Addison’s Jesse Wiggins, Cullman’s Matt and Jordan Lee headed into Saturday’s Knockout Round on Smith Lake

Left to right are Jesse Wiggins, Matt Lee and Jordan Lee. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – After his monster day on the water Wednesday in the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour Stage Five, Addison’s Jesse Wiggins reeled in 25lbs. 14 oz. Friday to stay on top of Group B and secure his spot in Saturday’s Knockout Round. Joining Wiggins on the water Saturday will be Cullman natives Matt and Jordan Lee, who finished eighth and 14th, respectively, in Group A on Thursday to advance past the elimination round. The top 20 anglers from Groups A and B will be in the field Saturday and all weights will reset to zero. The top 10 finishers on Saturday will advance to Sunday’s Championship Round. 

Thursday action

He spent a lot of the day on the water close to the cut line on Thursday, but Cullman’s Jordan Lee made a late push to finish 14th and secure a spot in the field on Saturday with his brother Matt who is sitting comfortably inside the top 20 of Group A in eighth place. Matt collected 18 fish and 32lbs. 2oz. on Thursday to bring his total to 62lbs. 9oz and Jordan rallied from a slow morning to reel in 23lbs. 13oz. for a 2-day total of 52lbs. 10oz. and both of them will be advancing past the elimination round.

Matt has had a little trouble in the mornings so far this week, but he’s done well enough later in the day to stay safely inside the cut line.

“I’m on something really good but it’s only good after about 10:00. Most guys catch them early and the two days I’ve fished I haven’t been able to catch anything early so that’s really hurt me but I’m in eight today, so it hasn’t hurt me too bad. But, to win the tournament, you’ve got to be able to catch them like (Jesse) Wiggins did yesterday,” Matt said. “You can’t have a bad period. So, I’ve got to figure out something early, later in the day has been fine for me, but I’ve got to figure out the early bite.”

With the first two days behind and some weather on the way that could potentially affect weekend conditions, Matt is preparing to make some adjustments on the water and look for some new things.

“I’m going to have to adapt. The weather is going to be different with all this rain and stuff coming in. I experimented a little bit this morning and nothing worked out great so I’m going to experiment a little bit more come Saturday,” Matt said. “You’ve got to keep an open mind in this deal, and I’ve got to just make good decisions, find a place where they’re biting and catch a lot of them quick in the morning and I think I’ll be good after 10:00. I just have to catch them early.”

The other former Bearcat in the field, Jordan Lee, is already used to dramatic finishes as a pro angler and Thursday was another come from behind effort from the two-time Bassmaster Classic champion. Jordan had to bounce back from a slow morning on Smith Lake to climb up to 14th place in Group A and secure a place on the lake Saturday but spent a lot of the day floating right around the cut line.

“It’s really stressful, especially when you’re right there on the bubble,” Jordan said. “That’s not really where you want to be, you want to be way up in the 20 cut but that’s just kind of how it worked today. It was just a tough morning; I couldn’t get anything going and on Smith Lake that’s tough. You’ve got to put something together in the morning and then it’s a grind after that. I kind of reversed that.”

Like his brother, Jordan is planning on trying some new things on Saturday as he looks to climb into the top ten and chase another title on Sunday.

“I’m probably going to try some different areas and just try some different stuff because I feel like I’m not really doing the right thing. I’m kind of just doing enough to get by and I’m going to have to try and find something new and go explore,” Lee said. “I fished water today that I didn’t fish the first day and I may have to go back to some stuff that I fished the first day too and try to figure something out. It’s not easy, you know. It’s hard to get bit but I’m just going to keep doing some different stuff and hopefully figure it out on the fly Saturday.”

Both Lee brothers will be looking to make adjustments when they hit the water again on Saturday and if they can get things to break their way, they’ll both have a chance to make the cut for championship Sunday.

Wiggins breaks Bass Pro Tour record Wednesday

The Addison native racked up 72lbs. 4 oz. Wednesday after hauling in an MLF record 49 scorable fish to climb to the top of Group B in the shotgun round. According to MLF, Wiggins’ haul boke the Bass Pro Tour record for the most bass caught in a single round.

Wiggins has had a lot of big days on the water in his time as a professional angler, but his performance Wednesday was truly one to remember.

“In my time as a professional that was one of the best days I’ve ever had as far as catching fish. It was just an absolute blast. I caught tons of them, and I don’t know man, it was just an awesome day,” Wiggins smiled. “Now, the pressure is to do it again on Saturday. I don’t have to do it Friday because the weights carry over, but I’ll have to do it Saturday when we get to the top 40 and then I’ve got to get into that top 10 for Sunday. That was a good day. I just hope we can keep it up.”

Growing up here, Wiggins has spent a lot of time fishing out on Smith Lake, so he knew what to expect coming into this week and isn’t surprised by a lot of the weights he has seen in the first two days.

“I’ve told people that this lake has more bass in it than a lot of lakes around and you can see it. Everybody’s whacking ‘em and just catching a ton of fish with really good weights and there’s not a lot of big fish right now because of the time of year, but we still get to catch a bunch of them,” Wiggins said. “If we were here earlier in the year, there’d be some giants and a bunch of them, but we’re here now and I’m not going to complain because we get to catch a bunch, set the hook a bunch and it was just an awesome day.”

MLF Bass Pro Tour Stage Five Fan Experience

Head to Depot Park in downtown Cullman from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday May 4 for live music, kids’ activities, craft vendors & artisans, food trucks, a farmers market, meet & greets and more.

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Nick Griffin