SHREVEPORT, La. -- Football has the Super Bowl and baseball has the World Series. Well, what does professional bass fishing have? The 2012 Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport, La., and a Newcomerstown native will representing his hometown this year in the competition.
Fletcher Shryock, a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School, has been fishing for years and even made his own fishing "tournaments" in Buckhorn Creek next to the youth league ballfields when he was just a youngster. He admitted that his self-run "tournaments" would have rules and award prizes to his fellow fishing buddies. The goal back then was to catch a fish five-inches long.
But, the scale of his fishing and his skills have definitely grown. No more is he fishing in streams out behind ballfields but now he's fishing in the professional circuit -- in Louisiana's Red River for instance.
Shryock, a former motocross race, qualified to participate in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic (or the Super Bowl of bass fishing) by participating/winning in three professional fishing events. The classic pins the top 48 best fishermen in the country against each other during the three-day event, Feb. 24-26.
"I just hope I do well," he said.
The pressure, however, continues to mount as Shryock was named No. 5 as one of the "12 to watch in 2012" by Bassmaster this year.
"That's definitely a little bit of pressure," he admits.
Shryock is no stranger to winning with having won the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Southern Open No. 2 at Lake Norman in Charlotte, N.C., this past June. With that win, he received merchandise endorsements and cash winnings, but it also helped him qualify for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic.
In terms of preparation for the biggest bass fishing tournament in the sport, he said he plans to go down to Louisiana a couple of weeks early to practice fishing in the Red River.
The fishing tournaments come with a lot of rules, Shryock said. The goal is to get the heaviest five bass in the boat -- all alive -- and back to the dock within the time limit. (The plan is to release the fish back into the water.) A camera man/judge rides along in the boat to monitor each fisherman's skills.
Along the way, spectators, who are also in boats, can be right next to each participant's boat.
"Those people (or spectators) can steal the good sites," he said about finding the big bass.
He said fighting off the crowds will be a challenge but it's all something to look forward to.
The 2012 Bassmaster Classic will air on EPSN2 the following weekend in the Newcomerstown area. However, his friends and family are already making plans to attend the event and represent Newcomerstown and Tuscarawas County.
To learn more about the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, visit www.bassmaster.com and to cheer on Shryock, hit the "like" button on his Facebook page.
(Editor's Note: The results from the 2012 Bassmaster Classic and Fletcher Shryock will be posted in a following issue of the Newcomerstown News. We all wish him good luck!)