GROVE, Okla. – Only when looked at in the retrospect can Jacob Powroznik see there was a plan to all this. And THE plan was bigger than his plan.
Powroznik simply wanted to re-qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series this year. With a 25th place finish in the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open at Grand Lake Friday, Powroznik not only re-qualified for the 2022 Elite Series, he earned the Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year title. Plus there’s the 2022 Bassmaster Classic berth he took with come-from-behind victory in the Central Open at Alabama’s Smith Lake two weeks ago.
“God works in mysterious ways,” Powroznik said. “I feel like the two elephants that were sitting on my shoulders have gone away. I can’t wait to get back to where I belong – on the Bassmaster Elite Series.”
Neither the Classic berth nor the Opens AOY title would have happened if Powroznik had qualified for the 2022 Elite Series earlier this season. He was in prime position to do it through the Northern Opens after two tournaments. But he posted his second-worst finish of the season (50th) on the St. Lawrence River, one of Powroznik’s favorite fisheries. He was in great shape to qualify through the Southern Opens after two tournaments. But he posted his worst finish of the season (59th) on Lake Norman, another of his favorite tournament lakes.
Powroznik had said qualifying for the Elite Series was his only goal. If he’d been in the top three in points in either the Northern or Southern divisions, he would not have competed in the final two Central Opens this year.
“I was staying with Hank Cherry at Lake Norman,” Powroznik recalled. “After that one, Hank said, ‘I don’t know why, but somebody wants you to fish these last two (Central Open) tournaments.’”
The Smith Lake tournament, which was held Oct. 7-9, was the one that Powroznik will never forget. First of all, it was originally scheduled for April 1-3, but major flooding forced it to be postponed until October. After two days, Powroznik was in 4th place, 4 pounds, 10 ounces out of the lead.
“I didn’t think I had a chance,” he said. “Then when I pulled up to the bank at the end of the day, everybody swarmed around me. I said, ‘What’s going on?’ They said, ‘We think you won this thing.’”
It was one long rollercoaster ride for the 43-year-old, North Prince George, Va., angler. Powroznik had a list of accomplishments on the Elite Series tour before leaving after the 2018 season, including a Rookie of the Year title and a victory at Toledo Bend. In Elite Series Angler of the Year standings, he finished 3rd in 2014, 5th in 2015, 4th in 2016 and 7th in 2018. And he badly wanted to earn his way back through the Opens this year.
“It was the most nerve-wracking, emotional ride,” Powroznik said in summarizing this year. “Once you get about midway and you know you have a chance, that’s when it feels like the 100-pound weights are sitting on your shoulders when you leave the boat dock every day. There have been many mornings when I thought I was going to throw up.
“I probably had one of my best years of fishing. But I tell you, this right here is tough. When I caught that fifth one today, I just fell over in my boat, and said, ‘Oh, my gosh.’”