Auburn’s two dates with destiny

The BCS National Championship isn't all Auburn has to look forward to. The Bassmaster Classic holds the potential for an Auburn victory, too.

AUBURN, Ala. — The Auburn University Bass Fishing Team has made almost as big a splash in 2013 as the Auburn University football team.

With Auburn’s running back Tre Mason up for Heisman consideration and Auburn’s coach Gus Malzahn being named Coach of the Year at last night’s The Home Depot College Football Awards, one might think Auburn is just a football school.

But the school’s bass fishing program is strong, too. And just like the football team is headed to the national championship, the bass fishing team is sending one of its own to the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing, the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

Jordan Lee made headlines in 2012 when he went head-to-head against his brother and teammate, Matt Lee, at the 2012 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket. Matt won the standoff and advanced to the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.

Jordan didn’t give up, though. He used the experience as inspiration, and he came back this year and won the 2013 bracket, earning a qualification for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

“Not only does this show how good the Lees are, it cements the Auburn fishing team as one of the best teams — if not the best team — to have ever fished collegiately,” said Hank Weldon, director of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series, at the 2013 bracket in Muskegon, Mich.

Darrel High, director of Auburn University’s bass team, has been with the club since it was chartered in 2007, and he organized it under the B.A.S.S. Nation to expand the opportunities for its anglers to compete.

High said Jordan’s dream growing up always has been to go to the Classic, and he’s earned that right to compete with some of the best anglers in the world.

“As hard as it was for him not to make it last year, it just drove him to know what it would take to get back this year,” said High, who describes Jordan as the next KVD. “For him to go back and make it to the top is just astronomical. He pulled it off. That says what kind of drive the kid has. He doesn’t like to fail, and if he does fail, he figures out a way to correct it.

“Jordan and Matt have been great for the club,” High said. “They took what we built even further.”

High said Auburn’s team is highly competitive with approximately 40 anglers vying for spots on the travel team. Each year, Jordan and Matt have had to fish fall qualifiers to determine the top anglers for the travel team.

“Because we’re competitive, we’re always pretty much at the top of collegiate fishing,” High said. “These guys don’t just show up and fish. They have to earn their spots.”

“Jordan is just an all-around good fisherman,” High said. “He’s well versed in his electronics, and he’s at or near the top every year. The guys he’s paired with always bond as a team, whether it’s a two-man or a six-man team. Jordan just adapts to whatever situation he’s in.”

High credits the Lees’ parents with their strong support of their sons and the constancy of their presence at bass events.

“They’re very hands-on and support their kids,” High said. “You see a lot of that. Their father gets out and works on the boat, and their mother is there every minute. To have that kind of support, plus the support they get from the university, is great.”

Jordan Lee graduates from Auburn tomorrow, but he’ll be wearing his orange and blue jersey in February on Lake Guntersville, three hours north of the university, a fishery he calls his home water.

Before football commentators called 2013 Auburn’s year of destiny, writer Shaye Baker called the upcoming Classic Jordan’s destiny.

Destiny or not, Auburn has been making plays on the field and on the water. And fans get to watch both stories unfold over the next several weeks.