MASSENA, N.Y. – The man who fishes three different professional tours and rarely gets a day off says he’s going to spend his off-day tubing with his family come Tuesday. John Cox claimed the top spot in Group B on the St. Lawrence River and will advance straight to the Championship Round where he will join Group A winner, Jacob Wheeler, after catching 54 bass weighing 2 pounds or better for 175 pounds to win Group B.
While Cox was busy cruising to a win, Matt Lee and Pro Circuit angler Jason Abram were battling for the final spot in the top 20. The Knockout Round is now set in the General Tire Stage Five Presented by Berkley.
This is Cox’s fifth Bass Pro Tour event, and now will be his second appearance in a Championship Round. The Florida pro finished fifth at Stage Two on Lake Travis, and will be gunning for his first Bass Pro Tour win come Wednesday.
Cox has experienced plenty of “firsts” during this tournament season, but he got another one on Monday.
“I’ve never led here on the Bass Pro Tour and I’ve never won my group, so this is a first for me,” Cox explained. “I’m glad I’m going to get to let my fish rest a little bit for a day before I’m back out here. I like what I’ve found and I think I’ve got a good shot at (winning).”
The Berkley pro came into Monday’s round with the outright lead in Group B after catching 31 bass for 99-1 on Saturday. He added about 7 more pounds onto his lead over the rest of the field on Monday thanks to a one-two punch of Berkley baits that made the difference.
“A wacky-rigged Berkley General and a Berkley MaxScent Hit Worm were the two baits that did it for me,” Cox listed. “I started using both of those baits by accident this week but they both have really worked out. I can’t wait to get back out here on Wednesday.”
Matt Lee and Jason Abram put on a show during the final 20 minutes of Period 3, adding plenty of drama near the Toro Cut Line. Lee started his day 6 ounces out of the cut, but quickly found himself inside the top 20 for a majority of the day.
That was until Abram made an impressive run up SCORETRACKER® at the end of the day. Abram caught 27-7 in the final period to bump Lee in the undesirable position of 21st place with 19 minutes remaining.
Lee quickly responded with two smallmouths—a 3-5 and a 4-8—on back-to-back casts. That secured the Alabama pro’s spot in the top 20 and dropped Abram just 1-10 below the Toro Cut Line.
“I made it too close but it feels good to be on the right side of the cut again,” Lee said after clinching his second-straight Knockout Round appearance. “I’ve tried hard this week not to look at the fish with a flogger and stuff like that. I’m focusing more on pre- and post-spawners with a VMC Marabou jig and a jerkbait.”
As for Abram, it was his first experience fishing the MLF format on the Bass Pro Tour. While he felt like he gave it his all on the St. Lawrence River, that doesn’t make the agony of defeat any less hard to swallow.
“I lost 10 fish this week and now I could really use those 10,” Abram said in disbelief. “I don’t even know what to say. I had a blast this week. I like how you’re never really out of it in this format, but the other side of that is that you’re never really safe either. Just tough to get so close and miss out by one fish.”