BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — While many of the competitors in the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro had fans rooting for them based on the anglers’ career and experience, Jordan Lee’s cheering section was a completely different audience.
Lee, who was competing in the Classic thanks to his qualification through the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series, had thousands of fans — from college anglers around the country and from Auburn University fans — hoping for a Jordan Lee victory.
“It means so much to have support like that,” said Lee. “It’s so great to have that many people behind me.”
Lee’s family — including his parents and grandmothers — and his Auburn Bass Fishing Team teammates were on-site to watch him at the weigh-ins.
Matt Lee, who fits into both categories — family and Auburn team — had his back the whole time.
Matt competed in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic, also via the college route, and he had powerful words for Jordan after he got his sixth-place finish.
“I’m so proud of you,” Matt said to him. “And I can’t wait until we’re both up on that Classic stage at the same time.”
Jordan can’t wait, either, and that’s why he’s fishing all nine events in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens presented by Allstate. He’s competed in two already this year, one of which resulted in a fifth-place finish. And he’s got another one coming up this weekend — the Southern Open on Alabama’s Smith Lake, just minutes from his parents’ home.
All he needs is one win in the Opens to get another Classic qualification. If he succeeds, he’ll be the first college angler to qualify for the Classic through the College Series as well as the Opens series. Matt Lee and Andrew Upshaw, the other two anglers who have qualified for the Classic through the college series, are also working to be the first to get there through the Opens.
Jordan’s sixth-place finish in the Classic was the highest of the three college anglers. Upshaw finished 31st in the 2012 Classic, and Matt finished 46th in 2013. So not only does Jordan have the only Top 10 finish to his credit, he’s also the only college angler so far to have made the Top 25 cut.
“I’m so glad to have been able to represent the College Series well,” said Jordan Lee. “It really means a lot to have made them proud.”
And Hank Weldon, manager of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series, says Jordan’s performance is just the beginning.
“It could be the most important thing to ever happen in college fishing to this point,” said Weldon.
“We’ve had some great representatives in the past with Upshaw and [Matt] Lee, but the level of exposure Jordan’s finish has given us is unprecedented.
“Now that we have the bar set at a sixth-place finish, the next bar is even higher,” added Weldon.
“This definitely proves that a college angler does belong in the Classic and that these student anglers can live their dream.”
Keep up with Matt and Jordan Lee and Andrew Upshaw on the College B.A.S.S. Facebook page.