US tournament fishermen face lie-detector tests
Fishermen are known for telling tall tales – but an opportunistic North Dakota businessman is helping ensure that incidents of cheating to win cash and prizes in fishing tournaments become a thing of the past.
Derik Zimmel (below) owns True North Polygraph and administers tests for some of the country’s largest fishing events, including the National Walleye Tour and the Masters Walleye Circuit.
A keen angler, Zimmel began his polygraph business in 2009, but didn’t become involved in fishing until 2015 when he was hired by Scheel’s Boundary Battle Catfish tournament on the Red River.
The issue of cheating in fishing became high profile in late September when anglers Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominski were alleged to have stuffed lead weights and fish fillets into fish they brought to the scales at an Ohio walleye tournament.
The men, who would have won the tournament, have pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted grand theft, possessing criminal tools and unlawful ownership of wild animals.
A lieutenant with the Grand Forks Police Department, Zimmel says his role is to ensure a level playing field. Speaking to the Grand Forks Herald, he said: “If someone wins, we want the rest of the field to be able to look at them, congratulate them and know they won fair and square.”
He has conducted tests for tournaments in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and New York State, with the highlight coming in the finale of the Open National Bass Fishing Championship staged by Bass Pro at Table Rock Lake, Missouri, last year, with $1m as first prize.
“That was an incredible experience,” he told The Herald. “There were a lot of very excited people there, plus I was able to meet people like Roland Martin, Bill Dance and Jimmy Houston, who I grew up watching on TV.”
To date, Zimmel has had only one person fail a polygraph test in a fishing tournament – a team member was disqualified at last year’s US Open amateur bass event in Missouri.
Zimmel, who charges a flat fee plus travel expenses, also holds the state and federal contracts for post-conviction sex offenders testing in North Dakota and conducts pre-employment polygraph tests.