Yet another fishing tournament is under investigation after allegations of a cheating scandal surfaced at a pike tournament in Ontario in early September. The accusations center around two teams that allegedly altered the size of the northern pike they caught to give themselves an advantage, CTV News reports. Officials with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry told the outlet that they’re looking into these claims, but they remain tight-lipped as their investigation is ongoing.
The alleged cheating incident took place during the Top 50 Classic tournament, which was the last stop in the 2023 Top 50 Pike series. The two-day tournament involved two days of fishing on Sept. 2 and 3 on Lake Nipissing, and it offered a cash prize of $10,000 to the winning team.
According to the claims circulating on social media, two teams of anglers tried to give themselves an advantage by trimming the tails of the pike they caught on Sept. 2. While this might seem like a counterintuitive way to cheat in a fishing tournament, the tournament’s rules dictate that three of the five pike caught and measured by a team must be 24 inches or shorter. The anglers shortened their pike to fit within those parameters.
It's unclear how the teams would have trimmed the pike tails, or if they even did it all. Tournament organizers explained in a social media post on Sept. 5 that the anglers in question denied the accusations, and that there is no definitive proof of cheating. Because of this lack of evidence, they allowed both teams to compete in the second day of the tournament on Sept. 3.
“If these anglers are found to be telling the truth and we denied them fishing on Sunday, it could lead to disastrous repercussions for the Top 50,” they wrote in the Facebook post. “We are actively taking steps in order to appropriately deal with this situation.”
The first step, according to the organizers, was getting the anglers to take a polygraph test. According to tournament regulations, the organizers can administer these lie detector tests at their discretion, and competitors caught cheating “will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
It’s unknown if these polygraph tests have already been administered, as the organizers haven’t posted another update since Sept. 5. (The also didn’t respond to requests for comment.)
If the cheaters are busted, it would mark the third known cheating scandal to take place in North American fishing tournaments over the last 12 months. The most well-known of these occurred at a professional walleye tournament on Lake Erie, when Chase Cominsky and Jake Runyon were caught red-handed stuffing their fish with lead weights. The video footage and criminal charges that came from that incident rocked the professional fishing world, and both anglers apologized publicly after a judge sentenced each of them to 10 days in jail.
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Then, in August 2022, not three months after that sentence was handed down in Ohio, another walleye-stuffing cheater was caught at an amateur tournament in New York. What’s even worse is that he probably would have won the tournament fair and square had he not decided to stuff his walleyes with smaller fish to increase their weight.