Jacob Runyan and teammate Chase Cominsky rocked the competitive fishing world after it was discovered their fish were stuffed with lead weights and fish fillets at an Ohio fishing tournament in September 2022.
Both have now pleaded guilty for cheating and the unlawful ownership of wild animals during the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament.
“This plea is the first step in teaching these crooks two basic life lessons,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley in a statement Monday.
“Thou shall not steal, and crime does not pay.”
In open court on Monday, both men admitted their guilt, as part of their plea agreement, and also agreed to forfeit ownership of the boat and trailer used in the tournament.
They face six months to a year in prison and could have their fishing licenses suspended for up to three years, when they are sentenced.
The state is recommending a sentence of six-months-probation to the court. They will be sentenced on May 11.
CNN has reached out to both Runyan and Cominsky’s attorneys for comment but has not received a reply.
Last year, the two men were set to win a $28,760 prize until Jason Fischer, director of the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament, became suspicious.
They were disqualified from the tournament.
The walleye – a type of fish – in the bucket looked like they each weighed around four pounds, but the total weight indicated they would have to be at least seven pounds each, he told CNN last year.
The moment when Fischer discovered the alleged cheating was documented in several videos that went viral at the time.
They showed Fischer, surrounded by competitors, slicing open the fish with a knife and pulling out what he said was a lead ball.
Fischer later provided photos of metal objects and fish fillets the tournament host said he had pulled from the walleye, allegedly inserted by the two accused to increase the weight of their catch.
In a video that Fischer shared with CNN last year, Runyan could be seen standing by silently watching while spectators in the crowd screamed insults at him.
CNN’s Zoe Sottile contributed reporting.