Cox on top after Day 2 at Lake of the Ozarks, the kids are hot on his heels - Major League Fishing

Cox on top after Day 2 at Lake of the Ozarks, the kids are hot on his heels

Image for Cox on top after Day 2 at Lake of the Ozarks, the kids are hot on his heels
John Cox is looking for another big trophy for his collection. Photo by Matt Brown. Angler: John Cox.
May 5, 2023 • Jody White • Invitationals

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – Give John Cox a chance at a tournament in the spring and he’s likely to be in the mix. So, it’s no surprise that after two days of Phoenix Boats Stop 4 Presented by Mystik Lubricants at Lake of the Ozarks, the bubbly Floridian is in the lead and looking for his seventh major win with MLF. Weighing 20 pounds, 1 ounce on Day 1 and 18-4 today, Cox has totaled 38-5, for a slim lead of just 7 ounces.

In second, Marshall Robinson caught 19-5 on Day 2 and has 37-14 total. In third, Drew Gill weighed 18-10 to get to 37-11. Comparing stats across circuits is always a messy business, but both Gill (20 and change) and Robinson (19 and change) would be the youngest to ever win if this was an FLW Tour or Pro Circuit event. As is, if either wins, they’ll set the bar very low for the next young gun looking to make a mark on the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals.

John Cox has made a living on the bank over the years, and again this week. Photo by Jody White

Eyes on the prize for Cox

As you’d expect, Cox isn’t doing anything out of the box this week. A superlative sight fisherman, he’s roaming the clear water with a wacky rig in hand looking for the right five. That said, the amount of success he’s had is a bit surprising, as an abbreviated practice didn’t turn up that much for him.

“I didn’t really see anything in practice, really, compared to what a lot of other guys saw,” Cox said. “I guess they saw a lot the first day, I wasn’t here. Then it progressively got a little worse with the front. But now that it’s warming up you’ve got everything up there – you’ve got crappie bedding, you’ve got bass bedding, you’ve got big gizzard shads up there running on the rocks.”

With the banks coming alive, Cox has been able to find new fish each day, with a 5-pounder being key for his Day 2 weight.

“I worked on that one for a really long time, and I came back, and the wind was blowing – it was just terrible,” he said. “I was just blind pitching and ended up getting her, so I was just super lucky on that one. If somehow I win this thing, I’ll definitely remember that fish catch.”

Cox has been in this position before – with things as tight as they are, he knows a lot will come down to who fishes best on Day 3.

“The last one I won was Smith Lake, which is very similar to this place,” he said. “But it feels good to be right there. I feel like if I end up winning tomorrow I’m going to land on something. Either a pocket with two big ones, or three big ones, or something. Because so far, it’s just been super random. I’ve got to do a lot of trolling to run into one of them – and today, luckily, I got that 5-pounder. That was everything.

“I saw one really nice one right at the end and I was going to catch it, but it was getting really close on time so I just decided to start on it in the morning,” teased Cox. “But, it’s a solid 5. If I caught that first thing, we’re looking at only needing to catch four the rest of the day and I’d feel really good about that.”

Marshall Robinson has looked like a veteran so far. Photo by Matt Brown

Robinson in the hunt the old-fashioned way  

Only barely old enough to vote, you might expect Robinson to be loading the boat with forward-facing sonar or some other newfangled thing the kids are into these days. If so, you’d be mistaken, as the young Carolinian is hanging with Cox and fishing for the same sort of bass.

“In practice it wasn’t clicking as good as it is now,” Robinson said. “The first day of the tournament, I pulled up on a couple bed fish I had, and I thought I was going to do a mix. I thought I would ‘Scope some, bed fish some, throw a shaky head some, I was gonna fish everything. I pulled up on two big ones, and I caught them both, and then I saw another pulled up nearby. So, I started looking.”

It turns out to have been a great call, as basically every one of the quality fish Robinson has caught came off a bed.

“The heat and the sun and the full moon have them pushin’ up,” he said. “I think the fish are coming to the bank, which is a good thing. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll do the same thing, maybe mix in a few offshore places I haven’t hit yet. I have a few places out of the bank, ‘Scopin’, stuff like that, that I’m saving kind of as a backup.”

The son of Bass Pro Tour pro Marty Robinson (who finished the event 103rd), the younger Robinson is very cognizant of what winning might mean.

“That’s what I’ve always wanted,” he said. “I knew if I ever won, I’d be the youngest – I mean, that would be pretty sick. But, it’s so hard to put three good days together against these guys.”

Drew Gill has mastered fishing for bass that are untouched by the eyes of the competition. Photo by Jody White

Forward-facing leads the way for Gill

Not much older than Robinson, Gill is in his 20s (nearly 21) and has proven that there are no limits to his LiveScope ability. This week, he’s locked up third place so far and made it look pretty easy.

“Today was a fun day, a lot of bass catching went down,” Gill said. “It started off slow, not super slow; but I was catching fish I didn’t need to have. Then, I made the decision to run to some big ones I found in practice, and I caught a 4 and change, another 4 and change, and a 3-something in about 45 minutes. I got around some new stuff, caught another 3 and change, and then kind of pumped the brakes and did a lot of looking this afternoon. I caught them the way I wanted to today, and stayed consistent.”

Gill is fishing on the leading edge right now, catching his fish in a way that plenty of average anglers have probably never thought of.

“I’m fishing for fry guarders that are off the bank,” he said. “These fish are setting up on anything hard that is isolated. You’ll see a little fuzz ball over the top of any little piece of cover, and there will usually be a good one sitting under it. If you find one, you can catch it, no questions asked. The issue is finding them. It’s been more and more every day that I found, with this warm weather today, more and more started coming out.”

Top 10 pros

1. John Cox – 38 – 5 (10)      

2. Marshall Robinson  – 37 – 14 (10)  

3. Drew Gill – 37 – 11 (10)      

4. Keith Carson – 35 – 11 (9)  

5. Andrew Nordbye – 35 – 4 (10)     

6. Andy Newcomb – 33 – 4 (10)       

7. Ron Nelson – 33 – 2 (10)  

8. Tom Redington – 32 – 7 (10)        

9. Tai Au – 32 – 0 (10)           

10. Charley Slaton – 31 – 15 (10)       

Complete results