Fletcher Shryock was downright discouraged at the start of the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open season.
He considered quitting. Few would have blamed him. He finished 161st in his first event, the 2011 Southern Open on Florida’s Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.
“I originally signed up just for that first tournament,” said the 26-year-old from Newcomerstown, Ohio. “When I finished 161st, I wasn’t going to continue. I said to myself, ‘You are definitely just a normal Joe, and you need to quit wasting your money.’
“Then one of my buddies talked me into doing Lake Norman — which I won,” he said.
His prizes were cash, a boat rig he used the rest of the season, and a 2012 Bassmaster Classic berth.
So encouraged, Shryock decided to dive into the Northern Open division with the goal of qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series by being among the Top 5 in points after three events.
“I went into it 14th in the points. I knew it would be a long shot,” said Shryock, who raced dirt bikes from age 12 until an accident when he was 22 convinced him it was time to get out. That’s when he turned back to bass fishing, a hobby of his since he was a young kid.
After three Northern events, he had climbed into fifth place in points, exactly enough to get an invitation to join the Elite Series in 2012.
“To go from where I was in January to now — getting into the Classic and the Elite Series — is completely a dream come true,” he said.
He said he intends to join the 2012 Elite Series field, and he’s already working on making it happen. He has upgraded his boat to a bigger rig, a Ranger Z520 with a 250-hp Mercury OptiMax Pro XS. He’s working on a boat wrap deal. He’s also planning scouting trips; first on his list is the Classic fishery, the Red River out of Shreveport, La. He’s also lining up scouting trips to fisheries on the 2012 Elite Series schedule.
First up on the Elite Series trail for 2012 is a place he intends to get the best of this time around: Florida.
“I haven’t done well in Florida,” he said. “But since I was last there, I’ve become more well-rounded, learned a lot, and my confidence is high. But I know that I’ll still be learning, that there will be some ups, some downs. I’ll have to step up and do it.”
Shryock said he aims to live by something Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle once said, a comment Shryock picked up on in an online video Swindle was in.
“I’d never heard anything like it before,” Shryock said. “In my words, what he (Swindle) said was this: There are a lot of people out there who say they tried to do something. The bottom line is, a lot of people don’t know what trying is. Trying is going so hard and running yourself broke, even sleeping on the ground. That’s when you’ve tried.”