Fishermen sinking to a new low

Published 9:58 am Tuesday, October 11, 2022

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We have been conditioned over the past few years to distrust and disbelieve virtually all of our major institutions, from the president and Supreme Court to the church and the news media, but recently we were smacked upside the head with a blow so low that it smelled.


Two men competing in a walleye fishing tournament in Ohio were on the cusp of collecting nearly $40,000 in prize money when officials discovered their weighty winning fish had been stuffed with lead sinkers large enough to choke a horse.

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Videos showed their fish being cut open and the weights rolling out onto the dock where the weigh-in was occurring.


This, my friends, is the lowest point an angler can hit. What corrupted them? Money, of course.


Cheating and lying are now so American that we have come to expect it in every facet of our lives. There is guilt by association.


I spent a good portion of my career at The Associated Press, a bastion of fairness and credibility. It is a non-profit news cooperative owned and operated by its members (news outlets) who pay for the service by applying a member-designed formula set to assure that those with the largest circulation pay the most.


Most of the journalists there frequently were reminded that we must–not should, but must–maintain reader credibility. Without credibility, we were not trustworthy. Our writing had to be credible and our sources of information impeccable. And if we made a mistake, an inevitable part of reporting, we had to correct it. A correction strengthened our credibility.


We had held out hope that fishermen, even those who make their living doing what most of us do for recreation, wouldn’t cheat. But of course, they do. Just like chess grandmasters, pro quarterbacks, presidents, justices and preachers.   


And the fishermen cheated, too.


The director of the Lake Erie Walleye Trail sliced open the winning catch of five walleye and revealed lead weights. “We’ve got weights in fish!” he shouted as dozens of cellphone video-capturing modern day “journalists” recorded the profanity-filled reactions of fellow fishermen.


The two renegades to truth and trust stood speechless. One walked over to his $100,000 fishing pickup truck, climbed inside and locked the doors, doubtless thinking about the soon-to-be-gone sponsorships that helped pay for the $100,000 boat, 10 fishing rods at $300 a pop, and lots of other expensive gadgets needed to win.


They lost the prize money that was within their grasp. They won’t be able to show their faces again in a single tournament. Some crafty marketing person will probably promote lead fishing weights with their names embossed on them and call them “Dirty Sinkers.”


But, more than the expensive trucks and boats and equipment, they lost that invaluable and intangible commodity–credibility.


Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at