The Texas sun gleamed over Lake Conroe, Texas, on March 24 for the opening day of the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic Tournament, presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods. Anglers from around the country dropped their boats in the water to embark on what would be a historic and tide-turning weekend. Jordan Lee ’12, sponsored Carhartt Angler, entered the tournament with a competitive, yet patient, spirit.
In the end, the 25-year-old from Cullman won it all.
After a disappointing first day, Lee was pushed back to 37th out of 51 places. However, as Saturday brought about a new morning, the young angler waded in, undeterred.
“Things didn’t start the way I wanted them to, and I knew after the first day that I would have to work extra hard over the weekend if I wanted to be successful,” said Lee. He wouldn’t catch a fish till after noon that day, but by the time night fell, he netted four weighty bass, bringing him to 21-0.
On the last day, Sunday, March 26, Lee had to catch big to make rank among the top anglers. Immediately, he began to experience mechanical problems with his boat and was stuck in the same fishing spot for the entirety of Sunday. What could have been a costly setback, though, turned into his surprising win.
“I really thought there was no shot of me winning,” Lee admitted. “It didn’t happen quick for me. It was a slow day, but when I set the hook, [they] were obviously big.”
Reeling them in one at a time, he caught five bass weighing a total of 27 pounds. Overall, his weight for the weekend was 56-10.
Mike Suchan, writer for Bassmaster’s Daily Limit, said, “No angler had ever climbed from as far back as 15th, and no Classic champ had ever faced a 13-14 deficit.”
“That’s what makes this victory so special; I really had to go out there and overcome obstacles to win this tournament,” Lee said.
Mark Zona, a fellow Daily Limit writer, featured a story called “A few things about ‘that college kid,’” and in it he validates Lee as much more than a fresh-out-of-school, amateur fisherman. Lee made his debut at the 2014 Classic, where he began the tournament in 40th place; after the first day, he had advanced to sixth place.
He is the “first angler in history to come from the Carhartt College Series, through the Opens, to the Elites and win the Bassmaster Classic in a span of just three years,” Zona said. Even prior to this year’s Classic, he predicted Lee would be “the next Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck of bass fishing.”
Not only is this a significant personal win for Lee, it’s also a huge promotion for collegiate fishing—and Auburn fishing. Auburn University founded its Bass Sports Club in 2007 and has been consistently ranked among the top teams in the nation.