At 23 years and 26 days of age, Jay Przekurat became the youngest angler to ever win a Bassmaster Elite Series event. And if that wasn’t enough, the Stevens Point, Wisconsin angler did it by catching and weighing the heaviest tournament total of smallmouth bass ever recorded. His history-making four-day bag of 102-9 was accomplished amidst a 90-boat field of the best bass anglers on earth on what many are calling the most prolific smallmouth bass fishery in the world.
A mere 15 hours after taking the stage and hoisting the big blue trophy at the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at the St. Lawrence River, Przekurat was on the road Monday morning, headed to Illinois to hop a plane for ICAST 2022 in Orlando, where he’ll undoubtedly be greeted by a fishing industry ready to share in the celebration of his remarkable accomplishment.
“It’s all still pretty surreal,” Przekurat says of the win that checked so many boxes in his young career. “Winning this tournament means a lot in terms of the goals I set for myself this year, which included winning Rookie of the Year (ROY) and qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic.”
While neither of these goals can be considered accomplished at this point, his win at St. Lawrence River puts Przekurat even closer to both. The 100 points he earned bumped him up to 20th place in the Elite standings with two events left to fish, both of which – Lake Oahe in South Dakota and the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin – play to Przekurat’s strengths. Under B.A.S.S.’s new Classic qualifying protocols, the top 40 Elite anglers at the end of the season automatically qualify for the Bassmaster Classic in Knoxville, so Przekurat looks like he has a solid bid. He also extends his lead in the ROY race.
Much has been reported over the past day with respect to the commanding way Przekurat won the St. Lawrence event, while making history on multiple fronts in the process. A super moon and rare, calm conditions combined for ideal, record-breaking smallmouth-fishing conditions for all competitors, yet despite having never fished there, Przekurat found a way to run away from a talented pack of anglers.
Bassmaster / James Overstreet Photo
“It really came down to the two main areas I had,” Przekurat says. “Fish had been pushing out and there were other guys keyed into the right depths, but the areas I had were different because they were just loaded with bait. I think it was alewives or rainbow smelt, maybe both, and there were just hundreds of bass in there. I couldn’t have fished either of those areas out.”
Przekurat has already reported that he was primarily fishing a green pumpkin Strike King Half Shell on a drop shot, but he never shared the specific presentation he alluded to at the weigh in on Saturday. “I was sight fishing most all of my fish and was able to watch the way they reacted to the bait,” Przekurat recalls. “Once the early morning bite tapered off each day, they wanted it super-fast… they needed to chase it. I’d burn the handle then let it fall three or four feet back to the bottom. You could see it excited the fish, so I just kept doing that until they bit, sometimes just once and other times it took three or four times.”
Przekurat tips his hat to his sponsor, Whitewater Fishing, the technical fishing-apparel brand conceived to deliver anglers the confidence to overcome Mother Nature’s elements so they can focus their minds and available energies on beating the fish, not the conditions. “I qualified for the Elites in October last year, which was really late. I knew I was going to need some support to do this full time and Aaron (Nexus Outdoors President, Aaron Ambur) and the Whitewater team really stepped up for me,” he says. “It’s interesting… it’s almost impossible – even in the middle of the summer – when you can come to any Great Lakes smallmouth fishery… be it Sturgeon Bay, either end of the Niagara River, Chequamegon Bay up on Superior and fish for four days in really pleasant weather like we had on the St. Lawrence River and eastern Lake Ontario. You are going to be fighting Mother Nature some or all of the time, and that’s where Whitewater comes in. They are expanding their line with some really unique technical clothing for all anglers. It’s been really exciting working with them on the launch and I’m grateful for trust and support they’ve extended to me.”
Ambur made the ten-hour drive from Muskegon, Michigan to Clayton, New York yesterday to catch the historic weigh in and join the celebration with the Przekurat family. “It’s just so exciting to see all of this happening for Jay,” he says. “The Przekurat’s are a seriously talented fishing family and from what I knew about his dad, Jason (two-time angler of the year and decorated walleye champion, Jason Przekurat), I knew it’d only be a matter of time before Jay would have a day like this. We couldn’t be prouder of Jay and what he’s accomplished here.”
When asked if he had any advice for other anglers, Przekurat suggests they trust their instincts. “What’s largely true in life is also true in fishing,” he says. “Your gut is usually right, so try to avoid the temptation of complicating things by second-guessing yourself. I may have never had fished the east end of lake Ontario before, but I just knew the game was going to be similar to what I’ve experienced my whole life fishing on Sturgeon Bay in Lake Michigan and it turns out I was right. Always trust your instincts, be confident in what you know and what you find.”
Przekurat and the rest of the Elites have two events remaining, the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe (August 18-21) in South Dakota and the Bassmaster Elite season finale at the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin, August 26-29. Both events set up particularly well for the northerner Przekurat, with Oahe already being touted as having the potential for more 100+ pound smallmouth totals, and La Crosse being located a mere two hours away from Przekurat’s home.
“The end of the season is what I’ve been looking forward to all year,” Przekurat says. “I always believed that if I was in contention for a Classic invitation and Rookie of the Year after the first six tournaments, I could finish strong and achieve both of those goals.”
Bassmaster / James Overstreet Photo