AUBURN, Ala. — You might have heard of these three college anglers: Tom Frink, Matt Lee and Jordan Lee. If not, just imagine that it’s sometime in the 1990s and Edwin Evers, Kevin VanDam and Aaron Martens are all in college … and living together.
That’s pretty much the Bassmaster Elite Series equivalent to what you’ll find at the end of a cul-de-sac in Auburn, Ala. A fishy little story-and-a-half on Law Street, which should aptly be renamed Outlaw Street after this group’s tenure there, houses three of the most decorated collegiate anglers to date.
Matt Lee won the 2012 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket last year and became only the second angler to ever qualify for the Bassmaster Classic via the college ranks.
Jordan Lee likely holds the record for most Top 10s in intercollegiate competition — at least six with the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series, 10 with FLW College Fishing and a handful more with other regional and national collegiate tours. Most of those finishes were Top 3s, achieved alongside current teammate and best friend Shane Powell.
Tom Frink makes up one-half of the recently crowned 2013 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship team. In addition to a collegiate resume stocked with Top 5s, Frink also sits in second for all-time B.A.S.S. co-angler winnings, exceeding $136,000 in career co-earnings before B.A.S.S. did away with co-anglers for the Elite Series in 2008.
Matt Lee didn’t start his collegiate career at Auburn University like his younger brother Jordan.
“I started college at Birmingham Southern and didn’t really know anything about college bass fishing at the time,” said Matt. “I was there for two years before my brother started school at Auburn, and that’s when I started hearing about the fishing team there.”
Matt soon found out that Auburn University offered a dual engineering program in conjunction with Birmingham Southern that would allow him to attend Birmingham Southern for three years and then transfer to Auburn and receive a degree from both schools.
“After I found that out, it was a no-brainer,” said Matt. “I knew I wasn’t going to get the kind of exposure from fishing at Birmingham Southern that I would fishing at Auburn, so I transferred there and moved in with my brother.”
However, Jordan Lee didn’t start his career at Auburn living in the nice little home with a yard big enough for six boats. (The Lees and Frink have tested that out — and it does indeed fit six boats.)
No, Jordan started off shacked up in a tiny dorm room on the outskirts of campus living with a roommate whose recreational interests included vegetation of the municipal variety, if you know what I mean. It was not exactly a conducive environment for an aspiring angler, so Jordan found a new place to live for him and his brother — and two pieces to the puzzle were in place.
Now over to Tom Frink.
Frink's route to the house of hammers was far from ordinary. Tom, now 30, briefly entertained the idea of attending junior college in California while also considering a stint in the armed forces. Then, Sept. 11, 2001, happened. Frink's decision was made; he signed up for the Air Force where he served three tours overseas in Iraq working as a Military Police officer and later as an Airborne Sniper. Near the end of his service, he signed up to fish the Elite Series as a co-angler, where he won two events in 2006.
“The first time I met Tom was in 2009 at a Bassmaster Weekend Series event that we fished against each other,” said Jordan. “We fished against each other a few times after that and then fished together a few times and just hit it off. When he decided to move down from Kennesaw, Ga., for nursing school, we all decided to move in together.”
Kennesaw State, just north of Atlanta, is where Tom Frink started his college careers in both academics and angling. Having become good friends with Jordan and Matt and knowing that Auburn University had a stellar nursing program as well as a stout college bass fishing team, he decided to relocate to Auburn and attend Auburn University.
“When I applied at Auburn, there was basically a box that you could check saying that you wanted to apply at AUM, too,” said Frink.
Because it was late in the enrollment process, the nursing program was already full for the semester at Auburn.
“A few days later, I got a letter in the mail saying that I had been accepted to AUM,” said Frink.
Faced with the decision to either sit out a semester or attend Auburn University’s branch campus in Montgomery, Tom opted for the latter. Auburn University Montgomery, or AUM, is where Tom Frink met Jacob Nummy and the two thus set out on a collision course with the 2013 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship title.
Immersion is the fastest way to learn anything or perfect any skill, which is evident in the success of the three members of this household.
“Any time you can be around something as much as possible, it’s just going to make you that much better at it,” said Matt. “I’ve always fished with my brother or against my brother, and it’s always made us better because we’re constantly having to learn something new that one us has picked up on. Then you throw somebody like Tom in the mix who has learned so much from fishing the Elite Series as a co-angler, and it just makes us all that much better.”
Currently, Tom Frink treks an hour to school three or four days a week while both Jordan and Matt wrap up their last semester or two at Auburn. The three of them, along with the help of their teammates, have built a fraternity of sorts at Auburn. All their dues are paid on the water, and instead of hazing, there’s just a little heckling when a fish story stretches too thin.
The Brotherhood of Bass is a strong bond that has connected these three young men. Fishing has bridged a gap nearly a continent wide bringing Tom from California and the Lee brothers from Alabama under one roof. And now, in their last at-bat as collegiate anglers, Jordan and Tom will do battle once more in the 2013 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket in just a few weeks.
Either way you slice it, the ‘house of hammers’ has two anglers in the hunt, and that makes it the odds-on favorite to add another accolade to the mantel.