By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Jordan Lee will be on-site at the Bassmaster Classic in March, but he'll be playing a far different part than he did the previous two years, when he was the event's defending champion. This time he'll be relegated to working the Expo as a sponsor representative.
"It's going to be weird," he said, "and with it being on Guntersville (his home lake), it'll be a little painful as far as that goes. But it's what I signed up for and what I knew was going to happen, so it's not like it's a big surprise or anything.
"One plus for me is I'll get to meet a lot of the fans that I don't normally get to see. I have a feeling, though, that some of them are going to be asking me why I'm not fishing. There's probably going to be some confusion."
Now a competitor on the MLF Bass Pro Tour and the circuit's first winner via his triumph in its inaugural event at Florida's Kissimmee Chain a year ago next week, he said the impending campaign has a slightly different vibe to it.
"I guess this year I don't feel the pressure that I have in the past, or maybe just the anxiousness. That isn't a bad thing."
One Bad Month
Lee had a rough time during the month of March last year – he was 42nd in the Classic at the Tennessee River and then 59th in the three-lake BPT event out of Raleigh, N.C. Before and after that, however, he performed impeccably.
In addition to his Kissimmee win, he compiled four other finishes among the top 16 in the eight regular-season BPT events. He ended up at No. 7 on the final points list.
"It was a pretty good year and I don't have any complaints," he said. "There were a couple tournaments where I didn't get dialed in, but overall it just went really well.
"It didn't take me long to get a feel for (the format) and how the pace was going to be. There were some where I felt like I should've slowed down a little more, like at Raleigh, I know I hurt myself by fishing too fast in that one. In that format it's hard not to move too fast – I felt like I couldn't make enough casts in a day. But I'll take any year that turned out like that and I hope this year goes similar."
Headed to Familiar Place
Lee doesn't have a tremendous amount of experience at Lake Eufaula, where the 2020 BPT season will open on Feb. 7, but he's enjoyed some success there. He and college buddy Shane Powell, a Eufaula regular, once competed in simultaneous tournaments at the lake and won them both.
"He's my team partner and he's a really good fisherman on that lake, but since the (BPT) schedule came out I can't talk to him about the fishing," he said. "I've fished there some here and there, but not enough to have any kind of advantage.
"It's a big power-fishing lake – you aren't going to see many spinning rods. It'll be a shallow, muddy water and grass kind of deal. Guys will be throwing spinnerbaits, ChatterBaits, swimjigs and maybe doing a little flipping. It's taken some really big weights to win in the spring, but a lot depends on the weather. The lake's been on the upswing for size and numbers the last couple years."
He can't get off to any better start than he did last year, but even if he doesn't win at Eufaula, he's hoping for a strong showing to get into the AOY mix again.
"I've had some good years and been somewhat consistent, and if I can get off to a good start I think I can compete (for the title). You never know when it starts whether a year's going to be good or bad, but a good start sets the pace for the rest of them."
> Lee is a big fan of the variable minimum weights for scorable fish that'll be implemented on the BPT this year. "I think it's great and it shows that MLF is willing to change and make it better and more entertaining for the fans. It might not make a big difference at Eufaula (where the minimum will be two pounds), but other lakes it'll change the way guys approach them. Like at Okeechobee, you won't be able to weigh in those bucks and that changes a lot for the better. I think slowing down the pace a little bit will help a lot of guys out."