Fishing contest rocked after weights found in winning catches

Ross Robertson, a professional angler who has written extensively about fishing, said that the use of technology and ballooning prizes in recent years have made the sport more competitive, incentivising cheating.

Cheating in competitive fishing is more common than many people think, Robertson said. He listed the myriad ways people do so: They have friends deliver pre-caught fish to them; they fish in prohibited areas; they put fish in cages before the competition; they stuff them with ice, adding heft during the weigh-in that melts and leaves no evidence.

“You have to consider that in some of these tournaments, ounces can mean tens, or hundreds, of thousands of dollars,” he said.

Robertson said placing weights into fish was a primitive and “sloppy” way to cheat, as seen with the suspicions of Fischer.

“It would be like saying a 5-foot-tall person weighs 500 pounds, but you look at him and he looks like an athlete,” Robertson said. “These fish were so bulging.”

Fischer, a police sergeant in a Cleveland suburb, said he had spoken to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources about what happened. “Everything was turned over to law enforcement,” he said.

Wildlife officers with the department responded to the tournament, “collected evidence and are preparing a report” for the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office, Stephanie O’Grady, a department spokesperson, said Sunday.

“As this is an open investigation, we have no further comment at this time,” she said.

Fischer said he was unclear what recourse he had for recovering money from previous tournaments won by Runyan and Cominsky.

He said that the men had taken voice-stress and polygraph tests for his tournaments, a common practice for winners of such events, and had passed. Fischer said an observer had also been on their boat during a previous competition.

“If they were able to clear all those hurdles, they’re obviously very good at deceiving people,” he said.

Robertson called the incident a “black eye” for the sport and said he had received messages from anglers across the country who wanted to know what was happening. But he also believed the scandal had the potential to be a blessing if the sport learned from it.

“Maybe this will be the thing that stalls other cheating and causes some major changes in procedures,” he said.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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