Two men accused of stuffing lead into fish in an attempt to win the $28,000 (£24,000) top prize at the lucrative US Championship have denied cheating.
The allegations surfaced last month during a game in Lake Erie to catch walleye — a type of pike.
Tournament director Jason Fischer became skeptical because the fish caught by Ohio’s Jacob Runyan and Pennsylvania’s Chase Cominsky were significantly heavier than a walleye of this length.
On September 30, an angry crowd in Cleveland’s Gordon Park watched Mr Fisher cut open the walleye and announce it was stuffed with weights and fillets.
Their “winning” catch was confiscated as evidence by an official with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Earlier this month, Mr Runian and Mr Kominsky were charged with cheating, attempted theft, possession of an instrument of crime, and misdemeanor charges of illegal possession of wildlife.
The pair pleaded not guilty to the charges in a Cleveland court on Wednesday and were released on $2,500 (£2,150) bail.
The total first prize of the competition is approximately $28,000.