By MLF Communications Staff

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – As he wrapped up practice for Heavy Hitters, Jordan Lee felt confident. Believe it or not, despite his track record of success on national tours as a whole and on Florida’s Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in particular, Lee said that’s not common.

The last time he remembers feeling that way entering an event was the last time Heavy Hitters took place on the Kissimmee Chain, an event he won in June of 2020. But even Lee didn’t envision what unfolded Sunday.

On a Kissimmee Chain that has proven stingy for many of the 30 anglers in the field, Lee authored one of the most memorable days of his decorated career. He stacked 18 bass totaling 63 pounds, 4 ounces onto ScoreTracker during the opening day of qualifying for Group B, and he did it despite easing off the throttle for the third and final period. Lee, who had topped 50 pounds by the end of the second stanza, leads second-place Kevin VanDam by 22-12.

As if that wasn’t enough, Lee also earned $10,000 in Berkley big bass cash for catching the biggest fish of the day, a 7-14 stud. Like most of his fish, the lunker ate a Berkley Swamp Lord frog in matted hydrilla in Lake Toho.

“What an awesome day on the water,” Lee said. “It really doesn’t get much better. I can’t remember the last time it was that much fun just as far as the strikes and getting bit.”

Lee’s track record on the Kissimmee Chain made him one of the favorites before he ever made a cast this week. He won the first ever Bass Pro Tour event in 2019 on the fishery as well as the aforementioned Heavy Hitters event.

But instead of leaning on the same staples that have won him $319,000 across three prior BPT events on the chain, Lee turned Sunday to a technique he’s honed fishing matted grass during the fall on Lake Guntersville in his home state of Alabama.

“It really reminded me of Guntersville,” Lee said. “It’s fishing just like it, and with all the grass out there, I just feel real comfortable doing it. We don’t really fish a lot of lakes with this much grass, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the years just fishing at home a lot in the fall. It kind of translates into fishing down here.”

While Florida lakes are synonymous with vegetation, the Kissimmee Chain isn’t typically regarded as a frogging hot spot, particularly at this time of year. However, a boom in hydrilla growth in Toho combined with low water levels have produced a swath of grass that is topped out but not too thick — the perfect environment for throwing a frog, as illustrated by the fact that Group A leader Brandon Coulter employed the same approach as Lee.

Lee stumbled upon the pattern on the second day of what had been a challenging practice.

“I was flipping in practice, and I was just fishing around,” he said. “I was struggling; I wasn’t getting bit. And I thought I saw some blowholes in the mat — that's what we call them, where the fish blow through the mat and make holes out there. But I was like, eh, I really don’t know. And I fired a frog out there, and one came up on it, another one came up on it, and another one came up on it. Then I started doing it and started getting bit like crazy.”

Lee’s frog of choice, the Swamp Lord, has been the biggest star of the first two MLFNOW! broadcasts. Lee noted that the bait’s larger profile and weight make it ideal for fishing through mats. He threw it on a 7-foot-6 heavy Jordan Lee rod from Abu Garcia paired with an 8.1:1 gear ratio Abu Garcia Revo STX reel spooled with 50-pound Berkley X5 braid.

“It’s a heavy frog and weighs down in the mat,” Lee said of the Swamp Lord. “When you’re fishing that hydrilla, it’s thick, and it’s hard for the fish to bust through, so if you’re throwing a real lightweight frog, you’re not going to get as many bites.”

The biggest of Lee’s bites came in the first hour of competition. While he said he didn’t think it would retain Berkley Big Bass honors all day, Lee was never particularly close to losing his grip on the $10,000 prize being handed out each day during the Qualifying Round. In fact, underscoring the dominance of his performance, Lee also caught the second-biggest bass of the day, a 6-13.

“I would have took absolutely nothing for an almost 8-pounder on a frog,” he said. “But I got paid for it. I got $10,000 for the biggest fish of the day, which, man, that’s awesome.

Given that no other anglers in Group B ventured into the grass mats, Lee remains confident that he can ride his frog bite all the way through Thursday’s Championship Round. He has a feeling he’ll have some more company as the tournament progresses, but his comfortable cushion over the cut line gives him an entire day to explore the mats in search of fresh groups of fish during Group B’s second day of qualifying on Tuesday.

“I’m pretty confident,” he said. “Normally, I wouldn’t be, but it just depends on the number of guys that kind of catch on. There wasn’t anybody today, but I know how it goes, it's pretty obvious. But I feel confident it can win the tournament if I play my cards right and find the right schools of them.”

The tournament features the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, in which anglers catch as much weight as they can each day while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the ScoreTracker leaderboard. A bass must meet the 2-pound minimum weight requirement to be deemed scorable in the Qualifying and Knockout Rounds, but for the final day Championship Round a bass must weigh at least 3 pounds to be deemed scorable.

After each two-day qualifying round is complete, the Top 8 anglers from each group advance to Wednesday’s Knockout Round. In the Knockout Round, weights are zeroed, and the remaining 16 anglers compete to finish in the Top 10 to advance to the Championship Round, where weights are zeroed and the highest one-day total wins the top prize of $100,000.

Anglers launch each day at 7:30 a.m. ET from Big Toho Marina, located at 69 Lakeview Drive in Kissimmee. Each day’s takeout will be held at the park beginning at 4 p.m.

To qualify for Heavy Hitters, the weight of an angler’s single largest bass from each event of the seven 2023 Bass Pro Tour events was recorded. The 30 anglers with the heaviest total from those seven bass earned the right to compete.

The MLFNOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee and J.T. Kenney break down the extended action live on all six days of competition from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET. MLFNOW! is livestreamed on, the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app and Rumble.

Qualifying Group B – Day 1

(Figure at far right indicates weight of angler's heaviest fish for the round)

1. Jordan Lee -- 63-04 (18) -- 7-14

2. Kevin VanDam -- 40-08 (13) -- 5-07

3. Takahiro Omori -- 40-06 (13) -- 4-13

4. Ott DeFoe -- 32-13 (11) -- 5-14

5. Todd Faircloth -- 26-13 (10) -- 3-12

6. Jeff Sprague -- 24-09 (8) -- 5-00

7. Keith Poche -- 18-09 (6) -- 4-12

8. Anthony Gagliardi -- 15-06 (5) -- 4-14

9. Chris Lane -- 14-03 (4) -- 4-14

10. Britt Myers -- 13-09 (5) -- 5-02

11. Andy Montgomery -- 13-04 (3) -- 4-10

12. Gerald Spohrer -- 13-00 (4) -- 5-01

13. Dylan Hays -- 7-06 (3) -- 2-11

14. Mark Rose -- 4-10 (2) -- 2-06

15. Randall Tharp -- 2-10 (1) -- 2-10