So here is a question I’ve gotten a lot over the last couple of years, “Hey Z, is that college kid the real deal?”
Hmm. Maybe right now is a good time to delve into that question just a bit, shall we?
I met young Jordan Lee when he was just a high school student. He introduced himself to me at a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament that was so long ago and far away, I can’t even remember where it was.
A year or so later, I returned to his neck of the woods to work an Elite Series event on Wheeler Lake. I was on the water covering tournament leader Jeremy Starks (yes, that long ago) when I noticed two young kids in a boat who followed Starks all day long. After a while I recognized the two young shadowers as Jordan and Matt Lee, and I could tell by how intently they studied Starks that there was something different about these kids: They were way into this pro fishing thing for a couple of youngsters.
I would later come to know the Lee brothers very well as Auburn University students who dominated the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series in 2012 and 2013.
Matt was the first of the two brothers to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic through the College Series. In fact, he edged his younger brother out in the bracket-style fish-off to earn a berth into the 2013 Classic.
Jordan, however, refused to let that be the Lee brothers’ College Series storybook ending – Jordan had a few more chapters in mind, which included storming right back through the College Series the following year, earning his own berth to the Classic.
And that really got my attention about Jordan Lee: In his mind, he would not be denied a Classis berth through the College Series, and he made damn sure he got his Classic ticket punched the following year.
While covering those college championships during the Lee reign, I began to realize that young Jordan Lee was light years ahead of his year class of anglers in many of the critical categories of tournament fishing.
After Jordan qualified for the Classic through the College Series, I remember telling Tommy Sanders that Jordan Lee was the next Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck of bass fishing and that we would be covering him until we retired.
When Tommy asked me why I said that, I explained to him that Jordan possessed an extremely unique combination of mental and physical attributes that makes him a one-in-a million.
For starters, at the college level, his mechanical abilities and skill set was exponentially better than his competition. Jordan grew up in an incredibly geographically diverse area of the country. From the clear waters of Lewis Smith Lake, to the grass of Lake Guntersville, to the currents of the Coosa River chain, he had been exposed to a lot of bass fishing’s most comprehensive playbooks, and he learned them all very well.
Secondly, Jordan is simply a naturally talented angler. This is hard to explain, but I can recognize it after watching an angler over a couple of tournaments – Jordan has that inherent feel of when to be where on the water.
Additionally, from a mental standpoint, Jordan is as solid and stone cold as a sniper. He has no emotion on the water – zero nerves. He is totally numb to all the buzz, hubbub, fireworks and clowns at the circus. He comes to tournaments to do one thing: catch bass – catch all the bass.
Most importantly, though – and I harp on this all the time in these blogs – Jordan has a voracious appetite for work on the water. He wants to be on the water daylight till dark eight days a week. Whenever I call Jordan, he is on the water and the only thing he wants to talk about is when he can get on the water again. Heck, a couple of days after he won the Bassmaster Classic I called him and he was on Lake Sam Rayburn fishing!
I get mowed over on a daily basis on how to become a pro angler: What do I need to do to be pro? How can I get sponsors? How can I get to the Elite Series?
I’ve said this before in these blogs and I’ll say it again right now: time on the water. You can’t trick this game, man. This is not a part-time gig out here. If you try to part-time it in the Elite Series, this group will hunt you down, find the cracks in your game, expose them, eat you up and spit you out.
I think a lot of people are in love with the idea of being a professional angler – Jordan Lee has put in the work to actually be one. He is on the practice field every day – even when it’s raining, even when it’s cold, even when there is no one else out there, even when no one else is watching – he is on the practice field.
Am I surprised “that college kid” won the Classic?
Lee displayed his ability for stunning comebacks in the very first Classic he fished as “that college kid” in 2014 when he started the event in 40th after Day 1 and caught back-to-back 24-pound bags to rocket to sixth place.
Jordan Lee has been the first angler in history to come from the Carhartt College Series, through the Opens, to the Elites and win the Bassmaster Classic in a span of just three years.
So let’s review the question: Is “that college kid” the real deal?
You be the judge.