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February 16, 2014

FISHING: Cullman native Lee 'tickled to death' for Bassmaster Classic opportunity

CULLMAN — Jordan Lee hasn't had a whole lot of time to think about the tournament of his life.

And who could blame him?

After all, it's been a hectic past few months for the Cullman native and fishing savant.

It started last September when Lee edged his best friend and Auburn teammate, Shane Powell, by less than three pounds to garner a spot as the lone collegiate representative at the upcoming 2014 Bassmaster Classic — a prestigious three-day event that runs from Feb. 21-23 at Lake Guntersville.

The weeks that followed included a couple of Bassmaster Open tournaments, as well as a degree from Auburn University in early December — more than enough to keep anyone (especially a 22-year-old) occupied for a good long while.

However, with less than a week until the big event, Lee is starting to slowly realize the magnitude of the opportunity that's been bestowed upon him.

"It hasn't really been on my mind until recently," Lee said of the Classic. "But I'm starting to get kind of prepared for it now. I'm really looking forward to it, and I'm just tickled to death to be in this thing.

"It is just a dream come true really. I'm 22, and I'm getting to fish the Classic. I'm just really blessed to be able to do this."

Lee began preparation for the fishing tourney on Friday and will get another official practice day next Wednesday before suiting up for the real thing just two days later.

According to Lee, that's a rather small change from other tournaments that allow entrants to practice as long as they want. However, with media obligations and other similar responsibilities for the showdown, it's understandable that time on the water can be significantly jettisoned in advance of the three-day extravaganza.

Luckily for Lee, though, he's familiar with the wet venue from his days on Cullman's bass fishing team.

"I fished a lot there in high school and in college tournaments, too," he said of Lake Guntersville. "I guess you can say my career started on there, so it makes it double special for me that my first Classic is there as well."

For Lee and his slightly older brother, Matt, fishing has all but become a family tradition.

Matt edged Jordan for the Classic’s collegiate berth back in 2013 — he finished 46th overall — and has also graced the cover of Bassmaster Magazine. Jordan, meanwhile, has landed in multiple high-profile magazines as well — Bassmaster and Time just to name a few.

Both, however, continue to be great ambassadors and hot commodities for a fast-growing sport.

In fact, Matt's prior experience has been something that he's passed along to his little brother to help him prepare for the biggest tournament of his life.

"He just told me to slow it down when I can," Jordan said. "There's so much more that goes on other than fishing at this one. He said to make sure I have everything good to go ahead of time because you don't get a lot of free time when the week starts."

Lee will mix it up in a field of 50 anglers — some young, some experienced — and will need to be in the top 25 on Saturday to grab a spot in the third and final day Sunday morning.

The conditions next week call for temperatures in the low-to-mid 60's, a factoid that has Lee jumping for joy and exercising caution all at the same time.

"It's been so cold for so long and if we get four or five warm days, they are going to biting hard," he said. "It could be a record-setting tournament. If the fish are biting, though, it's going to make them easier to find for everyone. You just have to battle."

Although Lee has called this upcoming event a "life-changer," he also opined he'd treat it as much like any other tournament that he possibly can under the pressure-packed circumstances.

"I'll go through my same preparations," Lee said. "This one will have a different feel to it, though, because it's a dream come true for me. All of my friends and my family will be out there supporting me. It might be hard to concentrate 100 percent, but I'm planning to go out there and get the job done."

While winning the end-all-be-all of fishing competitions is — self admittedly — a bit of a stretch for Lee, the 22-year-old angler said he'd be disappointed with anything less than making it to the final day and, perhaps, a top-10 finish.

"I'd like to win it, but it's so hard to do that," he said. "Some guys have been fishing in this 30 years and have never won it. The stars would have to align for me, that's for sure. I'd be really happy with a top 10, though. I'm excited to get out there."

% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at jwinfrey@cullmantimes.com.

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