LA CROSSE, Wis. — Calm, cool and collected. That is the demeanor Jay Przekurat exudes on the Bassmaster Elite Series each day, whether he is hoisting his first Elite Series trophy or fighting to stay above the cut line.
That attitude is what helped Przekurat weather a midseason storm and ultimately win the 2022 Falcon Rods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year race.
By qualifying for Day 3 at the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Mississippi River, the Stevens Point, Wis., pro clinched the coveted award — and the $10,000 prize that goes with it — outlasting a late charge from Missouri’s Cody Huff and Tennessee’s Jacob Foutz.
“This is a lifelong dream of mine to be standing here right now,” said Przekurat, who sits in 12th place in the final regular-season event. “Hats off to the other rookies who competed against me this year. They caught them all year long and I had to catch them. I had some tournaments where I struggled as well, and it just happened that I was fortunate enough to take this trophy.
“Everyone you look at that has won Rookie of the Year is still fishing on the Elite Series today. I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but I know right now life has been pretty good bass fishing so far.”
Entering the season as a 22-year-old, Przekurat’s number one goal was to win the ROY race. It just so happened he was able to clinch the title in front of a baseball stadium full of friends, family and supporters in his home state.
“The crowd I have here is unbelievable. It seemed like everyone was cheering when I came out,” he said. “It’s pretty wild and surreal. To know I have that many fans out there is pretty crazy. Last year I didn’t have any fans. I didn’t realize how many people pay attention to how I am doing.”
Przekurat led the ROY standings after every event but one this season. He made the Day 3 cut in his first four events, notching a 33rd-place finish at the St. Johns River, a 14th at the Harris Chain of Lakes, a 24th at Santee Cooper Lakes and then a 40th-place showing at Chickamauga Lake.
Midseason stumbles, where he finished 74th at Lake Fork and 66th at Pickwick Lake, pushed Przekurat out of the lead after the Pickwick event, but he reclaimed the top spot with his historic victory at the St. Lawrence River, weighing the heaviest smallmouth-only bag in history at 102 pounds, 9 ounces and becoming the youngest Elite Series champion ever.
“It was looking grim after two slipups,” he said. “That St. Lawrence tournament definitely had to be the turning point.”
He increased his lead again at Lake Oahe with a 13th-place showing before putting himself squarely in contention to make the Top 10 this week at La Crosse.
From watching his father Jason, a renowned walleye tournament angler, Przekurat learned quickly that a calmer, steady approach to tournaments would be the way for him to succeed. That ability to center himself and focus on the task at hand is what helped him navigate the two-tournament setback.
“I think it carries through when you are like that,” Przekurat said. “When it comes down to a fishing day, there’s so much stress that comes into it. There are so many things to be thinking about, but when you relax and don’t worry about those things, good things seem to happen.”
As an angler, Przekurat quickly learned that having an open mind would be the best way to navigate the grueling four-day derbies. But more than anything, he said winning this trophy gives him a new level of confidence and lets others know he is here to stay.
“This shows I can compete with these guys over nine tournaments on places that I have never been to in my first year. It is a confidence thing for me. Obviously, I am happy and this is awesome, but it gives me so much more confidence.”
With Rookie of the Year under his belt, Przekurat heads out for Day 3 of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite on the Upper Mississippi River in 12th place with 28-3, with just over a 3-pound deficit between him and first-place Chris Johnston with 31-14.