John Cox started his fishing career in an aluminum boat, participating in small pond tournaments in a johnboat powered with just a trolling motor.
In 2011, in his rookie season on the Walmart FLW Tour, Cox earned his first Tour win out of an aluminum boat on the Red River.
In 2015, he finished runner-up in the Tour Angler of the Year standings with an aluminum boat. And in March of this year, Cox got his second Tour win out of an aluminum boat.
Today, Cox reached the pinnacle of the bass tournament world, winning professional bass fishing’s Forrest Wood Cup, and he did it out of an aluminum boat. With his $300,000 victory, Cox has made a bit of unique fishing history, being the only pro to ever win a modern world championship bass fishing event from an aluminum boat.
In doing so, he proved to the fishing world that owning a big brand new glass boat maxed out with a 250-hp outboard is not necessarily a prerequisite to winning a world title in bass fishing. Indeed, his memorable week at Wheeler Lake, which culminated today with the Forrest Wood Cup held high over his head, should serve as an inspiration for tournament anglers at all levels.
“I started in aluminums because I could not afford bigger glass boats,” Cox says. “Aluminum rigs are a more realistic boat purchase for the average working person. I used to paint apartments and just could not afford a $60,000 glass boat.
“After fishing out of aluminums, I discovered they have distinct advantages of being lighter and they can get up on plane in very shallow water,” he adds. “They don’t get stuck as bad when you plant one on a sandbar, and they tend to hop over logs and stuff better. They are simply more efficient for the way I like to fish.
“I did run a glass boat for about a year on Tour,” he adds. “But I returned to aluminums because they suit my fishing style better.”
With that, Cox defined his niche in pro fishing as a mud-dobbing stump jumper who seeks out secluded backwaters and remote creek ends to find fish that others have difficulty accessing. The aluminum rig has become Cox’s trademark, earning him the moniker “Tin Man” among FLW’s media team.
During the week on Wheeler, Cox used his tin boat to access the upper reaches of Cotaco Creek, some seven miles back off the main river. It would take him about 40 minutes to idle and plow over logs and under trees to reach one or two deeper stretches where a resident population of bass lived.
The Cotaco Creek drainage basin includes several springs, which supply Cotaco with cooler water. In addition, a thick shade canopy over the creek helps keep it cool.
But what Cox particularly liked about the area when he found it was a layer of duckweed on the water’s surface where the Cotaco Creek bass sought refuge.
For the first two days, Cox relied primarily on a Jackall Iobee Frog in either a black or bluegill color. He used an MHX FP-885 rod to skip the frog far up under shade trees and worked it through the thin duckweed.
The first day, Cox described fishing as being “fast and furious” as the bass would blast his frog as soon as it hit the water.
“Even if they missed it, they’d come back and get it again,” Cox says. “They were just so aggressive.”
He took an early lead on day one with 16 pounds, 11 ounces.
On day two, his action was not as fast paced, but the fish still cooperated. He had to mix in a white 1/4-ounce buzzbait fished on an MHX MB-873 to entice a few more bites to cull up to 15 pounds, 10 ounces. Cox went into Saturday’s top-20 round with a 6-pound, 7-ounce lead.
By day three, Cotaco Creek began to tighten the reins on the Tin Man, giving up just 11 pounds. His own fishing pressure in the small area had begun to take its toll. In addition, a rise in water level took away his aluminum advantage, as other anglers were able to get farther back in the creek.
Cox entered the final day with just a slim 9-ounce lead over Todd Auten but was able to hold off all competitors with an 11-pound, 8-ounce catch that pushed his winning total to 54 pounds, 13 ounces for four days.
“It’s just been an amazing week,” Cox says. “I didn’t think that one spot had enough fish in it to win, but it did. I’ve tried to get back in places like that in other Forrest Wood Cups to win, and it just didn’t work out. But this lake has so many of those little log-infested creeks, and I knew this would be a great opportunity to make it work, and it did.”
Top 10 Pros
1. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 54-13 – $300,000
2. Michael Neal – Dayton, Tenn. – 50-10 – $60,000
3. Todd Auten – Lake Wylie, S.C. – 50-5 – $50,200
4. Bryan Thrift – Shelby, N.C. – 49-6 – $37,600
5. Jeremy Lawyer – Sarcoxie, Mo. – 49-5 – $30,000
6. Mark Rose – West Memphis, Ark. – 47-15 – $24,000
7. Jacob Wheeler – Indianapolis, Ind. – 46-7 – $23,000
8. Chris Johnston – Peterborough, Ontario – 44-8 – $22,000
9. Brandon Cobb – Greenwood, S.C. – 44-4 – $21,000
10. Joseph Webster – Fulton, Miss. – 42-3 – $20,000
Day 4 Stats
Total limits: 10
Average bag: 10 pounds, 10 ounces
Average number of fish: 5
Total catch weight: 106 pounds, 12 ounces
Total number of fish: 48