All In The Family

Photo of Jordan and Matt Lee
Jordan and Matt Lee embrace on the weigh-in stage. (James Overstreet photo)

B.A.S.S. reformatted its College series, which offers a berth to the Bassmaster Classic, because the first was so trying on its participants.

In 2011, Stephen F. Austin anglers Ryan Watkins and Andrew Upshaw teamed up for the national championship, then faced each other for the right to earn college’s coveted spot in bass fishing’s grandest event. It was a gut-wrenching day for both when Upshaw edged Watkins.

In 2012, the eight anglers from the top four teams were set up bracket style in hopes to avoid another teammate vs. teammate scenario. It ended up good for the story tellers but the emotions were ramped up considerably when Auburn brothers Matt and Jordan Lee meet in the final of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series.

“This is painful,” said Leigh Lee, their mother. “When you see your children get so close to their dreams, and it slips from one of their hands, it’s painful as a parent.”

Indeed the mood was more like a funeral than a coronation when Matt earned the Classic berth.

“If we fished 20 times, he’d win 18,” Matt said. “I hate it for him, but I’m happy for me. I know right now he’s hurting, and I’m hurting for him.”

Their father, Bruce, tried to put the best spin on the situation, saying, “It’s the best of all dilemmas you could have. You don’t want either one to lose, but you’re glad that they’ve both got a chance to pursue their dreams.”

Matt will compete against America’s top bass pros in the Classic, Feb. 22-24, on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees — an experience akin to going straight from Division 1 football to the Super Bowl. One way or another, the Lee family will go through a whole new range of emotions.