Southport fishing tournament uses polygraph examiner to avoid cheats

SOUTHPORT, NC (WWAY) – It’s a story that shocked the fishing world a few weeks ago when two fishermen were caught cheating at an Ohio fishing tournament with a prize worth thousands of dollars.

With so much money on the line, some measures have been put in place to prevent that.

According to Executive Vice President Oak-Island Chamber of Commerce Karen Sphar with Southport Oak-Island Chamber of Commerce, a study done a few years back showed tournaments like these bring in millions.

“There’s a significant buy-in in from the locals on this event,” she said. “It had a two-million-dollar impact, so it is definitely something felt in our community.”

The total prize money given out in this year’s annual 44th Annual U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament was more than a quarter of a million dollars.

“When there’s a lot of money at stake unfortunately some may want to look for ways to gain advantages,” said Sphar.

Just like the two men in Ohio who took part in a Lake Erie Walleye Trail Tournament and could have netted nearly $30,000 but they were caught cheating after weights were found in the fish.

On Wednesday a grand jury returned an indictment charging the two, and a search warrant resulted in the seizure of criminal tools, a boat, and a trailer.

The 2022 U.S. King Mackerel Tournament Mike Hayes said he heard about the incident like most fishermen.

“A major no, no, those people will probably never fish in a tournaments again,” he said.

Hayes had to pass a lie detector test to bring home his more than $50,000 prize, and wasn’t nervous about getting hooked up to the machine.

“Just because I didn’t have anything to lie about,” said Hayes.

Polygraph Examiner Stan Fulmer has performed tests on fishermen for more than 40 years- he’s seen it all.

“Flying fish from another location, people giving people a fish that they did not catch (during) the weigh-in, bringing up fish from another state or catching a fish the day before,” he said. “There’s a lot of money involved, people are paying money to enter and when somebody cheats in a tournament, it’s actually fraud.”

According to Fulmer, some have even used ice or water to add weight.

Sphar said to assure all competitors are on the same level playing field, they’ve used Fulmer for more than 10 years.

“We want to make sure that all the results were fair, and that everybody plays by the rules,” she said

According to Sphar not only the winner sits down for the lie detector test, but some participants are also selected at random.

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