Cox Cranks Up Lead on Rayburn - Major League Fishing

Cox Cranks Up Lead on Rayburn

Shallow-water hammer relies on new tricks to weigh in 21-7 to start season
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John Cox Photo by Kyle Wood.
January 23, 2020 • Sean Ostruszka • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

John Cox was already one of the top anglers on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit and arguably the best shallow-water angler in the sport before day one at Sam Rayburn. Still, he’s always had a hole in his game in the form of fishing crankbaits. That is until today, anyway.

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In what had to be an ironic sight, while Cox watched others around him beat Sam Rayburn’s shallow brush, the DeBary, Fla., pro sacked up 21 pounds, 7 ounces and take the day one lead by focusing out deeper with a crankbait to kick off the new Pro Circuit season.

“I was really struggling today fishing brush to start and didn’t know what to do around noon,” says Cox. “I only had 10 to 11 pounds and was really getting down. I was thinking the fish had to be out or something. So, I just started chunking that [crankbait] out in open water; out from where I had some bites in the bushes, and they were just smoking it.”

Now, before we anoint Cox a crankbait master, it’s worth noting that he’s executing his new crankbait prowess in classic John Cox fashion. That is, in total disarray. 

Cox has only one crankbait rod – a 7-foot, 6-inch Abu Garcia Veritas Winch – which happens to be the first true crankbait rod he’s owned. He only has two crankbaits in his boat – a pair of No. 5 Berkley Frittsides – as he has lost five others this week and doesn’t have a lure retriever. And he has no pliers. 

“I’m just so used to only having that one big hook to pop out,” he quips.

Yet, to say he’s managing to get dialed in on a true crankbait bite a la David Fritts is quite accurate.

John Cox

“You can feel [the crankbait] come over the fish,” says Cox. “You’d reel it and it felt like a log was out there. Then one would get it.

“I think there’s some grass and maybe rock mixed in, but you know when you’re going to get bit. You feel it. You’ll make a lot of casts and feel nothing. Then you’d make a cast and feel the fish and you’d have one.”

While Cox did catch five upgrades from one area this afternoon, he didn’t feel his area was stacked. He actually felt that where he was catching his fish were transition spots. As such, he’s concerned his one area could be fishless tomorrow, but he figures he’s going to milk it for all it’s worth. 

And even if his key area from today runs dry tomorrow, there were a few other areas he hit today when focusing on the brush that Cox thinks he may be able to go back to tomorrow and capitalize on by again relying on the crankbait.

 “Honestly, the way practice went, it was a struggle all week,” Cox admits. “I was really just wanting to get a check. I was like ‘Oh, please just let me get a check somehow.’ I’ll probably be doing that again tomorrow, but I’m thrilled for this start to kick off the season.”


Greg Bohannan

2. Greg Bohannan – Bentonville, Ark. – 21-4 (5)

Greg Bohannan had one spot he really wanted to fish today, but he was sure there’d be at least three or four boats on it. He was so sure, in fact, that he didn’t even go there to start. Eventually, he did decide to try it out.

“There wasn’t a soul there,” says Bohannan. “I fished there all day long. I just kind of did circles in the area all day long. 

“I just can’t believe there were no boats in there because it’s a notoriously good area.”

Even being by himself, the fishing was hardly on fire. He caught one fish every hour-and-a-half or so, including culling out a 14 1/2-incher with a 7-5 kicker with 30 minutes to go.

“Sometimes, the good thing about having a bad practice is you only have confidence in one area, so you stay there the whole time,” says Bohannan. “I only threw one bait, too. I’m going to have a lot less rods on the deck tomorrow.”


Darold Gleason

3. Darold Gleason – Many, La. – 21-3 (5)

Considering he was a rookie and he lives only an hour from Sam Rayburn, once Darold Gleason qualified for the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, he committed himself to this event. 

“I kind of shut life down so I could come over here and try to learn the lake even better,” says Gleason. “I probably came over here 30 times from Thanksgiving until off limits.”

The end result was a significant amount of offshore waypoints, and he hit 30 of them today. Fortunately, two kicked out some kickers – a 6-3 and a 7-2.

“I caught one [of the kickers] really early and one the last hour,” says Gleason. “Everything in between was not a whole lot of fun. I caught a limit early with that 6-3, and then I hit a lull. I hit a lot of stuff where I thought I could catch a big one, but it just didn’t work out until the end of the day.”


Corey Neece

4. Corey Neece – Bristol, Tenn. – 20-14 (5)

Of the anglers who capitalized on day one’s early morning bite, no one did so better than Corey Neece.

“I started out real quick,” he says. “It was pretty much every cast for an hour. I had what I had in the first two hours, all off one little area, and then I left it alone to go looking.”

As for his spot, he says it’s nothing special; just a bare spot in a vast grass flat he happened to find the first day of practice.

And in classic Sam Rayburn fashion, Neece caught all his fish on a lipless crankbait. 

“Just like 50 percent of the other people out here,” he quips.


Grae Buck

5. Grae Buck – Harleysville, Pa. – 20-9 (5)

Sometimes persistence pays off, especially when a near 10-pounder is involved.

A brutal practice left Grae Buck with only one small grass patch the size of his boat where he felt he could even get bit. Unfortunately, his grass patch happened to be in a creek where more than a dozen other boats were crammed this morning. The pressure took its toll, as he had one fish at 11:30 a.m., but having nothing else, he decided to commit.

“I just started doing circles,” says Buck. “Then, in the last 30 minutes, I think I just started hitting the grass from the right angle to get a reaction strike, because I caught four quick.”

Amongst those four was a 9-8 that took Berkley Big Bass honors, while also being Buck’s new personal best – not that he got to celebrate it at the time.

“At that point, that was No. 3,” says Buck. “I just shoved it in the livewell. I knew it was big, but I didn’t know how big.”


Top 10 Pros

1. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 21-7 (5)

2. Greg Bohannan – Bentonville, Ark. – 21-4 (5)

3. Darold Gleason – Many, La. – 21-3 (5)

4. Corey Neece – Bristol, Tenn. – 20-14 (5)

5. Grae Buck – Harleysville, Pa. – 20-9 (5)

6. Mitch Crane – Columbus, Miss. – 20-3 (5)

7. Jon Canada – Helena, Ala. – 19-10 (5)

8. Hunter Freeman – Monroe, La. – 18-2 (5)

9. Lane Olsen – Tigard, Ore. – 18-0 (5)

10. Mark Fisher – Wauconda, Ill. – 17-15 (5)

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