One fishing season is over. The next will soon begin. Nowís
a great time to ask a very key question; How can I become
a better fisherman? Itís a query thatís important to tournament
anglers and weekend warriors alike no matter what species
they prefer. For one group, it means the chance to win more
cash. For the other, it means more fun on the water. Everybody
likes to catch more fish. For Jason Przekurat, the answer
is summed up in just one word; "Versatility," said the 2003
RCL Angler of the Year. Too many fishermen excel at one or
two techniques, he said, but what happens when those tactics
fail? "If I have to stand on my head and do cartwheels from
the front of the boat to the back to catch a walleye, I will,"
said Przekurat, 33, who works at Gander Mountain in Wausau,
Wis. His boss is Tom Keenan, the RCL Champion for 2003. "Thatís
the attitude you have to have. Itís really about being open-minded.
If you want to be versatile, youíd better be willing to use
any tactic there is. There are no rules in this game," he
said. Przekurat grew up fishing the Wisconsin River at Stevens
Point. He bought a boat after his high school graduation.
After time spent as a muskie fanatic, he decided to broaden
his fishing knowledge and concentrate on learning more about
From his boyhood, he knew how to handle current and how to
slip jig below the boat. He also knew how to cast crankbaits
or drift slip-bobber rigs with one-sixteenth or one-eighth-ounce
Fuzz-E-Grubs or bare hooks and minnows and leeches over flats
where walleyes feed and spawn. But, thatís about where his
walleye knowledge ended. So, he created his own version of
Walleye University; * He read every article he could find
on walleye fishing. He paid particular attention to new tactics
and to fish locations at various times of year * He built
a library of walleye-fishing videos * When he saw someone
catching fish, he wasnít afraid to ask how they did it ē He
attended tournament weigh-ins and listened when the top competitors
talked about what techniques they used Next, came time on
the water with a twist. If he wanted to learn how to troll
lures on leadcore in rivers, he left the jigging rods at home.
In that way, he avoided the temptation to resort to tried-and-true
methods if the new ones didnít pan out as fast as he thought
they should. After all, it took time to learn the nuances,
like using long monofilament leaders with leadcore in clear-water
lakes and reservoirs and shorter leaders of braided line in
rivers to control depth and to see when debris fouled the
hooksÖthe rod tip stopped vibrating.
The same was true when he learned open-water trolling with
planer boards and crankbaits or spinner rigs on bottom-bouncers
or snap weights. Using them now is second nature. "I can drop
the rig down and know exactly where my baits are," he said.
He began fishing tournaments as soon as he gained a little
knowledge. Even when he didnít do well, he saw what the leaders
did and vowed to master it. "Every tournament I fished in
the first three or four years, even if I didnít do well, I
was there to learn," Przekurat said. "I listened. Thatís why
they gave us two ears and one mouth. Youíre supposed to listen
more than you talk." He also kept notes on what worked where
and when. "It gives you an idea of where to start next time."
The jigging rods were left at home again when he and Masters
Walleye Circuit teammate Eric Olsen decided to learn how to
learn how to hand-line. They first used it in a competition
at the MWC tournament at Spring Valley, Ill., on the Illinois
River in late March, 2000. They landed the biggest one-day
stringer of the event ó 16-1/2 pounds for five sauger. "We
had 18 fish over 3 pounds that day." The next time they used
the tactic was a few months later at Red Wing, Minn., on the
Mississippi River to win the MWC Championship in 2000. Przekurat
also learned other subtleties of the sport like when to stay
on a spot and when to move.
He tends to focus on learning one or two spots well instead
of five or six haphazardly. Then during the tournament, he
gives each spot more of a chance while other people race from
spot to spot. "Otherwise Iím spending more time behind the
wheel and not enough time with a line in the water. If I catch
fish pre-fishing and conditions havenít changed that much,
then they should still be there. There is no reason they left."
After climbing toward the top of the race for the RCL angler
of the year with each passing year, 2003 was the year when
versatility paid off in a big way. At the RCL at Spring Valley,
Przekurat hand-lined. At Lake Sharp, S.D., below the Oahe
dam where current varies from 1 mph to 4 mph, he cast one-quarter
and three-eighths-ounce Fuzz-E-Grubs with fatheads onto shallow
sand flats along channel breaks where walleyes were spawning.
At Lake Erie, walleyes were post-spawn. He trolled Reef Runners
on planer boards along the edges of the last structures in
the Western Basin which walleyes passed as they migrated east.
A slight adjustment from being on the edge in 15 to 18 feet
of water to 80 yards farther out over slightly deeper water
meant the difference from smaller fish and weighing five walleyes
that totaled 41 pounds in one day.He was in fifth place in
the angler-of-the-year race when he entered the final tournament
at Devilís Lake, N.D. Walleyes were very aggressive during
pre-fishing, where he caught a 3-pounder and released it.
Then he looked down into the clear water and saw the same
fish hovering a few feet below the boat. He dropped a jig
again, and the fish inhaled it. But, during the tournament
on the first day, he only had two small fish by mid-day. Thatís
when he gambled and moved 20 miles to a secondary spot, where
he used Thill slip-bobber rigs 5 feet down in 10 feet of water
within standing timber. In a half hour, he had one walleye
over 6 pounds, another over 5 pounds and another over 4. He
moved to another set of trees and had another 5 pound walleye
and one over 3 pounds. Next day, when his other spots failed
to produce, he headed to the windy side of the lake and used
yet another tactic ó casting crankbaits at shallow walleyes
huddled near rocks. He had 23 pounds on back-to-back days
on his way to angler of the year Want to go to the head of
the class? Become versatile. Never stop learning. And, never
expect to graduate from Walleye University.