Among the new Bassmaster Elite Series pros for 2018 is Hunter Shryock, 29, of Newcomerstown, Ohio. Hunter is the younger brother of Fletcher Shryock who has been fishing the Elite Series since 2012. Although each brother wishes for the other’s success, they once again find themselves in direct competition.
This time it will be for fishing fame and fortune, to qualify for the 2019 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods and to have a long career as an Elite Series pro. Before they got into tournament fishing, the Shryock brothers competed for several years as professional motocross dirt bike racers.
They traveled the country racing against the world’s top riders and were good enough to garner sponsors. However, the Shryocks never got on a factory team, which is essential to making a good living in motocross, Hunter claimed.
“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 legendary angler 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.
Hunter and Fletcher suffered injuries every year they raced, including broken bones. Hunter has had reconstructive knee surgery and once 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.
“Racing was a good experience and I learned a lot,” Hunter said. “But I needed something to fill that competitive void from racing. Tournament fishing does that.”
Brother Fletcher has long been seriously into bass fishing and competed in small-time tournaments near home in Ohio. He burst onto the Bassmaster scene when he won the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open at Lake Norman in March of 2011. It was the second Bassmaster Open Fletcher had ever fished.
After fishing all the Southern Opens that year, as well as the Northern Opens, Fletcher’s success earned him an invitation to the 2012 Bassmaster Classic and vaulted him into the Elite Series.
The tournament bug didn’t bite Hunter until he saw the success that Fletcher was having in big time Bassmaster events. Encouraged by Fletcher’s fishing accomplishments, Hunter competed in the Northern Opens for the first time 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.”
Hunter’s belief was tested over the next three seasons. He competed in the Southern and Northern Opens in 2014 and in all three Open divisions in 2015 and 2016. Although he earned checks on several occasions, he failed to qualify for the Elite series.
Hunter’s 2017 campaign started on a high note, nabbing third place at the first Southern Open on Florida’s Harris Chain. He again finished third at the next Southern Open on Lake Chickamauga. Despite a 58th place showing at the final Southern Open on Smith Lake, Hunter amassed enough points to finish fourth in the AOY standings and punch his ticket to the 2018 Elite Series. His best finish of 2017 was second at the final Northern Open on Lake Douglas.
During Hunter’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. The Shryocks talked fishing every day they were together and by phone when they were apart. Hunter would travel to Elite Series tournaments with Fletcher whenever possible. He wasn’t allowed to pre-fish with Fletcher, but he could help with the long drives.
“It was exciting to go to the Elites, and I always learned a bunch,” Hunter said.
After the Shryocks retired from motocross racing, they started their own business. They ran regular routes to auto repair shops and auto salvage yards to buy and sell used parts that are needed but hard to find.
These days Fletcher makes his living solely by fishing tournaments and promoting his sponsors’ products. Hunter supplements his income by producing fishing videos, mainly for his sponsors. Making videos started out as a hobby but turned into a passion. Hunter has developed his ability to shoot and edit videos to a truly professional level. You can see his superb work by Googling 496 films. You will find a link to Hunter’s Facebook page, which has links to his videos.
Although Hunter could pursue a career as a video producer, it is a distant second to his desire to become an Elite Series pro. He claims that video cameras have actually helped him become a better bass fisherman. Hunter often had a GoPro camera shooting video of him while he was actually competing in Bassmaster Open tournaments.
“It was hard to edit those videos after I had blown a tournament,” Hunter said. “I would watch the video of myself and look for bad habits that I wasn’t aware of.”
Hunter was horrified to see a particularly bad habit when he watched a video of himself fishing a Central Open tournament in which he had done poorly. The video showed him pitching a jig to a rocky bank and practically swimming the bait back. Even though Hunter knew during the tournament that the water was very cold and the bass were too sluggish for such an upbeat presentation, the video clearly revealed that his emotions had gotten the best of him.
“The video was brutally honest,” Hunter said. “It showed me that I was in way too big a hurray. I never settled down. Watching it helped me slow down and make each cast count.”
Although Hunter has qualified for the Elite Series, he knows he has his work cut out for him if he is to achieve his goals.
“Qualifying for the Elites is like opening another can of worms,” he said. “I’ve got to do my job and put fish in the boat to survive on this trail.”
Hunter’s sponsors include Abu Garcia, Berkley, Spiderwire, Rigid, Belray (lubricants) Lowrance, Bob’s Machine Shop (jack plates), Gator Guards, Power Pole, Mercury Marine and Phoenix Bass Boats.