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'We got weights in fish': A cheating controversy goes viral on TikTok

The latest cheating scandal to embroil the internet may also be the most viral one to date, after video circulated of weights pulled from fish during a tournament.
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“We got weights in fish!”

The world of competitive fishing is up in arms over a scandal that saw two fishermen accused of weighing down their catch with lead balls to win a fishing tournament in Cleveland. What nobody at the competition expected, however, was for the incident to also blow up online.

The latest cheating scandal to embroil the internet may also be the most viral one to date, after footage circulated of the tournament director slicing open a walleye fish to reveal the weights, which would have given them the first-place trophy for having the heaviest fish. One video on TikTok received 4.5 million views and more than 225,000 likes, while another on Twitter garnered more than 130,000 likes.

Also last week, internet users watched a young poker player confront cheating accusations after betting on an unlikely hand and scoring $269,000. She returned the earnings to her opponent, a longtime competitive player who believed the act an admission of guilt. A couple weeks before that, the world of chess blew up with a cheating controversy in which world chess champion Magnus Carlsen accused a fellow grandmaster of foul play due to his “unusual” over-the-board progress. 

But those episodes did not seem to go quite as viral as the fish cheating video that tore up the internet over the weekend, when various versions of the video were edited, remixed and commented upon — many from people who wondered just how they ended up deep in the world of #fishtok.

The controversy originated at the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament Friday, when, as participants gathered around two proclaimed winners, tournament director Jason Fischer began cutting open fish and pulling out weights. Observers yelled expletives, some expressing disbelief and others claiming they were suspicious all along. Fischer tossed the balls and walleye filet padding out of the fish.

“We got weights in fish!” he yelled as the crowd erupted in outrage.

Troy Krause, a Wisconsin fishing guide who watched but didn’t compete in the tournament, screen-recorded a video he found of the chaos unfolding and uploaded it to TikTok, where he thought maybe a couple thousand people would see it. Instead, it got nearly 7.5 million views and 400,000 likes over the course of two days.

“I got comments like, ‘How did I get on fishtok? I don’t even like fishing.’ But they’re so invested in the story and want to know what’s going on and it’s just crazy,” Krause said. Even his brother in New Zealand called after seeing the situation on the news.

Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky, the two fishermen involved in the scandal, would have walked away with a prize of about $30,000. Instead, they were disqualified from the tournament and now are being investigated by Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources.

Runyan and Cominsky did not respond to requests for comment.

A longtime walleye fisherman himself, Krause said many in the fishing industry have suspected for a while that Runyan and Cominsky may have been cheating. The two racked up a long string of wins in recent tournaments over the past year, to the point where it just “doesn’t happen,” according to Krause.

“You’re gonna tell me that these two guys are gonna win every tournament on a big lake like that? No. You gotta be a little bit realistic,” he said. “I think they just got carried away and they finally got caught, which is good.”

Catching the best fish takes knowledge and skill to understand where the biggest fish will lurk as well as how to catch them — but to win any given tournament also requires some luck. Krause said he does compete but has begun to turn away from it because of the rampant cheating, though most suspected cases are difficult to prove.

The latest scandal has given him a new kernel of hope for the future of fishing tournaments, he said.

“I think there’s going to be a lot more scrutiny, so there’s going to be less cheating because, if you get caught, look what happens,” he said. “It’s good for the whole industry, actually, even though right now it looks bad.”