DECATUR, Ill. — Auburn University student and Carhartt Bassmaster College Classic Bracket winner Matt Lee says he can’t stop using the term “surreal” in referring to winning a berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.
Things got even more mind bending for 23-year-old Lee yesterday when he was presented a Toyota Tacoma truck and a Triton boat with a Mercury Optimax motor, all beautifully wrapped to represent Auburn University and the sponsors that have given him this opportunity.
“How do you put the way you feel into words,” Lee said. “The wrap is awesome. It’s impressive. Carhartt and Toyota have made me look good for the Classic. Now I’ve got to concentrate on my fishing so I’ll look like I know what I’m doing in Oklahoma.”
The package was awarded to Lee on Day 3 of the Toyota Trucks All-Star Week in Decatur, Ill. During the event, Lee had an opportunity to speak to a group of Illinois high school student anglers about the opportunities they’ll have in the sport of bass fishing.
“I told the kids this morning that even with the economy not performing well, high school and college fishing are growing exponentially,” Lee said. “That’s because sponsors like Carhartt are supporting this sport. It’s a company kids think of as ‘cool.’ With that kind of backing, it’s going to change the sport. Bass fishing is just going to continue to grow.”
Lee says he’s aware that the Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in Oklahoma— site of the 43rd Bassmaster Classic — will be a proving ground for him. He actually hopes the fishing is difficult.
“I like my chances better when the fishing is tough,” said Lee, who competed in 100-plus degree weather on a grueling schedule to win the Bassmaster Classic berth. “If there’s ice on the lake, it’s going to make it more difficult. I want to face that challenge. For a lot of these (Elite Series pros), it was a tough road to get to this point. I’m not just going to be happy to be at the Classic. I want to perform well and earn their respect.”
Lee said he doesn’t expect the Bassmaster TV cameras to be following him at blastoff on the first day of the Classic, and that’s OK.
“I hope they’ll be following me on Day 2, because that will mean I smoked them the first day,” Lee said. “The Classic is a three-day tournament, and it will be over with before you know it. I’m going to enjoy every minute. It’s just such an honor to be there.”
Lee said he knows he’ll take a lot of good-natured ribbing from his friends when he pulls up on campus with his flashy new Toyota Tacoma. Use of the truck and bass boat rig will enable Lee to compete in the Classic and other Bassmaster tournaments through the next year, and BoatUS Angler generously provided free boat insurance.
“I’m going to be driving this Tacoma to class, which will be great exposure for Carhartt and Toyota,” Lee said. “I hope it’s going to encourage other students to take an interest in Auburn’s bass fishing team. I know my best friends are going to give me a hard time for having such great gear. They’ll keep me grounded, because this is all such an amazing experience.”