Carhartt pro Matt Lee admits he’s discovered himself to be in a bit of a career identity crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic. His heart is torn between his Ranger and a bright orange piece of heavy equipment.
While Lee is certainly finding great pleasure in fishing safely five minutes from home at Smith Lake, the pause in organized professional events has also provided a chance to do a lot of work around the house with his wife Abby this spring – and that includes piloting a Kubota skid steer loader his good buddy Grant Hopson loaned him.
In fact, Lee admits he loves the skid steer about like fat Smith Lake spotted bass love to eat a platinum white-colored 3.8-inch 6th Sense swimbait.
“Abby is spending a lot of time inside doing her woodwork projects, and I’m constantly outside on the 24 acres we bought next to Smith Lake riding the skid steer,” says the former Auburn engineering major.
So far he’s used the Kubota to clear nuisance brush he replaced with rye grass for an expanded lawn, and pushed a ton of dirt around with hopes of restoring an old dried-up pond on their property. But his most admirable effort on the Kubota came recently when deadly tornadoes tore up Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
“I don’t normally get too nervous about tornadoes,” Lee says. “I’ve grown up with them as part of life in Alabama. Plus, Abby and I have a basement to take shelter in. But when the TV weather radar shows you’re directly in the path – it’s a whole different level of anxiety – and one was headed straight for us.”
The great news is their home was not damaged, but a large pine fell across their front road, and took out their power lines too.
In a dark pouring rain, Lee launched into action with the skid steer, and once he and others determined the electrical lines were dead, he cleared the fallen pine off rural Highway 222 to free passage of local traffic.
“Abby jokes that I became the newest member of the Brushy Pond, Alabama fire and rescue squad that night,” grins Lee.
But really, if you know Matt Lee, his willingness to provide help is really no surprise.
Make no mistake, he’s had a blast getting to fish so much more than normal on Smith Lake where tons of talented local anglers call home (including the formidable Wiggins brothers), but there’s just something about that Kubota that Lee loves too.
“Riding that machine, pushing dirt around, and making things better than I found them is the greatest therapy in the world,” says Lee. “In fact, aside from pro fishing, this unexpected time off from the tournament schedule has helped me realize a career as a heavy equipment operator would be my second dream job.”