The last thing I remember when I left the final weigh-in of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series championships this weekend was talking to Leigh Lee, the mother of Matt and Jordan Lee.
You see, these two Auburn University bass fishing brothers had fought their way through the field of 130 college competitors and in a bracketed format ended up fishing against each other for all the marbles. You would have thought we wrote the script for this ending.
Well, can you imagine how Leigh, the mother of both, felt?
Remember now, the winner, Matt, earns a spot in the Bassmaster Classic — every bass fisherman’s dream. Jordan, who attended the Classic with his parents at a very early age, comes up short and won’t fish in the grand event.
So there sits Leigh Lee in a lawn chair, 103 degrees, crying for both of her boys; and before I tell you what she has to say to me, let me back up and tell you how the entire week went leading up to that conversation.
On the evening after one of the practice days, most of the field of 65 teams came to our office and visited with six Elite anglers in small groups with a lot of one-on-one time. Mark Davis, Kevin Short, Stephen Browning, Todd Faircloth, Scott Rook and Davy Hite gave up some of their best information for a couple of hours. Bass Pro Shops, Humminbird, Luck "E" Strike and, of course, Carhartt, also sent representatives to the affair. Along with some hotdogs and hamburgers from the grill, we all had a big evening.
The next night was registration, and man can those college students eat!
As they put away barbeque, they saw some footage from past college events, heard the rules and then got a real treat.
It’s hard to keep 130 college students quiet, but I don’t think they even blinked through a 15-minute speech from former Classic champ Davy Hite on how to not only make your way to a bass fishing career, but how to handle some important things in life as well.
Now, be aware that every practice day and competition day has temperatures from 100 to 106 degrees. That’s tough on any angler but they all hung in there.
OK, Day One goes smoothly, and the Oklahoma State team of Zack Birge and Blake Flurry had found a nice school of fish in practice. They went straight to them from take-off and with a frog and a topwater bait they put 17 pounds in the boat in an hour. For the most part, they had won the event in that early hour of fishing.
I think it’s extremely impressive that these two young college anglers found that school of fish, first of all, and then caught them when they needed to. That’s the mark of a good bass fisherman.
The competition continued for two more days, with Alabama, Auburn and Murray State having their moments.
But Oklahoma State was too strong and became the Carhartt College Series National Champions.
At this point, the field was cut to the top four teams, which meant that eight anglers were bracketed and began fishing against each other with that 2013 Classic spot being the carrot.
Well, I still think what a great job Birge and Flurry did while capturing the team title for the Cowboys. However, they both go down and along come the semi-finals in the afternoon, and there are four anglers left.
Now, can you believe this? Two are from Auburn and two are from Alabama. I swear we had nothing to do with that.
Once again, I must remind you these boys are in their seventh straight day of fishing. It’s 106 degrees, and we have nothing to do with the fact that the two Auburn anglers defeat the two Alabama anglers, which means the Lee brothers will fish against each other.
That kind of gets me back around to Leigh Lee sitting in the lawn chair crying. Here’s what she has to say to me:
“Jerry, thank you so much for what you and B.A.S.S. have done this week; it’s been wonderful for all the college boys, particularly Matt and Jordan.”
I’m kind of taken back from her attitude because I’m the one who should be doing the thanking. I should be hugging all 130 of those college anglers who showed up at this championship and handled themselves in a way that their universities can truly be proud.
In a time when college sports can use all the good news it can get, along comes Zack Birge and Blake Flurry to take the National Championship home to Oklahoma State. Then, Matt and Jordan Lee from Auburn battle it out for that Classic position.
And Leigh Lee is thanking me?