CULLMAN — On Sunday afternoon, one Lee brother advanced to the 2013 Bassmaster Classic and the other did not.
Matt and Jordan, both Cullman High graduates, competed against each other in the final round of the 2012 Carhartt College Series Bassmaster Classic Bracket in Conway, Ark. Being the only two left, it was a guarantee that one would have to beat the other to win the chance of a lifetime.
“We wanted to be right there at the end together, but it was surreal to be down to the last two, me and him,” Jordan, 21, said.
In the end, it was Matt, 23, who won. He had two bass that weighed 5 pounds, 6 ounces, while Jordan had one that weighed 2 pounds, 4 ounces.
“We both wanted to win really bad,” Matt said. “It’s been a long journey, and it was tough for it to end like it did, but I’m super excited to be blessed with this. I’m grateful the good Lord blessed me with the weekend I had.
“It’s life changing.”
While he said the whole experience has been surreal, Matt realizes just how big of a deal it is that he’s going to the Classic.
“It’s something every fisherman dreams about,” he said. “Some people joke this means more than getting married or having kids. It’s surreal it’s happened to me. Last year, I was just a kid that fished for Auburn, and after what happened (Sunday), I’m going to die saying I fished for the Bassmaster Classic.”
Despite winning, Matt still claims that Jordan is the better angler of the two.
“Anyone who knows him know how good of an angler he is,” Matt said. “It just happened for me, and I’m so grateful. I don’t know why it happened, and I’m nervous and exited about my future.”
With only a few minutes left in the competition, Jordan almost had the winning fish, but then it got away.
“I was disappointed that I lost the winning fish with three minutes to go in the tournament,” he said. “I worked my whole life to get there, and the last three minutes I knew the winning fish was on, and to come off, I was not too happy. I won’t be for a couple of years for sure.”
One of the reasons this loss was particularly hard for Jordan was that recently, he’s had a lot of second-place finishes.
“It’ s really been tough for him,” Matt said. “This one hurts especially bad because he was so close one more time and didn’t get it. But he’s super proud for me, and if anyone couldn’t be there, he wants me to be there.”
“I’ll be pulling for him next year in the Classic,” he said.
With this loss, Jordan is already thinking about next year, though.
“I plan on being back next year, and hopefully I won’t get second again,” he said.
Matt said for both of them to make it to the final day was special, but he hopes the two of them can fish in the Classic together.
“We’re best friends and we’re brothers, and it’s a terrible situation to be in the way it is, but I believe it happened for a reason, and there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll get a shot at being there,” he said.
Both brothers are apart of Auburn University’s club bass fishing team, so regardless of which brother won, it was going to be a Tiger going to the Classic in February.
“It really says a lot about our club,” Jordan said. “We have a lot of good fishers on our team.”
There have been anglers from colleges that have reached out to Matt about him representing collegiate fishing in the Classic. He mentioned schools such as Indiana and Virginia Tech.
“‘We’re glad you’re going as the face of college anglers,’” is what he said they’ve told him.
Matt said he’s already started preparing for the Classic, but getting out to Oklahoma on Grand Lake, where the competition is, will be one of the most important ways to prepare.
“The biggest fish will be in certain areas in the lake, and you just have to spend time in the lake to determine where those areas are,” he said.
The Carhartt College Series spanned over 10 days, with five days to practice and five days to compete. However, Jordan didn’t want to take any breaks from fishing.
“Now it’s just for fun,” he said. “I’m not going to get away from it, that’s for sure.”
% Laura Owens can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.