Basore scores first Lee interview at consecutive Bassmaster Classics

Bass anglers are notoriously superstitious even when they don’t admit it. We have to wonder if Jordan Lee, sometimes touted as the next Kevin Van Dam, will want to talk to Dan Basore, MWO’s intrepid Classic reporter as his first media interview next year. Basore interviewed Lee first in 2017 and again this year. Lee won both Classic crowns. Here’s Basore’s account as it appeared in the April issue of MidWest Outdoors.

The 2018 Bassmaster Classic—Deja Vu

by Dan Basore

Each year I cover the Bassmaster Classic to bring you insight from anglers’ experiences and exhibitors in the Expo. As a 50-year Charter/Life member of B.A.S.S., pioneering tournament angler and historian, my goal is to provide insight that you might utilize as you fish.

Last year on Media Day my first interview was with the eventual winner Jordan Lee. I scheduled him because of my enthusiasm for high school and college teams and tournaments. At Auburn University he was one of the leaders of their fishing team and won the national championship. 

Jordan won last year’s Classic, has fished in 50 tournaments with B.A.S.S., earning a check in 40 of them for a total of $767,429. That was before winning this Classic, which had a first place prize of $300,000. 

Back-to-back 1st interviews

Again this year on Media Day at the South Carolina venue, Jordan was my first interview when the angler originally scheduled was delayed.

Like last year, he was not cocky about his chances. Weather had been warm two weeks prior, bringing bass up shallow, then the week before the tournament it was unseasonably cold. Fish that had rushed to the shallows when it was warm disappeared, possibly suspending over deeper, more stable water. 

Jordan revealed that growing up he badly wanted to be a professional bass angler, but good guidance assured he pursued a college education. Fortunately the school had a bass fishing team.

He shared how hard it can be on long, tiring road trips to tournaments, being away from home and loved ones so much. Now 27, he realizes the importance of taking one step at a time and smelling the roses along the way.

Nothing in our interview reflected what lie ahead in the next three days. Friday, the first day’s results found Jason Christie in first and fellow Okie Edwin Evers in second.

In third was Jordan Lee, who disclosed he fished a lot of docks, as he likes to do on clear lakes especially since he hadn’t found anything in practice. Of the 52 anglers, 51 weighed in their five-fish limits and the one who didn’t limit had no keepers. Only four competitors had bags weighing less than 10 pounds.

Thunderstorms

Expectations were high for Day 2, but an early morning cold front and thunderstorm seemed to put a damper on bass in the clear waters of Hartwell.

“After lightning, fish don’t bite till the sun comes out—state law!” joked Alabaman Gerald Swindle. Most of the better bass came in the last two hours, after the wind picked up and sun came out.

The total catch dropped by 100 pounds and seven anglers failed to catch a limit. All time leading money winner, Kevin VanDam was bewildered as he thought he was on a winning pattern in practice but failed to be in the top 25 after the second day. He had to attend the Expo instead of fish. Other experienced pros joined him after not qualifying for the final day.

With live coverage in the Expo and online the last day it was shocking to see the Day 2 leader by over 5 pounds struggle to bring in just four smaller bass. Other pros with unquestionable skills had unexpected hard times that final day. Thunder and lightening in the morning, then flat calm with no wind was blamed. 

We anglers have great days when we feel like a top pro who won a tournament and others where we “run out of time to figure them out.” That’s this writer’s excuse. I say let’s congratulate the fish for winning that day and feel even happier when we find the pattern. The challenge is why we fish.

Day 3 was so dramatic and interesting that Bassmaster Live coverage went into overtime, covering best they could until broadcasting was stopped for the last 15 suspenseful minutes. The weigh in was full of drama for these final 25. 

Well cared for fish

It was amazing to see how great the condition of the fish were all tourney long as they were so active on the scale while they were weighed and then returned to the lake alive and healthy. So much has been learned and is practiced by anglers, weigh master, volunteers and fisheries personnel to protect these precious resources. One hundred percent live, healthy fish released is the goal that’s often achieved.

At the final weigh-in, Californian Brent Ehler seemed to have prevailed as his total weight jumped to 46 pounds 1 ounce. Matt Lee, Jordan’s brother had a great day jumping from 18th by weighing in 17 pounds 6 ounces. Day 2, Jason Christie was followed by a live camera all day, going fishless then having just one for a good while and ending up with four fish weighing only 8 pounds 11 ounces. Others in contention brought in 8- to 10-pound bags.

Jordan Lee on top

But Jordan Lee who had no confidence before the contest but was able to remain positive thanks to his fiancée’s coaching, “Have fun keep positive,” leaped from 6th place to win thanks to a final day weight of 16 pounds 5 ounces. Matt and Jordan’s mother celebrated her Friday birthday all weekend so proud of her sons!

“In my wildest dreams just like last year when I was 15th going into the last day and this time was in sixth, I just wanted to have fun,” Lee said. “My goal was to fish clean and other than a 5-pound bass that took my worm and missed the hook on my last cast I didn’t lose any fish. 

“I found a spot on Google Earth, a roadbed where I caught bass sitting in 30 feet of water casting a bone colored jerk bait into 10 feet of water, then just ran, fishing new water and fishing docks. Suddenly I was in a cove with bass everywhere. A Neko-rigged Strike King Ocho green pumpkin blue with a VMC hook got them.”

Oh, by the way, besides last years Classic, this is the only national tournament Lee has won. What fun it is to attend the Bassmaster Classic and Expo. There’s so much to learn each time.