No strangers to College bracket

MUSKEGON, Mich. — As if there weren't enough going on here this week, there's a version of an old-timer's game in the midst of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Classic Bracket.

Heading the list are a couple of roommates – 30-year-old Tom Frink and 22-year-old Jordan Lee. They share a house in Auburn, Ala., with Jordan's 24-year-old brother, Matt, who won the Bassmaster Classic berth in last year's College Classic.

"I'm the only young gun in the house," laughed Jordan.

And oh what a house it must be, with three full-time college students who have ambitions to be professional bass fishermen.

"Our garage is really a mess," Jordan said. "There are probably 10 trolling motors in there and a couple of (outboard) lower units."

Added Frink, "The house isn't too bad, after Jordan and Matt's mom (Leigh) comes over and cleans it up."

While their house might be a mess, these three guys have their minds in a tidy place. All have one goal: To compete on the Elite Series tour. But they've got an education almost complete, which will serve as their backup plan. Frink will graduate from Auburn University-Montgomery in December with a degree in nursing. Jordan will complete a marketing degree from Auburn at the same time. Matt Lee will have one course left in the spring. (Matt, last year's college champion, isn't among the eight finalists in this event this year.)

Both Jordan Lee and Tom Frink would like nothing better than to follow in Matt Lee's footsteps and earn the Bassmaster Classic berth that is on the line this week.

"It would be huge," said Frink. "It's a huge boost to a career."

But win, lose or, as Jordan did last year – finish second, it won't deter them from their ultimate goal of professional bass fishing.

Frink in particular has been around this game for awhile. He earned the second-most career money as a co-angler when the Bassmaster Elite Series operated with that format. A California native, he traveled with Aaron Martens for three seasons on the Elite Series, and thus fished from the back of the boat with some of the best bass fishermen in the world, soaking up their knowledge and watching what went on behind the scenes as well.

"The knowledge you get from that, you can't put a price tag on," Frink said. "You can't get it from FLW. There's just too many guys who buy their way in.

"But, at the same time, I've been around long enough to see people come and go and see the ups and downs. I hate school. I need a motivating factor. Fishing is the end goal for me, but I'll have my degree to fall back on."

Jordan Lee is in that same boat, even though he doesn't have nearly as much experience around the Elite Series. But if he needed a lesson about the hard knocks of bass fishing, it came last year when he finished second to his brother in the Carhartt College Bass finals.

The Grand River, site of this week's college event, figures to deal out a few more hard knocks.

"It's really tough," said Jordan. "If a guy can catch five keepers a day, that would probably win it."

There's a 14-inch limit in the river, which is mostly populated with largemouth bass.

Whatever happens this week, Jordan Lee and Tom Frink are the two college finalists who will know how to handle it best. They've seen it all in their brief brushes with competitive bass fishing. This week will be just another learning experience in what both hope to be long careers in the sport.