BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The scene last summer on Beaverfork Lake in Arkansas was a worst-case scenario. After 10 grueling days of fishing, the Bassmaster Carhartt College Series pitted brother against brother as Matt and Jordan Lee of Auburn University faced off in triple digit temperatures, vying to win a berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.
On the final day, it was Matt, the elder brother, who weighed the two winning bass, and tearfully claimed the victory in the Carhartt Bassmaster Classic Bracket.
At the time, Matt said, “If we fished against each other 20 times, he’d win 18. I hate it for him, but I’m happy for me. I know right now he’s hurting, and I’m hurting for him.”
Anglers like these are evidence of the most important parallel between the intercollegiate competition of college bass fishing and mainstream college sports; intense competition at its purest level.
Last year, the two fished as a two-man team in the Carhartt College Series National Championship. As teammates, they outfished hundreds of other young anglers to reach the Classic Bracket competition, which determined the individual angler qualifying for the “Super Bowl of bass fishing,” the Bassmaster Classic.
The outcome could only be described as bittersweet. Two brothers, with the same lifelong dream were forced to compete for it. For one to realize his dream, the other’s hopes had to be crushed.
The regular season is over, and both Jordan and Matt have again qualified for the next step in the process, the Carhartt College Series National Championship, which will be held on Chatuge Reservoir, Aug. 1-3, 2013.
Matt went on to fish in the Bassmaster Classic and is now attempting to qualify again for the world championship of bass fishing through the Carhartt College Series ranks, as is his brother Jordan. The difference this year is that the two aren’t fishing together. Matt is partnered with Chris Seals, and Jordan shares a boat with Shane Powell, who was his partner in 2011.
“There were no hard feelings after last year,” said Matt about the decision not to fish with his brother in 2013. “Jordan’s real good friends with Shane, and they fish well together. I’m good friends with Chris, so we just decided we wanted to fish together before it was all over — not that much thought went into it really.”
Matt Lee and Seals qualified in their first event in January at the Southern Regional on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida.
Although Jordan Lee and Powell stumbled at the Harris Chain, they took advantage of their only other opportunity in the Wild Card last month on Pickwick Lake, where they finished third. Jordan and Powell have had considerable success in the past as a team, finishing seventh and second in the 2010 and 2011 College Bass National Championships.
Unless they qualify for the Carhartt College Series Classic Bracket by finishing among the Top 4 teams at the National Championship, this will be the final College Bass tournament for the Auburn anglers as they are all about to graduate.
The decision not to fish together doesn’t automatically ensure that Jordan and Matt won’t have a second battle of the brothers. Based on the Classic Bracket format, both Auburn teams could finish in the Top 4. After the Top 4 two-angler teams are determined at the National Championship, the eight anglers are placed in a single elimination bracket where each competes individually for the Classic berth.
The Classic Bracket will be held in conjunction with the Bassmaster Elite Series Toyota All-Star Week, Sept 27-29, in Muskegon, Mich. At the tournament, the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series winner not only receives the coveted berth but also will be awarded $5,000 in cash from Carhartt along with gas money and a wrapped Toyota Tacoma and Skeeter FX 20 with a 250 Yamaha SHO.
“I haven’t even thought about us facing each other again,” Matt said. “We are both just trying our best to make it.”
For what some might consider the worst-case scenario, Jordan has an optimistic outlook.
“That would be the best thing for it to happen again,” Jordan said. “After seeing all the great things that happened to him at the Classic, nothing would make me happier than to fish against him again at the very end. It would be a good way to cap off our college fishing careers.”
Bassmaster.com will provide extensive online coverage of the Carhartt College Series National Championship. Follow the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship on Facebook at www.facebook.com/collegebass and on Twitter using hashtag #collegebass.