By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
If you give Jordan Lee a chance to fish for more than the standard $100,000 top prize for a tour-level event, he's extremely likely to capitalize on it. The two-time Bassmaster Classic champion has now had three paydays of $200,000 or more while still not having reached his 29th birthday (which will arrive at the end of this month).
He took both of the big checks last week at the inaugural Bass Pro Tour Heavy Hitters event at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida. His blowout victory in the Championship Round earned him 100 grand, as did the 7-04 bruiser that was the biggest fish caught that day.
"It was an epic win," he said. "It's hard to rate them, but this one was definitely up there (with his Classic triumphs). I mean, it was a big-time event and something that was a little different and the top 10 was stacked."
Lee caught 12 fish – five more than anybody else – in the Championship Round that combined to weigh 52-09. He finished more than 19 pounds ahead of runner-up Bryan Thrift and his big fish was 9 ounces heavier than the 6-11 that Thrift boated. None of the other eight competitors managed a specimen that registered higher than 5-01 and two didn't catch a scoreable fish, which had to be 3 pounds or greater for the finals.
It was Lee's second BPT win at Kissimmee, as he also triumphed in the circuit's inaugural event in February 2019.
Found Some Needles
Like many in the 80-angler field, Lee explored patches of hydrilla at the beginning of the two-day practice session and found some promising locations. After visiting several lakes on the first day, he spent the second in Toho, just idling around.
He came across a brush pile and caught a keeper out of it, and there was a much larger fish next to it trying to grab the bait out of its mouth. He tossed a worm into the pile and didn't even have to shake it before he had another good one on.
"I spent the remainder of practice idling and looking for brush out there on the flat that wasn't obvious," he said. "It's a flat lake and it's like looking for needles in haystacks, but I kept zig-zagging back and forth and finding more and more and it paid off by the end of the week.
"I had quite a few marked, about 15 to 20, and I ended up catching fish out of seven or eight. I had one really key spot, kind of the first place I found, that was good to me every day. More fish kept showing up and it just kept producing."
He used that locale to lay the foundation for his dominant showing in the finals – it gave him four fish that added up to more than 20 pounds in the first period. Justin Lucas was hanging right with him at that point, but Lucas' action shut down when the power-generating current picked up and Lee had a second-period flurry from another pile that put him in firm control.
His fish came from the 5- to 7-foot depth range, which is fairly deep for Toho.
"Probably the biggest thing for me was paying attention to my electronics. I have two Lowrance HDS Live 12 units at the console and I could set them at 60, 80 or 100 feet and look for those brush piles. With only having two days of practice, I had a feeling that's what I needed to be doing – just spending a lot of time graphing.
Lee had numerous brush piles on Lake Toho that continued to produce throughout the event.
"Some of the better places I found were really isolated. I found some that had four or five piles and they weren't really productive; the better ones just had one or two piles. They were just out in the middle of the lake with nothing else around them."
He enticed fish with a variety of offerings that included a square-bill crankbait, a big Texas-rigged worm, a swimbait and a Carolina rig. He got a single bite on a hair jig – it was from the lucrative 7-04 in the Championship Round.
"It's a white 5/8-ounce jig that a friend of mine named David Allen makes. He made me six of them about a month ago; they work really well on the Tennessee River.
"I didn't throw it a ton – I'd just pick it up and try it every now and then and I'd never get bit on it. (On the last day) I was running out of stuff to throw on that spot and I decided to pick it up and try it again. The fish kind of hit me right at the boat."
Winning Gear Notes
> Cranking gear: 7'4" medium-heavy/moderate Abu Garcia Veracity rod, Abu Garcia Revo Premier casting reel (6.6:1 ratio), 17-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line, unnamed "2.5-style" square-bill.
> "The square-bill was probably the best for covering water, finding where the piles were exactly and catching fish along the way. I was just burning the bait – fishing it really fast. The water was 85 to 87 degrees and those fish didn't really want to bite anything except for early in the morning when they were feeding. I had to burn the bait and bump it off the brush to get a reaction."
> He swapped out the stock hooks in favor of No. 2 Berkley Fusion 19 round-bend models. "I didn't really lose but maybe one fish all week when I was cranking and that doesn't happen that often. The hooks were a big key for that set-up."
> Worm gear: 7'6" heavy-action Abu Garcia Fantasista Premier rod, Abu Garcia Revo AL-F casting reel (8:1 ratio), 20-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon, 3/8-ounce weight, 5/0 Berkley Fusion 19 offset worm hook, 10-inch Berkley Power Worm or 8-inch Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Kingtail Worm (plum/blue fleck).
> "The worm was good for dissecting the brush piles. I'd cast it right in the middle of the brush and soak it in there. I'd get the bites when it was going in and out of the brush."
> He caught several quality fish on a 6-inch Scottsboro Tackle swimbait (natural light) on a 6/0 hook (3/8-ounce belly-weighted).
> His Carolina-rig bait was a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Hit Worm Magnum (plum/blue fleck).