Three hundred and fifty-eight anglers converged on our area recently to fish in the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open.
The anglers came from 33 states to try their luck on Lake Norman. James Castillo should win the award for traveling the greatest distance: Castillo drove for four days from Grandview, Wash. He ended up 53rd and went home without a check.
On the line was about $300,000, an entry into the 2012 Bassmaster Classic and two brand new Triton/Mercury Bass Boats.
The standing-room-only crowd filled the patio at the Bass Pro Shops in Concord to cheer for their favorite angler.
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About 20 Bassmaster Elite Series pros came for the March 24-26 event., heading here after two consecutive Elite Series tournaments in Florida.
Fletcher Shryock, of Ohio, jumped into the winning spot on the final day. His three-day total of 15 bass, weighing 49 pounds, 9 ounces, earned him a new Triton/Mercury Bass Boat, cash and the berth in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic.
Shryock, a former dirt bike racer, is a new pro angler with less than four years under his belt. He found a shallow water spot almost 25 miles north of Blythe Landing and stayed with it.
"The key for today was finding the bigger bites," said Shryock at the tournament's conclusion. "You're not going to do well if you start your day looking for 2- and 3-pounders."
Shryock beat his hero, Gerald Swindle from Warrior, Ala. Swindle, an Elite angler, had 43 pounds, 15 ounces, to take home $17,900 for second place.
Third place was Tracey Adams of Wilkesboro. Adams won almost $15,000 for 40 pounds, 4 ounces.
No money, but a good time
Local anglers Troy Armstrong and his wife, Michelle, from Denver fished in the tournament but not together. Troy fished the pro side and Michelle fished as a co-angler.
Pro anglers and co-anglers are picked randomly, so the two were not a team. In the co-angler division, anglers pay to fish from the back of the boat with a pro for the chance to win a bass boat and some cash.
After fishing his first tournament in 1983 with his grandfather, Armstrong said, he was hooked.
The Armstrongs began competing together as a team in 1992. During that time they have amassed numerous top 10 finishes and qualified for four USA National Championships. They also have numerous high finishes in local "open" team tournaments. Michelle fished the now-defunct Women's Bass Trail for several years.
Troy is a cold-case detective with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Michelle is the former owner of a nail salon. Troy and Michelle have been married since 1993 and have two children.
Unfortunately, the Armstrongs finished out of the money last week but had a great time. They are avid anglers and plan to continue fishing bass tournaments as a team and sometimes as competitors.
The next big tournament on Lake Norman is the Oakley Bass Pro Big Bass tournament on April 30 and May 1 at Queens Landing in Mooresville.