What I thought might happen on Day 3 of the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK's Sporting Goods didn’t, but what did happen was pretty extraordinary.
I wasn’t able to make up the ground I needed to win back-to-back Classics. It turns out I was right about what it would take to win, but I just couldn’t get there. I’d love to have a do-over. The fish I had been catching so fast on the first two days, weren’t taking the bait as well in the final round, and I struggled. I only caught two keepers and fell well short of my goal for the day.
Jordan Lee, on the other hand, had a career day with 27 pounds, 4 ounces to come from 15th place and win. In a lot of ways it was like my final round in last year’s Classic, so I felt like I understood what he was going through. We all know that Jordan is an extraordinary talent, but I don’t think anyone saw that coming, especially after his tough Day 1, when he had just 8 pounds.
As the defending champion, I got to hand the Classic trophy off to Jordan and watch him celebrate with his parents and brother, Matt. It was a moment I’ll never forget. Winning the Bassmaster Classic changes your career, and for such a talented angler to win at such a young age (25) is very impressive.
Jordan has a busy year ahead of him, and I expect that he’ll make the most of it. If I had any advice for him, having just gone through the same experience, I would tell him to make the most of every opportunity. Use those opportunities not just to benefit yourself, but also the sport.
As the Classic champion and especially because he’s young and came out of the college program, Jordan is going to influence a lot of young and new anglers — many of whom want to follow in his footsteps. I think there’s a lot of responsibility in that role, and I believe he’s up to the task.
Jordan is part of a new generation — a generation that’s had a lot of opportunity in organized fishing at the high school and college levels and that has learned not just from books, magazines and television, but also from Bassmaster.com, YouTube and smartphone apps. Things are very different from when I got started.
He’s the perfect example of the caliber of young angler coming out of some of the college programs today — bright, dedicated and talented beyond their years. Not all of these young anglers will approach the heights Jordan has reached so quickly, but many of them are capable, and they’ll be getting their time in the spotlight very soon.
Jordan is a new champion for a new era. Our sport is in good hands. He’s a great angler, and I’ll be excited to watch him throughout his year as reigning Classic champion.
Very soon, I’ll be reaching out to congratulate him again — when there aren’t thousands of fans cheering all around us and when we can talk. I want him to know that I’m available if he can benefit from anything I’ve learned as champion. It’s new territory for every winner, and every winner must find his own path. I’m confident he’ll make the most of it to advance both his career and our sport.
Congratulations Jordan! I wish you all the best.