SANDUSKY, Ohio -- Ever since his win on Lake Norman at the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open, Fletcher Shryock (pronounced “shr-i-ock” not “shy-rock”) has gotten more attention from the bass fishing industry than he ever dreamed of receiving. All of it is new to him, and he’s devouring it.
From garnering sponsorships to taking on a rigorous tournament schedule, he’s trying to prove to himself and the bass fishing world that he’s not a flash in the pan. He wants to be around for a while.
“I just want people to know that I’m serious about this and that I can compete,” he said from atop his new Ranger Z521 before launch this morning. “That’s why I’m fishing all the lakes that I can in an effort to learn as much as possible about everything.”
Because of his win at Norman, Shryock secured a spot in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport, La., next February. Shortly after hoisting the trophy, Shryock immediately began receiving calls from clothing and tackle manufacturers wanting to sponsor him.
Since his win last March, Shryock has been focused on the tournaments between then and now, which have been a Southern Open and the three possible Northern Opens. When he’s not practicing or researching new lakes, he’s working with sponsors. Luck “E” Strike lures, Topwater Clothing, Power-Pole and Ranger boats have all offered him support, which he’s graciously accepted. He’s been mentored by Mike Iaconelli on the business side of the fishing industry.
“I’m not the kind to go out and ask people for money but Iaconelli did talk with me about maybe getting some stuff lined up because I just don’t always know what to do,” he said. “But I know I’m going to have to do something.”
Though sponsor support is relatively new, the ever-present support from home is stronger than ever.
“My family, friends and girlfriend are always there making sure whatever needs to happen will happen,” he said. “They’ve all been pretty good; we all want this to work out.”
While the business side of fishing is somewhat puzzling for Shryock, fishing has come easier. Despite being “lost” in Douglas Lake’s deep, clear waters at the final 2011 Southern Open, he finished 11th. At the first Northern Open on the James River, he placed 52nd out of a field of 133. Not bad considering he’d never fished tidal waters before then.
Lake Erie may be more of a challenge for the Newcomerstown, Ohio, native, but at this point he’s in it for the experience more than anything. In his practice on Erie, he burned 8 gallons of oil and a tanker’s-worth of gas. He may use even more than that practicing for the Classic.
“If I don’t do well here, I’m going to go down to Shreveport and stay there for a long time,” he said. “I’m a shallow-water fisherman, and I think I’m going to like the way the Red River fishes.”
Between now and February, Shryock will have grown as a fisherman and a businessman but for now he’s just along for the ride.
“The whole experience so far has been crazy, and that’s just from fishing the Opens,” he said. “For some reason I feel like I can answer the call; I feel like I know where I’m going.”