Epic day of frogging earns Lee lead and $10,000 big bass bonus - Major League Fishing

Epic day of frogging earns Lee lead and $10,000 big bass bonus

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Jordan Lee leads the way for Group B after their first day on the water with 18 bass weighing 63-4. Photo by Tyler Brinks. Angler: Jordan Lee.
May 19, 2024 • Mitchell Forde • Bass Pro Tour

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — As he wrapped up practice for General Tire Heavy Hitters Presented by Bass Pro ShopsJordan Lee felt confident. Believe it or not, despite his track record of success on national tours as a whole and on Florida’s Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in particular, Lee said that’s not common. The last time he remembers feeling that way entering an event was the last time Heavy Hitters took place on the Kissimmee Chain, an event he won in June of 2020.

But even Lee didn’t envision what unfolded Sunday.

On a Kissimmee Chain that has proven stingy for many of the 30 anglers in the field, Lee authored one of the most memorable days of his decorated career. He stacked 18 bass totaling 63 pounds, 4 ounces onto SCORETRACKER® during the opening day of qualifying for Group B, and he did it despite easing off the throttle for the third and final period. Lee, who had topped 50 pounds by the end of the second stanza, leads Kevin VanDam by 22-12.

As if that wasn’t enough, Lee also earned $10,000 in Berkley Big Bass cash for catching the biggest fish of the day, a 7-14 stud. Like most of his fish, the lunker ate a Berkley Swamp Lord frog in matted hydrilla in Lake Toho. 

“What an awesome day on the water,” Lee said. “It really doesn’t get much better. I can’t remember the last time it was that much fun just as far as the strikes and getting bit.” 

Complete results can be found here.

Lee brings Guntersville skills south

Jordan Lee caught the two largest bass of the day on Sunday. Photo by Tyler Brinks

Lee’s track record on the Kissimmee Chain made him one of the favorites before he ever made a cast this week. He won the first ever Bass Pro Tour event in 2019 on the fishery as well as the aforementioned Heavy Hitters event. 

But instead of leaning on the same staples that have won him $319,000 across three prior BPT events on the chain, Lee turned Sunday to a technique he’s honed fishing matted grass during the fall on Lake Guntersville in his home state of Alabama.

“It really reminded me of Guntersville,” Lee said. “It’s fishing just like it, and with all the grass out there, I just feel real comfortable doing it. We don’t really fish a lot of lakes with this much grass, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the years just fishing at home a lot in the fall. It kind of translates into fishing down here.”

While Florida lakes are synonymous with vegetation, the Kissimmee Chain isn’t typically regarded as a frogging hot spot, particularly at this time of year. However, a boom in hydrilla growth in Toho combined with low water levels have produced a swath of grass that is topped out but not too thick — the perfect environment for throwing a frog, as illustrated by the fact that Group A leader Brandon Coulter employed the same approach as Lee.

Lee stumbled upon the pattern on the second day of what had been a challenging practice.

“I was flipping in practice, and I was just fishing around,” he said. “I was struggling; I wasn’t getting bit. And I thought I saw some blowholes in the mat — that’s what we call them, where the fish blow through the mat and make holes out there. But I was like, eh, I really don’t know. And I fired a frog out there, and one came up on it, another one came up on it, and another one came up on it. Then I started doing it and started getting bit like crazy.”

Lee’s frog of choice, the Swamp Lord, has been the biggest star of the first two MLFNOW! broadcasts. Lee noted that the bait’s larger profile and weight make it ideal for fishing through mats. He threw it on a 7-foot-6, heavy Jordan Lee rod from Abu Garcia paired with an 8.1:1 gear ratio Abu Garcia Revo STX reel spooled with 50-pound Berkley X5 braid.

“It’s a heavy frog and weighs down in the mat,” Lee said of the Swamp Lord. “When you’re fishing that hydrilla, it’s thick, and it’s hard for the fish to bust through, so if you’re throwing a real lightweight frog, you’re not going to get as many bites.”

The biggest of Lee’s bites came in the first hour of competition. While he said he didn’t think it would retain Berkley Big Bass honors all day, Lee was never particularly close to losing his grip on the $10,000 prize being handed out each day during the Qualifying Round. In fact, underscoring the dominance of his performance, Lee also caught the second-biggest bass of the day, a 6-13.

“I would have took absolutely nothing for an almost 8-pounder on a frog,” he said. “But I got paid for it. I got $10,000 for the biggest fish of the day, which, man, that’s awesome.”

Given that no other anglers in Group B ventured into the grass mats, Lee remains confident that he can ride his frog bite all the way through Thursday’s Championship Round. He has a feeling he’ll have some more company as the tournament progresses, but his comfortable cushion over the cut line gives him an entire day to explore the mats in search of fresh groups of fish during Group B’s second day of qualifying on Tuesday.

“I’m pretty confident,” he said. “Normally, I wouldn’t be, but it just depends on the number of guys that kind of catch on. There wasn’t anybody today, but I know how it goes, it’s pretty obvious. But, I feel confident it can win the tournament if I play my cards right and find the right schools of them.”

VanDam starts strong

Kevin VanDam got on a heater in the home stretch of Day 1. Photo by Phoenix Moore

Fishing his final national event, VanDam wasted little time making his presence felt. He put the first scorable bass of the day on SCORETRACKER®, a 5-pounder just two minutes after lines in.

He would go on to end the day in similar fashion. VanDam added four scorable bass to his tally in the last 21 minutes before lines out. That brought his total to 40-8, which has him more than 25 pounds clear of the elimination line — all but assuring him a spot in the Knockout Round and keeping his hopes alive to add a 27th win to his unprecedented career. All of VanDam’s 13 bass ate a Strike King Thunder Cricket around offshore grass.

“That takes a lot of pressure off for the second qualifying day,” VanDam said. “We had great conditions with the clouds and the wind to be able to fish my strengths. I was pretty confident going in after going through practice. I got some good bites in this area. I’ve got about three different areas in the lake where I’ve been able to run this pattern with a couple different baits and caught some really good fish.”

What’s next

The 15 anglers in Group A will return to the water Monday for their second day of qualifying. The race to finish among the top eight and qualify for the Knockout Round looks like it will be a tight one. Jesse Wiggins currently occupies the final spot above the cut line with 10-4, but six of the seven anglers below him are within 3-3 of his total.

The eight qualifiers from Group A will meet the top eight from Group B on Wednesday. Weights will zero, and the Top 10 will qualify for Thursday’s Championship Round, where $100,000 will be on the line for the winner and another $100,000 for the angler who boats the biggest bass. Tune in to MLFNOW! on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app to watch all the action live from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET each day.