Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 10/02/2017

Story by Matt Pangrac – photos courtesy of Hunter Shryock

Moore, OK - When Hunter Shryock saw his brother’s name flash up on his caller ID last Saturday afternoon, he knew what the call was about.

Hunter, a 29-year-old from Newcomerstown, Ohio, had just finished in 58th place in the final Bassmaster Southern Open of the 2017 season on Alabama’s Smith Lake and qualified for the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series with a 4th place finish in the Southern Open point standings.  

“Well, now what are you going to do?” said Fletcher (his brother), who qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series back in 2012.  “It was a funny phone conversation because both of us were kind of in shock,” explained Hunter.  “I think it took both of us a few days to fully realize that I qualified for the Elite Series and now we’ll be competing against each other in 2018.”  

For the past five seasons, Hunter has fished the Bassmaster Opens with the goal of qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series.  He began fishing the Northern Opens in 2013, finishing in 5th place in the third Northern Open of his career on Lake Erie.  

He fished the Northern Opens and the Southern Opens in 2014, and has fished portions of all three division of the Bassmaster Opens (Northern, Central, and Southern) since the 2015 season.   Heading into the final Central Open of the 2017 season which begins this Thursday on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake, Shryock has competed in 33 Bassmaster Open tournaments.  

During that time, he has recorded 14 Top 50 finishes and four Top 5 finishes – not too shabby for someone who admittedly considered himself a novice bass angler just six years ago when Fletcher won the 2011 Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Norman and qualified for the Elite Series the following year.  

“Fletcher showed me how to back a bass boat and how to tie a Texas-rigged worm on to one of the three rods that I owned back then” said Hunter.   His rapid rise in tournament bass fishing isn’t surprising when you consider the fact that he knows the level of dedication that it takes to reach the pinnacle in an individual sport.  He raced professionally in Pro Motocross and Supercross from 2007-2009 before injuries forced him to retire at the age of 21.  

“When I raced, it was 100% racing and training,” Shryock explained.  “After the 2014 season fishing the Opens, I realized that making the Elite Series was a realistic goal.  My brother and I are kind of wired the same way in the fact that when we get into something, we become fully immersed. I don’t know why we are like that, but that’s just the way it is.”  

Window of Opportunity
“There are small windows to make things happen in this sport,” explained Hunter.  “I knew that fishing all three divisions of the Bassmaster Opens would give me the maximum amount of opportunities to achieve what I need to get done.  

“With my current sponsors and situation, I had the opportunity to put all my eggs in one basket and try to get the job done in two years rather than fish just one division and wait it out for five years,” he continued.  “If you fish just one division of the Opens, your entire season is over if you have one bad day.”  

With the support of a sponsor portfolio that includes Abu Garcia, Berkley, Spiderwire, Lowrance, Bob’s Machine Shop, Power-Pole, Under Armour, Phoenix Boats, Mercury, and Malone’s Marine, Hunter has been able to take advantage of his window of opportunity.  

“The support that I have received has been incredible, but companies change over time so there’s no guarantee that you’re going to have support the following year,” he explained. “I told myself that I was going to keep chasing the Elite Series and fishing as long as I was being funded.  Tournament bass fishing isn’t really a smart business model to begin with, but when you start going broke over it then you’re just making bad decisions.  You have to be making money when you’re fishing at the top level of the sport.  If you’re not, you’re losing.”   

Lights, Camera, Action
Hunter has given added value to his sponsors through his work in video and production.   With no professional training, he started shooting and editing short highlight videos with a single GoPro camera and posting them on social media.  

“I upgraded my equipment, and then someone in the industry asked me to film and produce a project for them,” he explained.  “Word kind of spread and I ended up with more work than I could take on.”  

He has a strong social media presence with over 15,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel (Hunter Shryock Fishing/ 496Films), over 41,000 Instagram followers (huntershryock496), and over 33,000 Facebook followers.

Fishing the Opens and filming full time for the past two seasons, Hunter has become accustomed to the roller coaster ride.  “There are no guarantees in this industry,” he said with a dry chuckle.  “It’s easy to sit there and say that I’m lucky because I don’t have to clock in every morning, but there is a lot of risk involved with what I’m doing.  I guess you could say that I’ve learned how to become comfortable with the uncertainty.”  

The 27series
One of Hunter’s major video projects this season has been The 27series, which chronicles his journey through every day of all nine Bassmaster Opens in 2017.  

“It was a major risk to take because I knew that I’d be documenting every single day of my 2017 Open season and there were going to be some tough days in there.  When you have a 100th place finish or have a horrible day, it’s really not something that you want to advertise and show, but I went ahead and did it.”

As of the start of October, the six released videos in the series have garnered over 150,000 views on YouTube alone.   The time spent editing the countless hours of recorded video has also given Shryock an unexpected perspective of his tournament season and how he performs during tournament competition.  

“Editing all that tournament footage and watching myself fish has helped me tremendously,” he opined.  “I think that the majority of anglers look back on a tournament day and exaggerate how things happened.  When you can sit there and actually watch yourself on film, you see how you reacted to certain situations.  

 “As tournament anglers we are used to watching Greg Hackney flip and Kevin VanDam crank, but then you watch yourself doing the same thing and you’re like, ‘What the hell am I doing?  Why am I flipping and I’m not even letting my bait hit the bottom?’”  As the year progressed, film study allowed him to consciously identify when he was making mistakes and make the proper adjustments.  

The Next Move
With the start of the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series season just over four months away on Alabama’s Lake Martin, Hunter is well aware of the fact that he has a lot of work in the upcoming months both on and off the water.  

“Fletcher was so green when he qualified for the Elite Series that he didn’t know how a lot of things worked on the sponsor side of things.  I’ve had the opportunity to kind of live through him and I’m familiar with some of the inner workings,” he stated. “I’m really excited about going into next season 100% committed to doing this for a living.”