Hunter Shryock, 25, is three years younger than his brother Fletcher, who is one of the young lions on the Elite Series tour. Fletcher burst onto the Bassmaster scene when he won the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open at Lake Norman in March 2011.
Prior to the Southern Opens that year, Fletcher had competed only in smalltime tournaments in Ohio, his home state. Fletcher’s victory earned him an invitation to the 2012 Bassmaster Classic at the Red River and vaulted him into the Elite Series.
Encouraged by Fletcher’s success, Hunter competed in the Northern Opens in 2013. He struggled during the first two tournaments, but nabbed fifth place at the Lake Erie finale.
“Being close to winning at Erie totally changed my perspective,” Hunter said. “It helped me believe I can do this.”
This isn’t the first time the Shryock brothers have competed in the same sport. Both of them were professional motocross dirt bike racers for several years. They traveled the country competing against the world’s top riders.
The Shryocks were competitive enough to garner sponsors. But they never got on a factory team, which is essential to making a good living as a motocross racer, Hunter claims.
“You’ve got to have a really big breakthrough to get the support you need,” Hunter said. “It’s almost like professional bass fishing.”
Unlike bass fishing, which Rick Clunn is still doing professionally in his 60s, motocross racing careers end relatively early in life. Only young, supple bodies and strong bones can endure the flying leaps, hard landings and frequent crashes.
Hunter and Fletcher suffered injuries every year they raced, including broken bones. Hunter has had reconstructive knee surgery and broke a vertebra in his back.
Success in motocross often comes down to whose body can last long enough to get the breakthrough he needs. Hunter retired at 21. Fletcher hung in until he was 23.
“I don’t mind not being hurt anymore,” Hunter said.
Although they no longer race, the Shryock brothers still have the lean, low-fat bodies they had while riding two-wheel rockets. This physique reminds you of another young, skinny kid we’ve come to know as KVD. It’s hard to beat youth and high metabolism.
“I have no regrets over racing,” Hunter said. “It was a good experience, and I learned a lot.”
One thing Hunter learned while racing is how to live like a gipsy. That helps with bass tournament fishing. He claims that pulling a boat to a tournament feels much like pulling a dirt bike to a race on a trailer.
“My racing background helps tremendously with bass tournaments,” Hunter said. “It instilled the mentality that the harder you work the better you’re going to do.”
After retiring from motocross racing, Hunter and Fletcher embarked on their own business. They have regular routes to auto repair shops and auto salvage yards to buy and sell used parts that are needed but hard to find. Until they get the big break that takes them to another level with sponsors, the income is needed to support their bass tournament addiction.
Fletcher has long been seriously into fishing. However, the tournament bug didn’t bite Hunter until he saw the success that Fletcher was having in big time Bassmaster events.
“I needed something to fill that competitive void from racing,” Hunter said.
Hunter has been taking a crash course in bass tournament fishing under the tutelage of brother Fletcher. They call each other and talk fishing every day and room together when both of them compete in the same Bassmaster Open tournament.
Hunter travels with Fletcher to the Elite Series events whenever he has the time. He isn’t allowed to pre-fish with Fletcher, but he can help with the driving to and from Ohio.
“It’s exciting to go to the Elites, and I always learn a bunch,” Hunter said.
Given the Shryocks’ racing background, it should come as no surprise that they favor power fishing tactics and staying on the move. Then again, they often have a flippin’ rod in their hands. When Hunter gets on a flippin’ bite, he covers water quickly. He regards it as power fishing.
Hunter has signed up to fish the Southern and Northern Opens in 2014. His goals are to earn a birth to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic and to qualify for the Elite Series. Given the success the Lane brothers have had, there’s no reason the Shryock siblings can’t make a career of professional bass fishing, as well.
“Anyone that’s competitive can’t just go to work and leave it at that,” Hunter said. “Tournament fishing gives me the same excitement I got from racing. I have something to look forward to when I wake up in the morning. It’s a great thing.”