Many of today’s younger Bassmaster Elite Series pros began competing in bass tournaments before they were old enough to drive. Elite angler Hunter Shryock, who was raised and continues to live in Newcomerstown, Ohio, didn’t have that benefit.
However, he did have an older brother named Fletcher who got the fishing bug early in life.
“My parents weren’t into fishing, but my dad would take us because Fletcher wanted to go,” Shryock said.
At age 7, Shryock began tagging along with Fletcher, who was 10, and his father, Roger, to nearby lakes to go fishing.
“We had an old boat with a 9.9 outboard that looked like a dark green bathtub,” Shryock said. “We fished predominantly for bass. I would cast anything I could throw out and reel in, mostly spinnerbaits and crankbaits.”
Although Shryock doesn’t remember his first bass, he will never for get the 2 1/2-pound largemouth he caught from his grandparents’ farm pond when he was 9 years old.
“It was the biggest bass I had ever seen,” Shryock said. “I told my dad I wanted it mounted. I remember throwing a fit because he wouldn’t do it.”
Fishing took a back seat when Shryock was around 10 years old. That’s when his father bought a dirt bike for his sons. Within two years, both brothers were seriously into motocross dirt bike racing. Their passion for the sport continued for the next decade.
When they were old enough to compete on the highest level of the sport, the Shryocks traveled the country racing against the world’s top riders. They were good enough to garner sponsors, but they never got on a factory team, which is essential to making a good living in motocross, Shryock claimed.
“You’ve got to have a really big breakthrough to get the support you need,” Shryock said. “It’s like professional bass fishing in that respect.”
Unlike bass fishing, which Rick Clunn is still doing professionally in his 70s, motocross racing careers end early in life. Only young, supple bodies and strong bones can endure the flying leaps, hard landings and frequent crashes.
The Shryock brothers suffered injuries every year they raced, including broken bones that required surgery. Success in motocross often comes down to whose body can last long enough to get the breakthrough he needs. Fletcher hung it up at age 23 after suffering a shoulder injury.
“Fletcher bought a bass boat and got ate up with fishing again,” Shryock said. “I was laughing at him because I was still racing professionally.”
Fletcher invested heavily into tournament fishing with his time and money. He competed locally and soon became a very competent bass angler. He fished his first Bassmaster Open at Lake Norman in March of 2011 and won it. The following year he was fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series.
After seeing Fletcher’s fishing accomplishments and taking stock of his dirt bike injuries, Shryock decided to give tournament bass fishing a whirl.
“Racing was a good experience, and I learned a lot,” Shryock said. “But I needed something to fill that competitive void from racing.”
In 2013 Shryock began fishing the Bassmaster Opens. There were some good tournaments, such as his fifth place finish at Lake Erie. But he also crashed more often than he did while riding a dirt bike. Determined to succeed, Shryock doggedly pursued his quest and finally competed as an Elite Series pro in 2018.
During Shryock’s struggles to qualify for the Elite Series, he was taking a crash course in bass tournament fishing. Brother Fletcher was instrumental in his education.
To support his quest to qualify for the Elite Series, Shryock started an auto parts recycling business. He ran a regular route to auto repair shops and auto salvage yards to buy and sell used parts that are needed but hard to find.
“Dealing with people every day was a good experience,” Shryock said. “It taught me a lot about public relations. It supported my tournament fishing and gave me the flex time to do it.”
These days Shryock makes his living by fishing tournaments and promoting his sponsors’ products. He supplements his income by producing fishing videos, mainly for his sponsors.
Making videos started out as a hobby, but it turned into a passion. Shryock has developed his ability to shoot and edit videos to a truly professional level. Although he could pursue a career as a video producer, it is a distant second to his desire to become a standout on the Elite Series.
He claims that video cameras have actually helped him become a better bass fisherman. Shryock often has a GoPro camera shooting video of him while he is competing in Bassmaster tournaments. Watching the videos afterward allows him to see and correct mistakes.
“The videos are brutally honest,” Shryock said. “Watching them helps me slow down and make each cast count.”
Shryock’s sponsors include Abu Garcia, Berkley, Spiderwire, Lowrance Electronics, Gator Guards, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Field & Stream, Bel-Ray, Rigid Industries, Phoenix Bass Boats, Mercury Marine, Power-Pole and Bob’s Machine Shop.