Stage One winner Jordan Lee hopes to continue his 2019 season success with a win at REDCREST. Photo by Josh Gassmann

As the 2019 MLF Bass Pro Tour season got underway in late January in Kissimmee, Florida, it was hard to imagine that Jordan Lee could maintain the roll he was on. Lee had won two consecutive Bassmaster Classic titles and racked up Top-10 finishes in just over 35 percent of the tour-level events he had competed in since he started fishing for a living in 2014.

Along came Bass Pro Tour Stage One, and Lee just kept on rolling.

He captured the very first Bass Pro Tour champion’s trophy with a win in Stage One, besting the field by more than 10 pounds in Florida. Two weeks later, he finished sixth in Stage Two on Lake Conroe. Oh, yes, and the day before the Championship Round on Conroe, the final round of the 2019 MLF Summit Select aired on Outdoor Channel.

The winner of that event? Jordan Lee.

“I got off to a pretty good start,” Lee acknowledged. “When you start your year off strong, it kinda makes the whole year go easier. It’s harder to pull out a slump if you start off bad because you feel like you have to catch them every tournament for the rest of the year. I wish I could have another shot at some of those events this year, but overall, those first two events put me in a good spot, and the whole year went just about as good as I could hope for.”

Lee would go on to record another Top 10 (at Table Rock) and three Top 20s in the final six events of the year, qualifying for three of the four Cup events and clearing the $100,000 mark in tournament winnings for the fifth straight year.

“If you’d have told me before the year started that I’d end up in the Top 10 in points and win an event, I’d have taken that – every single year,” he said.

And all the while, learning the ins and outs of a competition format that, despite his experience in the MLF Selects and his quick ascension to success in Stages One and Two, took some getting used to.

“I was still trying to learn how to fish the format for most of the year,” Lee said. “I squeaked into 20th place in my Elimination Round to even make it to the third day in Kissimmee. If I didn’t catch one fish in the last two minutes of that day, it’s maybe a whole different year for me. I’ve learned more so in this MLF format, it’s important to just make cuts – just keep making it to the next round. You don’t have to be leading or catch a bunch of weight on Day 1 or Day 2 because the weights zero and you have a chance to win any day. I learned to just take it one day at a time, and it’s really not more complicated than that.”

Lee will carry the same “one day at a time” approach into REDCREST, but admittedly with a greater sense of urgency, thanks to the prolificness of the Upper Mississippi River.

“That river has a lot of bass, obviously,” he said. “This won’t be a ‘one here, one there’ event, you’ll have to be on a handful of different places where you can really catch ‘em. If you find those places, though, you can pull into a pocket and catch one after another after another. This format is going to take a lot of fish to do well, just because of the sheer numbers that are in the river.”