Walleye and bass are two of the most popular freshwater gamefish, but often anglers operate in two distinct silos. Bass anglers like to poke fun at the slower deep-V walleye boats and the walleye anglers’ frequent use of live bait, while walleye anglers mock the simplicity and ease with which bass are caught. In short, it’s rare for the two groups of anglers to see eye to eye. That all changed for one week in July 2022.
On July 14-15, the National Walleye Tour (NWT) held its fourth and final regular-season event on Green Bay. Concurrently, the Bassmaster Elite Series was administering its seventh tournament of the season from July 14-17 on the St. Lawrence River and adjoining Lake Ontario. The common denominator in both tour-level events was the Polish surname Przekurat (pronounced Shu-Ker-Rit).
In Marinette, Wisconsin, along the western shores of Green Bay, 52-year-old Jason Przekurat was securing his berth in the 2022 NWT Championship. The Mercury Pro Team angler is one of the most accomplished walleye sticks in the sport, possessing two FLW Walleye Tour Angler of the Year titles (2003, 2007) and two NWT Championship victories (2016, 2020). Along with Chase Parsons, Korey Sprengel and others, he’s also one of the hosts of the popular “The Next Bite” television show. But all anyone in Marinette wanted to talk about that week was a younger Przekurat.
At the Elite Series event in Clayton, N.Y., 23-year-old Jay Przekurat had just dropped five smallmouths weighing 26 pounds, 13 ounces on the scale. Jay, the older of Jason’s two sons and also a Mercury Pro Team member, is a rookie on the Elite Series, having qualified after only fishing a single pro season on the Bassmaster Central Opens. On day two, the younger Przekurat smoked the smallmouths again, this time sacking 25-8 to take a slim lead. At this point, the NWT event had concluded, but the Elites Series tournament still had two more competition days.
“Jay was in the back of my mind all week, but I drove home Saturday morning after my tournament,” recalled Jason, who lives in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. “I was watching Bassmaster LIVE Saturday afternoon, and I called up a friend of mine, Jim Schiefelbein, and he convinced me we had to go. We picked up a few others, including Jay’s girlfriend, Maike. We left central Wisconsin at 7 p.m. Saturday, drove straight through and arrived in Clayton, N.Y., at noon on Sunday.”
Jay stayed on his postspawn smallmouth program into the weekend. His official Saturday weight was 24-12. By the time his father arrived on championship Sunday, Jay had already put most of his 25-pound, 8-ounce limit in the boat. All week, the damage was done on a Strike King® KVD Drop Shot Half Shell. The final tally was 20 smallmouths weighing 102 pounds, 9 ounces. In four days of sensational fishing, Jay became the youngest angler to ever win an Elite Series event. He and Cory Johnston, another Mercury Pro Team member who finished runner-up, because the first Elite Series anglers ever to enter the Bassmaster Century Club (for catching more than 100 pounds of fish in a tournament) with solely smallmouths.
“I knew he was good enough to win a blue trophy (the Elite Series winner’s hardware), but to watch it all play out was really special,” said Jason. “Watching your kids catch fish is way more enjoyable than even catching them yourself. You want to see your kids succeed in life no matter what it is. It’s the ultimate prize for a parent to see that happen.”
Jay currently leads the Bassmaster Rookie of the Year (ROY) race with 455 points. Trailing him by 11 points is Tennessee pro Jacob Foutz. With the final two Elite Series events located in the Midwest, including one in the Przekurat family’s home state of Wisconsin, Jay is the heavy favorite to win ROY.
“Making the (Bassmaster) Classic and winning Rookie of the Year were always the goals,” said the 23-year-old, who runs a NITRO® Z21 XL bass boat powered by a Mercury 250hp Pro XS® outboard. “As great as it was, it’s now time to put the win to the side and focus on the two goals I had at hand. To be honest, that’s where Dad’s influence comes in. He taught me the whole mental side of fishing. If something bad happens on the water, and it will happen, you can’t let it affect you. But when something good happens, you can’t let it get out of hand.”
Throughout the St. Lawrence event, Bassmaster hosts Tommy Sanders, Mark Zona and Dave Mercer remarked on how mature, steady and levelheaded the rookie pro remained, even with renowned smallmouth sticks like Chris and Cory Johnston breathing down his neck.