August 26, 2022
When Jay Przekurat left the Bassmaster Elite Series event on the St. Lawrence River on July 17, he walked away with an impressive set of accolades. First was his rookie season victory with a winning 4-day total of 102 pounds, 9 ounces, complemented by an entry into the Bassmaster Century Club, which recognizes anglers catch 100 pounds or more in a 4-day event.
Przekurat also walked away with a new Bassmaster record—the youngest angler to win an Elite event. Moreover, he and second-place finisher Cory Johnston are the only anglers to enter the Century Club with all smallmouth bass.
Impressive, but what he walked away with was the direct result of what he walked in with. Summarily, that was a head full of smallmouth know-how.
“The St. Lawrence/Lake Ontario is similar to the Great Lakes I’d fished before; Sturgeon Bay (Lake Michigan),” Przekurat said. “You can almost take most Great Lakes and they compare really similarly when it comes to structure, current and baitfish too.
“You can take main key points from one Great Lake and apply them to another, like I did at the St. Lawrence.”
That’s essentially how he was able to take on a fishery he’d never seen, calmly and methodically dial in his focal points and beat a final field of stone cold smallmouth specialists with decades of brown fish beatdown experience.
He shared a glimpse of the smallmouth insights that helped lead him to victory.
Location: Przekurat split his time between the mouth of Black River Bay and the outside of Chaumont Bay — both on Lake Ontario’s west side, south of the St. Lawrence River mouth. Both were postspawn staging areas where fish were coming to him.
His ideal smallmouth scenario: “Big boulders are my main thing anywhere on a lake, whether it’s points, small secondary points, or little outcroppings, or small bays off the main lake. When you’re going down a straight shoreline, I look for any little bump out—anything that sticks out into the lake.”
Each bump out is different, he said, so he’ll analyze additional features, such as grass and particular baitfish species. Knowing if he’s in a bottom-oriented goby scenario or something involving alewives, herring or other baitfish that tend to hold higher in the water column guides his bait and presentation decisions.
For most of the warm season, he prefers a dropshot’s in-your-face precision. He also likes a marabou jig (before the prespawn and right at the year’s first bug hatch); and he’ll work a tube, Ned rig and small swimbait into his game plan.
Depth? He favors the shallow game. Depths will vary with clarity, but he likes the visual hunt—singling out big fish.
“The key is covering as much water as you can without making a cast until you see the right caliber fish,” he said. “I might see 2- to 3-pounders and when I’m in tournament mode, I don’t even cast at those fish.”
Przekurat said an educated eye is essential to this strategy. Learning to differentiate size classes comes with practice, but it’s a time-saving skill worth developing.
Conditions: He knows that wind is a big element of Great Lakes fishing, as it impacts navigation and fish behavior. To the latter point, he said that wind crashing into your area will push bait into where the fish are holding.
“The navigational concern is that it takes your more time to get where you’re going and big waves can beat up your equipment,” he said.
That being said, he also notes that the Great Lakes’ waves tend to have lower frequency (spaced farther apart), so it’s often possible to ride the troughs and methodically work your way to your location without too much abuse.
Ideally, Przekurat always wants at a little chop with sunny skies, so he can spot his fish, while obscuring his presence. A big wind, he said, is not all bad—just a tradeoff. Sight fishing goes out the window, but the fish are far less wary.
“When 5-foot waves a crashing in, they don’t know a boat is on top of them, so might be more apt to bite in those conditions,” he said.
Don’t Overthink It: While largemouth can be a persnickety lot, smallmouth are generally a more user-friendly species. Clearly, the big ones are wiser and less easily fooled, but when it comes to taking up residence, he said that even the tanks can be remarkably simple.
“My biggest tip is to not overlook the obvious spots, like a giant main lake point with giant boulders,” he said. “Sometimes the obvious for smallmouth can be the best. They’re going to bite at some time.”