Jay Przekurat had a dream. The 23-year-old Stevens Point, Wisconsin native didn’t grow up in a wealthy household, but did enjoy the support of a loving family and the benefits of a home range rich in angling opportunity. From an early age, Przekurat began to leverage those blessings with the fishing passions and knowledge of his father – accomplished walleye tournament pro and champion, Jason Przekurat – to construct his own angling destiny.
Indeed, fishing shaped Przekurat into what he is today, which is the hottest and most-accomplished young angler on professional bass fishing’s grandest stage. With his 12th-place finish at last weekend’s 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite Series event at the Mississippi River – the final regular event of the 2022 Bassmaster Elite trail – Przekurat concluded his freshman Elite-Series season by earning the coveted Falcon Rods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year (ROY) title and the $10,000 bonus that comes along with it. Finishing the season with 632 points, he edged out ROY runner-up Cody Huff of Ava, Missouri by 90 points while also earning a tenth-place finish in the 2022 Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) points race and an accompanying entry to fish the 2023 Bassmaster Classic.
“Besides dedicating myself completely to every event I enter, my goal for this season was to either win ROY or to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic,” Przekurat says. “It feels great to have accomplished both.”
Przekurat led the ROY standings throughout most of the season, making the Day 3 cut in 7 out of 9 events. He finished 33rd at the St. Johns River, 14th at the Harris Chain of Lakes, 24th at Santee Cooper, 40th at Chickamauga Lake, 74th at Lake Fork, 66th at Pickwick Lake, first at the St. Lawrence River, 13th at Lake Oahe, and 12th at the Mississippi River. His win at the St. Lawrence River made bass-fishing history twice when he weighed the heaviest smallmouth-only bag ever recorded in a tournament at 102-9 and became the youngest Elite Series champion ever.
Widely described by the fishing media as calm, consistent and even keeled on the water, Przekurat explains his perceived lack of emotion and seemingly robotic performances as a simple function of who he is and how he goes about his work. “I’m a pretty reserved person to begin with, so when you combine that with the pressures of competing at this level, what people see me doing on the water is just me staying focused on the job at hand,” he says. “Everyone has their own way of staying in the zone. Everyone fishing in the Elites can win, so when I’m out there – even when I catch a particularly good fish or make a cull – I’m just enjoying the experience and thinking about what I can do next to keep adding weight to the livewell. I guess I don’t get overly excited because I know other anglers are catching them, too.”
Przekurat says fans shouldn’t misconstrue the respect he holds for his competitors as a lack of confidence. “Anyone who qualifies to fish the Elites quickly learns that all these guys are just as good as they’re made out to be,” he says. “At any time you’ve got to assume that some of them are going to have 15 or 20 pounds in their livewell and have the confidence to know that if they do then you can too. If you don’t think you can catch them like everyone else you probably shouldn’t be tournament fishing.”
Przekurat stumbled mid-season with his 74th and 66th-place finishes at Lake Fork and Pickwick but says a lot of what he learned throughout his rookie Elite season came from competing on bodies of water he’d never even seen before. “I’m grateful for the experiences and actually proud of how I performed down south. I’d never fished most of these lakes and felt the greatest pressure there, but I did pretty good on most of them, learned a lot, and did what I needed to do to accomplish my goals. That feels really good.”
With the 2022 Bassmaster Elite season behind him, Przekurat says he’s looking forward to having some time off before the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic at the Tennessee River in Knoxville, March 24-26. “Fishing the Elites is a lot of travel and time by yourself practicing,” he says. “It’s really not too different than the Opens (Bassmaster St. Croix Opens Series), just at a higher level with a lot more people and exposure. I do pretty well by myself on the road. It’s a privilege and it’s exciting, but it does get a bit old after a while. You miss home, family and friends. Getting back to normal life will feel good for a while.”
That said, the 2022 Bassmaster Elite Rookie of the Year says he’s already feeding on the energy surrounding his first bid to the Bassmaster Classic. “I’m super excited to fish the Classic,” he says. Despite having never fished the Tennessee River, Przekurat says the fishery plays to his strengths. “I have a lot of confidence in my ability to perform well on river systems and it’s relatively close to home. Everything will depend on the kind of weather we have, but we could have some fish close to spawning during that timeframe, which could be the wildcard. Otherwise I think you’re going to see an exciting game of ounces with a lot of cookie-cutter bass like we just had in La Crosse last weekend.”
Przekurat says he’s grateful for the support of his sponsors and happy that he’s been able to deliver consistent performances for them this year. “These titles and accomplishments I’ve earned this year are for them, too,” he says. “The support I’ve received from Whitewater and my other sponsors has been absolutely critical this year. It’s a common misconception that this is a rich man’s sport and you can make it here if you pay your way in. I don’t come from money. I qualified for the Elites from an 18’ boat. Truth is, it can be done with a little money and a lot of skill and hard work, and there are plenty of other people in the Elites that have done the same thing like me. I hope people understand and believe that. But there definitely are expenses, so you need financial support from your sponsors. I’m looking forward to a long relationship with Whitewater. They’re a new brand and I’m new on the Elites, but we’re both built to succeed and endure, so it’s been a good fit. Performance, technology and quality aside, you can tell a lot about a brand from the people behind it. Aaron Ambur and his team at Nexus Outdoors truly care about building products that help create better experiences for outdoors enthusiasts and they’ve treated me like family. It’s been great being a part of the Whitewater brand on the ground floor from the very start. I’m excited about the excellent technical fishing apparel they currently offer and what’s coming next from them very soon.”