The dream of fishing the Bassmaster Classic should soon be a reality for 50-year-old Stanley Sypeck of Sugarloaf, Pa. Sypeck won the first Bassmaster Northern Open of 2017 at Oneida Lake. Any angler who wins a Bassmaster Open receives an invitation to the Classic, provided they compete in all three Open tournaments in that division.
Sypeck is registered to fish the second Northern Open at the James River, but has yet to get on board for the third tournament at Lake Douglas. He will do whatever it takes to fish the Douglas Open, which may mean finding a co-angler to enter with him.
Unlike many of the anglers who win Bassmaster Open tournaments, Sypeck did not get into bass fishing early in life or have a relative initiate him into the sport. As a teen, he raced four-wheelers. He was good enough to be a Pennsylvania district champion as an amateur.
Injuries are common in four-wheeler racing and Sypeck had his share of them. At age 19 he entered a few professional races. With money on the line, Sypeck found that professional competition was far more fierce and dangerous than with the amateur division. Major injuries were nearly inevitable.
“I can’t afford to break arms and legs with my job as a lineman,” Sypeck said. “I decided to give up racing.”
When he was 20 years old, Sypeck bought a ski boat. The novelty of skiing soon wore off. Three months later he traded the ski boat in for a 14-foot aluminum boat and started bass fishing.
Although Sypeck had done some trout fishing as a kid, he had never before fished for bass. What prompted this sudden interest?
“A girl I was dating had a brother who was into bass fishing,” Sypeck said.
Things didn’t work out with the girlfriend, but Sypeck became fast friends with her brother, Larry Maylath. Sypeck joined the bass club that Maylath was a member of, the Tamaqua Bassmasters, and has been a bass addict ever since.
Besides club tournaments, Sypeck began fishing a variety of money tournaments. In 2000 he qualified to fish the B.A.S.S. Nation Nationals in Mobile, Ala. It was his first opportunity to qualify for the Classic, but he didn’t execute well.
“It was a tidal fishery and I had plenty of experience running the tides on the Potomac River,” Sypeck said. “I was on good fish, but I was always in the right place at the wrong time.”
A huge bass fishing influence for Sypeck was fellow Pennsylvanian David Hall. Hall qualified for the Bassmaster Classic in 1985 and 1997 via the B.A.S.S. Nation, and he won a Bassmaster Open on the Potomac River in 2002.
“He was the guy to beat around here,” Sypeck said. “We used to represent the same marina. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot.”
One of the things Sypeck learned from Hall was how to interpret a flasher sonar. To this day, Sypeck keeps a flasher mounted on the bow of his bass boat next to his graph.
“I’m not great at reading a [liquid crystal] graph,” Sypeck said. “A flasher gives you real time information. You don’t see something on a graph until you’ve past over it. And, a flasher tells you how deep the bottom is under the grass.”
Sypeck competed in his first Bassmaster Open as a co-angler in 2003 on the Potomac River. Since then he has competed in 13 Bassmaster Opens, making the money in eight of those events. Sypeck’s strong suit is pitching jigs and soft plastic baits. He also loves to fish topwater baits.
Sypeck’s sponsors include Skeeter, Yamaha, Dobyns, Quantum, Picasso, Solar Bat, Keitech, Mann’s, Gill, Accu Cull, Vexilar (flashers), Power-Pole, Eco Pro and Town Marine.