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Cheating allegation mars tournament

An angler was accused of cheating Saturday afternoon at the Community Fishing Contest.

"It's unfortunate," said tourney organizer Jerry Benham of the alleged cheating incident Saturday afternoon. The case has been turned over to authorities, he said.

Sheriff Cory Aukes escorted Tom Mead of Long Prairie from the ice Saturday afternoon after anglers reported him cheating. Mead said he was stunned at the accusations.

Mead denied cheating in an interview Monday. He has not been charged. He blamed jealous competitors for ending his derby chances prematurely Saturday. Two years ago he won an ATV four-wheeler by catching a 5-pound northern pike at the tournament.

"I caught a northern and put it in the pail and I was unhooking it and stuff and they said I had it in the pail or whatever," he explained. "They went to the sheriff and everything else. That's about what I can tell you."

When told he had been accused of cheating, Mead said, "It probably looked that way. But all's I can say is I wasn't."

He said he won the four-wheeler "fair and legal."

He said he's a good angler and has "even talked to you guys on the radio a little bit" about catching big fish.

"It was a bad scene," he said of the Saturday incident. "We will get it all straightened out."

Aukes said he had some difficulty escorting Mead through the crowd as angry anglers yelled "Cheater!" and crowded around him and the disabled man.

Other than that incident, Aukes said the derby went off without a hitch.

Because Mead has a disability, he is able to drive a vehicle out onto the ice. Security personnel otherwise were checking every angler for contraband on the way through the entry gates.

Mead, for his part, insists he is innocent and when the facts come out, he will be cleared of any alleged wrongdoing.

All of the open water tournaments take strict measures to prevent just such incidents, but cheating has been a part of fishing tournaments for years.

Enterprise fishing columnist Mike Gravdals said tournament sponsors have tightened up the rules, but it's disheartening to have a victory stolen from an honest angler by a not-so-honest angler.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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