My favorite moment was the opening dinner of a Quantum/Toyota media event after the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Toledo Bend. It was the first time I'd spoken to Jordan Lee since his Classic win. When I approached him, he gave me a big ol' grin – not because my presence was all that important, but because he hadn't lost one shad scale of the humility and genuine charm I recognized when I first covered him in College fishing events.
I gave the champ a big man hug and told him I was proud of him. I've hugged it out with several quality anglers for whom I have much respect, but this was the first time I felt a little lump in my throat. I think it was the awareness and the soul-stirring reality that a young angler I'd watched for many years had climbed the sport's highest mountain.
Now, I've covered this industry for a couple of decades-plus, and it seems that success and arrogance often follow congruent courses. Not so with Joe Lee. His train is steaming down the tracks, but impressively he never hooked up the ego car. He left that one at the station. (Gotta say the same for his brother Matt.) Indeed, Jordan Lee is the same guy I met when he was scratching it out on the Auburn fishing team. Only difference is now he has the trophy that many stellar anglers will never touch.
Great angler, better person. Just the kind of guy we need setting the pace for the vitally important young generation of professional anglers.
B.A.S.S. asked contributors, staff and anglers to reflect on their favorite moments of 2017. You can read more of them here.