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Rookie roundup: With Przekurat, a star is born

Jay Przekurat entered his first season on the Bassmaster Elite Series with two goals: 1) win the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year title, and 2) qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. Przekurat achieved those goals and much, much more.

If there were a checklist to predict future stardom for an Elite Series rookie, Przekurat (pronounced “shuh-KUR-at”) checked all the boxes in 2022. The headline was his Elite Series win at the St. Lawrence River when the Stevens Point, Wis., pro set a B.A.S.S. record with a four-day total of 102 pounds, 9 ounces of smallmouth bass. In the process, he also became – at age 23 years, 26 days – the youngest angler ever to win an Elite Series event. He finished the season ranked 10th in Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year points.

Jason Przekurat, Jay’s father and an accomplished walleye pro circuit angler, attended the St. Lawrence River final day weigh-in. He frequently fought back tears in describing his feelings after seeing his son earn the Elite Series blue trophy that day.

“It’s surreal, man,” Jason said. “It’s crazy to watch him grow up and just keep getting stronger and stronger and stronger at every level. It’s because of the effort he puts in. I really don’t do a lot. I teach him the mental parts of the game. Everything else, he does. It’s surreal to see what he’s done so fast.”

For Jay’s high school graduation present, Jason took him to the 2017 Bassmaster Classic in Houston. That’s where 25-year-old Jordan Lee won his first Classic.

“Jordan doesn’t know it, but it probably changed Jay’s life,” Jason said. “That just lit a fire under Jay, and he took off.”

Yes, he did. Przekurat earned 632 AOY the year points in 2022. He won the ROY title by 92 points over second place Cody Huff. The following is a list of the nine other Elite Series rookies, in order of their final Rookie of the Year finish, which is based on AOY points for the season:

Cody Huff – Ava, Mo., 540 points

The 25-year-old Rick Clunn protégé was one of the favorites to win the ROY title, based on his 2019 Bassmaster College Bracket Championship, a successful bass tournament career at Bethel University and the 2021 Central Opens Angler of the Year title. Huff got off to a rough start, missing the first three Day 2/top 47 cuts of the season. He missed only one Day 2 cut after that. His final four tournaments included a second-place finish at Pickwick Lake and 10th place at Lake Oahe. Huff ranked 34th in the final AOY standings and joins Pzrekurat as the only rookies currently qualified for the 2023 Bassmaster Classic.

Jacob Foutz – Charleston, Tenn., 469 points

Another one of the “young guns” on the 2022 Elite Series, Foutz, 24, showed his capabilities by finishing third at Chickamauga Lake and fourth at Pickwick Lake. After placing 27th at the St. Lawrence River, Foutz trailed Przekurat in the ROY standings by only 11 points. Two disappointing finishes at Lake Oahe and the Mississippi River dropped him out of the Classic qualification cut in 49th place in AOY points.

Joseph Webster – Hamilton, Ala., 452 points

The oldest rookie in this year’s class at age 47, he took the lead in the ROY standings, by three points over Jacob Foutz, after Webster finished 26th at Pickwick Lake. Webster enjoyed a midseason run where he placed 16th at Santee Cooper, 35th at Chickamauga and 26th at Pickwick. Webster finished 55th in AOY points.

Josh Douglas – Isle, Minn., 447 points

He was on the verge of Classic qualification after making the Day 2 cut in four of six tournaments – 38th at Santee Cooper, 37th at Lake Fork, 28th at Pickwick and 35th at Oahe. The finale at the Mississippi River was tough on almost all the rookies. Douglas, 42, finished 64th at La Crosse and closed the season in 56th place in AOY points.

Mayasuki Matsushita – Tokonami-shi, Japan, 436 points

The 39-year-old pro started the season in first place in the ROY standings after finishing third at the St. Johns River. Matsushita, who won an Open at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in 2020 to qualify for the 2021 Bassmaster Classic, made the Day 2 cut in two of the last three Elite Series events, finishing 35th at the St. Lawrence River and 12th at Lake Oahe. He ranked 59th in AOY points.

Alex Redwine – Blue Ash, Ohio, 394 points

The two youngest anglers on the Elite Series – Redwine turned 23 two months after Przekurat – roomed together on the road this season. Redwine admitted he was in awe most of the season, competing against veteran anglers he’d long admired. He didn’t make a Day 2 cut through the first six tournaments, then closed with a flourish, finishing 26th at the St. Lawrence River, 29th at Lake Oahe and 16th at the Mississippi River. Redwine placed 71st in AOY points.

Matty Wong – Collinsville, Texas, 338 points

The 24-year-old Hawaii native had the up-and-down season you might expect from a young, talented angler who had fished in only one B.A.S.S. tournament prior to this year – the 2021 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, which he won to qualify for the Elite Series. Wong finished 21st in the season opener at the St. Johns River, 14th at Chickamauga Lake and 23rd at Lake Fork. However, his best finish in the other six Elite events was 78th at the St. Lawrence River. Wong was 85th in final AOY points.

Jonathan Kelley – Old Forge, Pa., 318 points

Kelley, 26, had an up-and-down season similar to Wong’s, placing 36th at the St. Johns River, 26th at Santee Cooper and 41st at Pickwick Lake. However, his best finish in the other six Elite Series tournaments was 74th at the Harris Chain. Kelley ranked 86th in final AOY points.

Daisuke Aoki – Minamitsuru-gun, Japan, 287 points

The 39-year-old, three-time Japanese Angler of the Year twice showed flashes of his talent, finishing sixth at Chickamauga Lake and 35th at Lake Fork. Aoki, who won the 2021 Southern Open at Douglas Lake and finished 31st in 2022 Bassmaster Classic, had a third-best finish on the Elite Series of 77th place. He placed 88th in final AOY points.