U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lee and retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Travis Hummel earned the victory at the American Bass Anglers (ABA) Military Team Event on Lake Hartwell, May 7, 2017. The pair wrapped up the event with a three-day total of 39.21 pounds. Each year the ABA brings anglers from every branch of the service together on a new lake for some stiff competition and esprit de corps.
As son of the Palmetto State, Lee has fished the state’s lakes all his life. He shared with us some of his keys to success on one of South Carolina’s best bass fisheries.
PB – Where is your hometown?
JL – I grew up in Greenwood, South Carolina.
PB – Where are you living now?
JL – I’m currently stationed at Joint Base Charleston, I’ve been here since 2014.
PB – What do you do for a living?
JL – For the past 12 years I’ve been part of the Air Force Security Forces career field, I’m currently a K-9 trainer.
PB – What trails do you fish?
JL – I’m a member of the Summerville Bassmasters at the club level, and I also fish the South Carolina Division of the Ram Open Series.
PB – What is your favorite South Carolina fishery?
JL – Right now it’s Lake Hartwell, hahaha!
Lake Greenwood is where I grew up and cut my teeth fishing. When I was in high school it took 17-18 pounds to win there, now its 23-24 pounds. The lake has gotten a lot better. It’s muddy and full of docks, there’s structure all over the place. I really like to fish to fish shallow, so it sets up well for me.
PB – What was the setup you used to win?
JL – We threw Strike King 2.5 and 8.0 sexy shad and natural shad square bills. The sexy shad was more of a morning bite, I think the bass saw it better during low light. After the sun came up it was all natural colors. The bass were choking up blue backs in the livewell. I threw them on a Falcon Rods, Bucoo 7 foot medium heavy rod, with a Shimano Curado 200E7 reel. We used 12lb Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line to get the baits down to about 10 feet.
PB – What were your keys to success in the Military Championship?
JL – We smoked them early in practice on Monday and left those fish alone the rest of the week. We had a lot of fish come off because they shook so hard. Monday night we switched out our hooks to KVD 2/O short shanks. During the tournament we fished clay bottom points in the wind, on the lower end of the lake. We didn’t lose any fish after switching hook, including the day two big fish (5.17). Every point had some sort of structure or brush on it.
PB – What does winning the Military Team Championship mean to you?
JL – It means a lot. It’s a lake I grew up fishing on as a kid. I take pride in it that, I also take pride that it’s a military tournament. If you think about it, we’re the best bass fishermen in the military for the next year. It’s the military championship, and there’s guys coming from all over the world to fish it. It’s our Bassmasters Classic, it’s a big deal. We’re already looking forward to going to Old Hickory next year and defending our title. It was really cool to be able to fish it with a friend and share that moment with him.
PB – What is your best South Carolina fishing tip?
JL – Bass are going to be shallower than you think. I’ve caught so many bass in just a few inches of water. People think that because some of the lakes here are deep, you have to fish them that way, but that’s not the case.
PB – Is there anything else you’d like to share?
JL – Without my Triton Boat and Mercury motor we wouldn’t have been able to win this tournament. My boat setup was key to being able to fish the way I needed to, to win. My Powerpoles kept me from being blown around in the wind and my Motor Guide trolling motor got me right on the spots we were fishing. I run Lowrance HDS graphs, and they found all of the structure that we ran those crankbaits through. I know it sounds like it, but none of these companies currently sponsor me, although they do have great incentive programs. Next year I’m going to add the T.H. Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) to my schedule, so I’m definitely open to new business partnerships.