Ohio Fishing Tournament Rocked by Cheating Scandal After Weights Found in Winning Catch

A large mouth bass being caught /
A large mouth bass being caught /

File: Getty

A cheating scandal rocked an Ohio fishing tournament operated by the Lake Erie Walleye Trail after winning catches were discovered to have been stuffed with lead weights and fish fillets.

Last Friday, the tournament's director, Jason Fischer, grew suspicious of the fishermen who would have won the tournament when the five fish they caught weighed in at 34 lbs. total, well above Fischer's estimate that they would weigh around 20 lbs., according to The Washington Post.

"It just kind of deflated me, because I just knew it wasn't right," he told the outlet.

A livestream of the weigh-in shared on the tournament's Facebook page shows the two fishermen, Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky, presenting their fish to a scale that read the fish weighed 33.91 lbs. One person in attendance can be heard sarcastically saying "yeah, right" as the weight was displayed on the screen.

Another video of the incident shows Fischer announcing to the crowd that they had discovered "weights in fish" after slicing one open and removing what he said was a lead ball. Immediately after the announcement, dozens of participants angrily confronted one of Runyan and Cominsk's team members

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The anglers would have won $28,760 in prize money from the event, in which teams of fishermen see who can catch the heaviest of five total walleyes from Lake Erie, according to CNN.

The prize money is drawn from entry fees for the tournament, and the alleged cheaters have won several other competitions hosted by Fischer in recent months, according to CNN and The Washington Post.

Lake Erie Walleye Trail representatives did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment on the incident Monday. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which multiple outlets reported is investigating the incident, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for commment.

Wildlife officials collected evidence from the tournament's site in Cleveland and are working on a report for the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, prosecutor's office, according to The Washington Post.

Fischer indicated on Facebook Monday that he will share a full statement during a livestream later that night.

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"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 can't think enough to post results, but congrats Tsczyko and French and TOY Hendricks and Ulmer," he wrote in a separate post on Saturday. "Same goes to the yak and open winners. 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."

"I had to stop myself for a second and say, 'Hey, please, nobody touch these dudes,'" Fischer told The Washington Post, noting that the crowd was incensed when the alleged cheating was uncovered. He also told the outlet that he is unsure what will happen to the tens of thousands of dollars the alleged cheating anglers won at tournaments earlier this year.

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Fischer told multiple outlets that the community that participates in these tournaments is tight-knit and emphasized the time away from families they all spend organizing and participating.

"For someone to essentially cheat [other participants] out of not only money but family time, I can't believe that they would," he told CNN.