officials are in contact with law enforcement, and a spokesperson from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources told CNN they have collected evidence Friday and the DNR is preparing a report for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office.
The Pair Has Been Disqualified Before
Runyon and Cominsky have been suspected of cheating in the past because of how often they've been able to win tournaments with luxury prizes that include expensive fishing boats and tens of thousands of dollars, according to Cleveland.com. They've won more than $306,000 from their victories in Ohio alone. In 2021, they were disqualified from the Fall Brawl tournament after one of them failed a polygraph test. According to the Toledo Blade, it cost them prize money worth $100,000. However, they apparently passed polygraph exams later on and won last year's Walleye Slam. The prizes included cash and a boat.
Lake Erie Walleye Trail's director Jason Fischer is the one who caught Runyan and Cominsky right as he was about to announce them as the winners at the tournament weigh-in. When Fischer discovered that the submitted walleye weighed as much as it did, he told the Sharon Herald that he thought there was no way that was possible. So he cut the fish open to find the two 12-ounce metal weights, to which he's heard exclaiming in the viral video, "We've got weights in the fish!"
Anglers at the tournament were heard in the viral video yelling, "You should be in jail!" and "You should call the cops!" Other anglers everywhere have been calling for the cheating pair to be arrested and held accountable for crimes of fraud and theft because they've been known to win such lavish prizes of previous fishing tournaments. Fellow angler Adam Vanho, who's also an attorney, told WKYC, "We call it theft by deception, which essentially is you tried to steal something by making what you're turning over different."
Fischer told the New York Times, "Everything was turned over to law enforcement."
Runyon and Cominsky Have Yet to Respond
The pair have seemingly disappeared since getting caught. According to the New York Times, they've were unavailable to comment over the weekend. In another video of the incident, Fischer is heard telling Runyon, "Jake, I want you to leave. I don't want anybody to touch these guys," after the crowd erupted from discovering the scandal. Cominsky had already walked to the parking lot and locked himself in his truck. Both of their Facebook pages appear to have been deactivated, despite being vocal and active on their social media pages about their wins prior to the controversy.
Another fellow angler Kenny Morris also told WKYC, "I'm angered about it. I'm sad about it. I've known Chase and I've known Jake, and I'm no longer speaking with them. They're blocked from me."