While at Auburn University, Guntersville’s Jordan Lee twice finished as the runner-up in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship. One of those times was to his brother Matt.
Those bitter memories were erased Sunday as the 25-year-old pro completed one of the most improbable comebacks ever to win the Bassmasters Classic.
Lee caught five bass from Texas’ Lake Conroe Sunday that weighed 27 pounds, 4 ounces for a three-day total of 56-10. Lee earned $300,000.
“To all of the guys fishing the college tournaments right now, this just says you can do it,” Lee said afterward. “It’s hard work and you’re going to have a lot of days out here that aren’t good.
“On this lake, I wasn’t sure there was any way I could do it. But you’re never out of it here.”
Lee caught only three fish weighing 8-6 on the first day of competition on Friday and had no fish by noon on Saturday. It was at that point he began his comeback.
He returned to a point where he failed to catch a fish on Friday and this time it was different
“With zero fish in the box at noon on the second day, I went back to that spot and caught a 7 1/2-pounder on the first cast,” Lee said. “When I was landing that fish, there was a whole school of 5- and 6-pounders that came with it. Right then, I knew something was about to happen — and I caught two more that were both big.”
Lee only had four fish on Saturday, but the four fish he caught weighed 21-0. That moved him into 15th place with 29-6 and gave him one of the 25 spots on Sunday.
Any chance of a comeback seemed impossible when Lee suffered an engine failure early Sunday, but he just happened to be on his lucky point when it happened. It would there that he caught his five fish weighing 27 pounds, 4 ounces.
Lee was forced to hitch a ride to the weigh-in with a spectator. That is legal in the Classic as long as no fishing takes place in the spectator’s boat.
The final-day weigh-in definitely had an Auburn flair as Steve Kennedy, a resident of Auburn, finished second with 55-1. California angler Brent Ehrler who led the first two rounds of the tournament caught just 11-10 and finished third with 54-14. A 9 pound, 12 ounce largemouth caught on Friday won Ehrler the Berkley Big Bass Award of $2,500. Ehrler also won $1,000 for the GEICO Everyday Leader Award and $1,500 for the GEICO Everyday Leader Bonus for leading on both Friday and Saturday.
Lee’s main baits were a Strike King 5XD crankbait in the citrus shad color pattern, a football jig with a Rage Craw and a Space Monkey for a trailer and a Bullworm on a magnum shaky head.
“I stuck with it all day and caught fish on a football jig with a Rage Craw and a Space Monkey,” Lee said. “I threw the 5XD and the Bullworm and didn’t really get any bites on them. I caught all 27 pounds on that football jig.”
Lee said his lucky point seemed to have a hard bottom and that apparently made a difference.
“I never caught any shells or anything, so I think it was a gravel or a rock bottom,” he said. “It was really subtle. There was no brush. It was just kind of a flat point, and I was fishing probably 100 yards offshore.”