Chase Cominsky and Jacob Runyan are fishermen accused in a viral video of cheating during the Lake Erie Walleye Trail fishing tournament in Ohio after weights were found in fish. The pair, who appeared to have won the tournament before the discovery, was disqualified. The tournament was held Friday, September 30, 2022.
A post on the Lake Erie Walleye Trail’s Facebook page by director Jason Fischer on Friday said, “Disgusted guys and gals, I’m sorry for letting you down for so long and I’m glad I caught cheating taking place in YOUR LEWT at the same time. … I hope you know now that when I say ‘you built this LEWT and I will defend its integrity at all costs,’ I mean it. You all deserve the best.”
The cheating scandal is being investigated by authorities, Fischer said. Cominsky and Runyan could not be reached for comment by Heavy and haven’t spoken publicly about the controversy.
In a post on Saturday, he wrote, “All LEWT anglers deserve better, I will take time and figure out how I can solidify the integrity of our sport here on Erie. I appreciate all the support the last 24 hours and for the last 4 years. I truly love what WE have built and I will be back next season with some great new ideas. Schedule will be posted soon!”
Here’s what you need to know about accused Lake Erie Walleye Trail fishing tournament cheaters Chase Cominsky and Jacob Runyan:
1. Videos Showing the Fishing Scandal Went Viral on TikTok: ‘We’ve Got Weights in Fish!’
The weigh-in for the fishing tournament was held at Gordon Park in the Cleveland Metroparks on September 30. Video posted online quickly went viral, spreading on social media, including TikTok. There were 30 two-person teams competing in the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament championship in Cleveland Harbor.
Fischer told Cleveland.com, “I knew right away that something was very wrong with those walleye.” A video shows Runyan and Cominsky being celebrated for their apparent win and for taking home “team of the year” honors as Fischer investigates the fish at the edge of the screen.
In the video, Fischer can then be seen cutting open one of the walleye. He yells out to the crowd, “We’ve got weights in fish!” Fischer then yells and pumps his fist toward Runyan, who was standing in front of him watching as the crowd erupts.
In another video, Runyan can be seen watching the fish being cut open as Fischer tells the angler, “Jake, I want you to leave. I don’t want anybody to touch these guys.” Someone in the crowd yells at Runyan, “You should be in jail.” Someone else says, “You should call the cops,” and another says, “Don’t we need to file a police report?”
2. The Tournament’s Director, Who Is a Police Officer, Says Evidence Has Been Turned Over to Law Enforcement
The fishing tournament’s director, Fischer, told The Sharon Herald, that walleye typically caught in Lake Erie in late September weigh 4 to 5 pounds. When the fish caught by Cominsky and Runyan weighed in at 7.9 pounds, Fischer told the newspaper, “I thought, ‘No way.'”
Fischer said he squeezed the fish and felt something hard inside, the newspaper reported. He then cut open the fish and found two 12-ounce metal balls inside, he told The Herald. Fischer said Cominsky and Runyan had been leading the Lake Erie Walleye Tour all season and needed to finish 10th or better to win the title.
Fischer, a police sergeant in Ohio, told The New York Times, “Everything was turned over to law enforcement.” The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office are investigating, The Times reported.
3. Chase Cominsky & Jacob Runyan Were Disqualified in 2021 After One of the Anglers Failed a Post-Event Polygraph Test
Cominsky and Runyan were disqualified from The Fall Brawl fishing tournament in 2021 after one of the anglers failed a polygraph test, The Toledo Blade reported. That disqualification cost them a $100,000 prize. The newspaper reported that both men passed polygraph exams after later events. A Facebook post shows they won a cash prize and a boat at the Walleye Slam in 2021.
Cleveland.com wrote, “It didn’t take much to fire up the weigh-in crowd, many who had suspected Cominsky and Runyan had been cheating regularly to consistently win expensive fishing boats in the Fall Brawl and Walleye Slam fishing derbies in 2021, and tens of thousands of dollars in walleye tournaments. The two had slipped the heavy 12-ounce egg sinkers in their walleye, and padded them with filleted walleye flesh so that the sinkers wouldn’t bump each other and make noise.”
The newspaper reported that Fischer asked Runyan to leave, as he was facing threats from the crowd, and Cominsky had already locked himself in his truck in the parking lot, Cleveland.com wrote.
4. Cominsky Is From Hermitage, Pennsylvania
Cominsky, 35, is from Hermitage, Pennsylvania. According to Cleveland.com, he and Runyan have won more than $306,000 during their run of victories in Ohio area fishing tournaments.
Runyan told Cleveland.com after a tournament win in December 2021, “Chase and I sat down before the tournaments and derbies this year and agreed to fish as a team, and split the winnings. And also the costs, of course, that ranged from entry fees and fuel to boat insurance for Chase’s Ranger boat.”
He posted on WalleyeCentral.com in 2021, “Thank you guys for the support. This is Jake Runyan. Huge win. We have had an amazing year. Chase and I post plenty of info on our Facebook. Yes the taxes aren’t cheap. We are partners and we treat it as such. Again thanks for the support!”
Their Facebook pages appear to have been taken down amid the cheating scandal. When asked if they planned to sell the boat they won, Runyan wrote, “We are still working out details yet but Chase is very versed in selling boats. Everyone does this a little different each year I’m sure.”
Ohio fisherman Kenny Morris 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. If you’re taking a fish that’s going to make you some money, you’re going to need to cut the fish open.”
5. Jake Runyan Lives in Cleveland
Jake Runyan, 41, is from Cleveland. After the Walleye Slam win, Runyan told Cleveland.com, “I knew we would pass the Walleye Slam test. And I knew we had to get legal counsel and fight our disqualification in the Fall Brawl. Our reputation means the world to us and we would never cheat.”
Runyan added, “It wasn’t just the loss of a very expensive boat we had rightfully won. It was having our names drug through the mud, and smeared on social media and among walleye fishermen around the area.”
He told The Toledo Blade after he was disqualified from the Fall Brawl in 2021, “He showed us the report — it was literally flat lines. In his professional opinion, he didn’t see anything that was out of order. But we were not surprised; we knew we would pass. We are going to move forward with legal challenges with the Brawl. My name has been dragged through the mud for too long already.”
Fellow angler Adam VanHo, an attorney, told WKYC, “It’s one thing when you’re sitting at a bar and the fish you say is this big is actually this big. That’s one thing, but these competitions bring people in from all around the country.”
He said with the value of the prizes offered at the tournaments, including boats and thousands of dollars in cash, it can be a crime to cheat. “We call it theft by deception, which essentially is you tried to steal something by making what you’re turning over different,” VanHo told the news station.