Imagine competing in a national competition at age 15 — and doing it again two years later on an even bigger stage.
Jordan Sylvester of Baton Rouge has those events on his resume, plus a state championship, before he graduates from high school. His path to success doesn’t require football pads, a baseball bat, goalie gloves or a bowling ball, but it does demand good knots, deft casts, hair-trigger reactions and the patience of Job.
The 18-year-old son of Jimmy and Amy Sylvester, Jordan Sylvester fishes on the Louisiana High School B.A.S.S. Nation circuit, which includes more than 100 schools. He has a passion for bass fishing that began as a young boy, fishing with his father.
Sylvester was hoisting bragging-size bass at age 6. He qualified for the Junior Bassmaster National Championship in June 2017, where he and Jacob Tullier finished third at Carroll County Thousand Acre Recreation Lake in Tennessee, and he punched his ticket with teammate Connor Taylor to the 2019 Fishing High School Championship held in August at Kentucky Lake in Tennessee.
“At the end of the eighth grade, that was the first time I qualified to go to nationals,” he said. “I’ve been around it as long as I can remember. My dad fished tournaments.”
Jimmy Sylvester has been “captain” for junior and high school contests from Stephensville to Toledo Bend. He took his son and Tullier, a sophomore at Central High School, and Taylor, who has graduated from Catholic High School-Baton Rouge to national tournaments in his Bass Cat Eyra.
“It’s different,” he said. “It took a while to get used to it.”
Jimmy Sylvester said Jordan, who is also a deer hunter, started getting in the boat with him at age 4, and he put down a spincast outfit in favor of a baitcaster at age 7. He would wake up earlier and stand by his father’s bed to get going in the predawn darkness.
He hasn’t changed.
“He has my wife’s personality: very passionate and tender-hearted. When it comes to the outdoors, he reminds me exactly of myself. As a father, there’s no better feeling than having an 18-year-old who wants you to get up at 4 on a Saturday morning to go fish a tournament with him,” he said.
Jordan Sylvester got hooked on the youth bass fishing circuit at a young age. What really got him interested, he said, was the Southwest Junior Bassmasters program, where he fished two years before reaching high school.
His potential was evident early. Sylvester and Tullier won the Louisiana Junior Bassmasters title in April 2017 out of Doiron’s Landing with 9.91 pounds.
“That day actually was really tough,” Sylvester said. “I think we caught (fewer than) 10 fish that day. We had a tough time (getting) our limit. I was pretty shocked, to be honest. I didn’t think we had enough to win.”
They qualified for nationals by catching five keepers on junebug-colored soft plastics on “shaky heads” near the mouth of Doiron’s Canal.
Two months later, they were in Tennessee for the national tournament for juniors (ages 7-13) from 28 states and Canada. Sylvester and Tullier were in second place after the first day.
“We had a really good day with 15 pounds,” he said. “On Day 2 we had a small limit.”
They slipped to third place with 21 pounds, 5 ounces.
“It was really exciting, really thrilling and nerve-wracking to have that much at stake,” Sylvester said.
In 2019, Sylvester and Taylor were first in the East Division and fourth in the West Division to qualify for the three-day high school championship at Kentucky Lake. They weren’t the only team to struggle (one keeper for 2 pounds, 9 ounces), as 129 teams failed to weigh a fish the first day and 97 teams scratched the next day. Nevertheless, it was a great experience.
“It really was,” Sylvester said. “It was an awesome opportunity. We went up there a whole week before and were able to scout four or five days.”
Sylvester is a senior at Catholic High School-Baton Rouge. He fishes as a member of the East Baton Rouge Bassmasters.
The next time Sylvester is scheduled to compete is in an East Qualifier on Feb. 13 out of Bayou Segnette State Park in Westwego. Depending on COVID pandemic concerns, that tournament might be up in the air.
Sylvester said he may want to try his hand at professional bass fishing.
“It’s not necessarily the only thing I want to do,” he said. “(But) given the opportunity, yes, I’d like to do it.”
First and foremost, however, is a college education after graduating with the CHS-BR Class of 2021. He plans to attend the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, which has a solid college bass-fishing team.
“That’s what I’ve heard, good things. I’d definitely love to be a part of it,” said Sylvester, who plans to pursue a degree in industrial technology.
He’ll never forget his junior and high school competition.
“I’d definitely encourage all kids to participate in it,” he said. “It’s really an experience. It really is cool for high schoolers and teenagers to be in a tournament set up like an Elite level.”
His father tipped his cap to Gene Hoover, who retired last year as former Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation Youth directors and Tommy Abbott, who replaced Hoover, as well as Jim and Cindy Breaux.
“I would really like to give a huge thanks to Gene Hoover and, of course, Tommy Abbott, and all the volunteers who give up their time and talent for these kids,” he said.
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