HOUSTON — The Bassmaster Classic folks don’t call it the “hot seat” just because it’s cool.
It's not, and Alabama’s 25-year-old pro angler Jordan Lee found out why Sunday after three grueling days on Lake Conroe.
With two former Classic champions breathing down his neck, including defending champion Edwin Evers, Lee sat on the “hot seat” for more than a hour — it's the spot reserved for the leading angler with the heaviest three-day catch — while the top six anglers after the Classic’s first two days wait to weigh Sunday’s final catches.
It went like this: Lee caught only three bass in Friday’s first round and was in 37th place with an 8-pound, 6-ounce total. He weighed in four bass, one shy of a daily limit, Saturday, but those weighed 21 pounds.
Then he bowled over the field Sunday with, finally, a five-bass catch hitting 27 pounds, 4 ounces to set the standard for the early weigh-in anglers among the top 25 who survived Saturday’s cut-down from the original 52-angler field.
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Lee, who took home $300,000, solved the Lake Conroe question a day too late to give him what could have been a wire-to-wire win. His four giant largemouths Saturday (when he jumped from 37th place to 15th) gave him the pattern to wow the 18,000 at Minute Maid Park’s final-day weigh-in.
Lee said the change came when he decided to cast a jig, a football-head with a Strike King “Rage Craw” trailer, and work “… the ledges just like I do at this time at home on (lake) Guntersville.”
And he and his 56-10 total waited through Saturday’s top six on the leaderboard: Former Classic champ Mike Iaconelli’s turn at the scales produced four bass weighing 10-15. Bradley Roy was next with only two fish, then James Elam brought in four weighing 12-7.
That left Oklahoma’s Evers' two fish, then Dave Lefebre got hurt with a one-bass catch. Evers dropped to 10th place, and Lefebre to 14th.
That left Brent Ehrler, the California angler who went into Sunday with a 43-4 total and a two-pound lead. Ehrler weighed in five bass, but those hardly touched the weights of his previous two days, and his final-day 11-10 total left him in third place.
Lee’s fellow Alabama angler Steve Kennedy charged to second place with a final-day 21-15 catch and a 55-1 total. Ehrler ended up with 54-14.
After predictions of record-setting catches to come from Conroe, Louisiana waters continue to hold the Classic’s record five-bass daily catch set in 2011 when Kevin VanDam brought in 15 bass weighing 69-11.
The 2018 Classic is set for Lake Hartwell with weigh-ins in Greenville, South Carolina.