The unofficial Marcus Sykora Fan Club has grown rapidly this week.
Ever since Sykora, a popular bass tournament fisherman at Lake of the Ozarks, won the Walmart BFL All-American last weekend, he has been bombarded with congratulatory messages.
“I have gotten more text messages, emails, phone calls, Facebook posts, letters than I ever dreamed possible,” said Sykora, who lives in Osage Beach, Mo. “I didn’t know that many people even had heard of me, let alone knew me.
“It’s really been quite humbling.”
For Sykora, it was that kind of a week. When he traveled to Wilson Lake in Florence, Ala., he knew he would be competing against some of the nation’s top amateur bass fishermen. He, like others, was a weekend hero —a guy who holds down a full-time job as an insurance salesman but still finds time to fish tournaments on weekends and weeknights.
Though Sykora wasn’t nationally known, he was confident of his chances.
“I found 22 schools of bass in practice,” he said. “My only worry was that they were post-spawn fish, and those fish are famous for migrating. I was hoping they would still be there by the time we got on the water.”
They were. Sykora headed for the first waypoint on his GPS unit on June 5 and never had to move.
“The first time I cast my crankbait, one almost 5 pounds hit,” Sykora said. “That’s when I got pumped.”
Staying on that half-moon shell bed, Sykora used two versions of Sixth Sense Crush crankbaits to catch five bass weighing 26 pounds, 11 ounces — all in the first hour of fishing in the first round. The second day, he added 27 pounds, 4 ounces to his total, and it looked like he was going to run away with an easy victory.
Not so fast. Conditions changed June 7, the final day, and Sykora’s fish disappeared. He looked for them with his electronics in the vicinity and managed to catch 12 pounds, 5 ounces of bass. But he wasn’t sure it would be enough.
“It would have taken one heck of a bag of fish to beat me at that point. But Wilson Lake can do that,” he said.
As it turns out, he didn’t have to worry. His three-day total of 66 pounds, 4 ounces was enough to edge second-place finisher Jayme Rampey of Liberty, S.C. by 4 pounds, 8 ounces.
Sykora earned $100,000 and an automatic berth in FLW’s pro championship event, the Forrest Wood Cup on Aug. 14-17, at South Carolina’s Lake Murray.
And now? One might expect that this would inspire Sykora to chase a professional career. But that’s not the case.
“I am happy with my life,” Sykora said. “I have a great family and friends, a job I like, and I can fish when I like on a great lake. I don’t think I’d want to be out there on the pro tour, scraping just to make a living. It sounds glamorous, but it’s harder than it looks.”
To reach outdoors editor Brent Frazee, call 816-234-4319 or send email to email@example.com.