If you follow media in the fishing community at all you have surely heard about the crazy cheating scandal in a walleye tournament on Lake Erie a few weeks ago. Two anglers, who have experienced significant success over the past few years in the Lake Erie Walleye Trail brought their five fish walleye limit to the scales only to have the fish cut open to reveal the pair had put over eight pounds of lead weights and walleye fillets inside the fish to increase their weight.
Tournament director Jason Fischer looked at the fish as they came off the scale and thought that something didn’t look right. Their weight was over 30 pounds but Fischer thought the fish looked like they should have weighed closer to 20 pounds. He picked up one of the fish and could feel something in the stomach of one of the walleyes, prompting him to cut one of the fish open, revealing that weights had been placed in the stomach. Each fish had weights placed inside of it.
There were multiple videos taken as the weights were taken from the stomachs of each the walleyes, it was one of the most disgusting sights that I have ever seen. Other anglers, who were looking on as this was happening immediately started to go nuts, accusing the anglers of cheating in past tournaments and threatening them. If you have not seen the video yet and search for it online, just know there is plenty of foul language. These two anglers had won hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past few years so the other anglers were understandably upset. Fischer did a good job of cooling the situation, telling the other anglers to let them leave and they would contact law enforcement. If anyone is considering cheating in a fishing tournament, hearing the reaction of the other anglers is about the best deterrent there could be.
This scandal has been covered by major media outlets across North America including The New York Times, CBC and even TMZ. It has been a big deal and it’s a black eye for competitive fishing. The frustrating part for me was that I received messages about it from people who don’t really know anything about fishing. It was like they were in on this big secret that there was cheating going on in a fishing tournament. There have been cheaters caught in the past and there will be more in the future but as a whole, I don’t believe that we have widespread cheating going on in fishing tournaments, both locally or on the national level.
In the Bassmaster Elite Series events that I fish, we have marshals that ride with us who are looking to learn as they watch a pro angler go through a tournament day but they also serve as a deterrent to prevent anglers from cheating. The significant rule that we have is once the schedule is announced, we are not allowed to receive any information about the waterbody for the purpose of finding or catching bass that is not publicly available. We can gather information online that is available to everybody but we can’t solicit information from anybody. It’s a tough rule to enforce but they polygraph a couple of anglers at every event, with the main focus being on information.
Most of us that compete in competitive fishing events do it because we love fishing and we enjoy the camaraderie with other anglers. Most of the anglers are friends and we all try to have as much fun with it as we can. Like in anything, there are going to be some bad apples but I don’t believe there is a problem. I’m glad that these guys were caught and that they will never be allowed to compete in a tournament again. They have been indicted on a number of offenses that they will face later in November and they have had their Ranger boat confiscated. Good riddance.