Cox Leads by 5 pounds at Rayburn - Major League Fishing
Cox Leads by 5 pounds at Rayburn
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Cox Leads by 5 pounds at Rayburn

The crankbait king just keeps catching ‘em
Image for Cox Leads by 5 pounds at Rayburn
John Cox Photo by Jacob Fine.
January 24, 2020 • Sean Ostruszka • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

If you’re running around a lot on Sam Rayburn right now, you’re probably not catching much.

Day two of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event showed that the only real pattern developing on Big Sam is to hunker down on a small transition spot and hope it coughs out the right fish. If it does, you can get right in a hurry, like Joshua Weaver and Miles Howe did when they fished no more than 60 yards apart today and brought nearly 40 pounds combined to the scales. 

But after two days, no one has executed that program better than John Cox.

Complete results

The DeBary, Fla., pro backed up his day-one leading weight with another 18 pounds, 12 ounces today to give him 40-3 total, which extended his lead over Darold Gleason and the rest of the field to more than 5 pounds. Incredibly, almost all that weight hasn’t just come from one spot, but from one repeated cast.

“Not often am I able to fish a tournament where I’m able to make the same cast the whole time, but that’s what I’m doing,” says Cox, who figures the last time he relied solely on one cast for an extended period of time was a 2014 event on Lake Hartwell. “Where I’m fishing, I can only catch them making one cast. It is painful. I try to cast around, but nothing, none of it really works.”

The special one-cast spot Cox is fishing doesn’t seem like much. It’s just a 3-foot high spot with a little bit of sand and rock with hydrilla all around it, right at the mouth of one of the best-known spawning creeks on Sam Rayburn. Further back in the same creek, actually, is where Greg Bohannan is fishing, but before they get to Bohannan, Cox is picking them off on the little rest spot. 

Cox can tell it’s a transition spot simply by literally feeling the school when it arrives. Tossing his Berkley Frittsidecrankbait, he’ll make cast after cast feeling nothing. Then, when the school shows up, he’ll immediately feel his crankbait hit off what feels like “big logs.” Once he feels that, he knows he’ll get bit within seconds.

John Cox

That said, his spot requires a lot of waiting. 

“It’s almost like if I wait and let it settle I can catch one,” explains Cox. “It seems every time I take a break and retie or something, it gives them enough time to reload and I can catch one. I don’t know about tomorrow. I might just have to make less casts tomorrow.”

Of course, he does have concerns about tomorrow beyond making fewer casts to the spot, as he didn’t get bit there from 11 a.m. until he came in to weigh-in. 

“It was brutal,” he admits.

Yet, with not much else going right now, his plan is to keep milking that spot for as long as he can. 

“I’m going to stay on that spot as long as I can [tomorrow],” says Cox. “You know, it might not work; it might fall apart. I don’t know. I might get there and make 10 casts and say, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and go do something else.”

 

Darold Gleason

2. Darold Gleason – Many, La. – 34-15 (10)

Kickers are always key in any tournament, but they’re especially key on a lake like Sam Rayburn, where a kicker can go double digits. Of course, Darold Gleason wouldn’t mind a kicker half that size right now. 

“My weight was lower, but I caught a lot more fish today,” he says. “I just never got a big bite all day.”

Gleason’s starting spot actually left him with sore thumbs as he cycled through more than two dozen fish, but they were all “run-of-the-mill 14-inch fish.” The quick limit was a game plan, though, as the rookie admits, he tends to fish a lot calmer and better when he can hear his livewells going and knows there’s fish in them.

Once he had that, he spent a few hours running around trying to make some magic happen, but it never did, prompting a change.

“I had this feeling to go do something else,” says Gleason. “I put up the rods I’ve been throwing, made a little adjustment to move up shallower and made a couple good culls that really helped me. I didn’t catch any big ones, but just good quality fish.”

 

Tommy Dickerson

3. Tommy Dickerson – Orange, Texas – 33-7 (10)

Sam Rayburn and lipless crankbaits in early spring are like peanut butter and jelly. And after 20 years of doing that on the lake, Tommy Dickerson saw no reason to change that recipe.

“I’m just fishing Rat-L-Traps in the middle of drains,” says Dickerson. “It’s what we like to do here. I have four spots; four 100-yard stretches, and I’m just rotating back and forth catching fish coming in off the main lake and using the ditches.”

One thing Dickerson is doing differently is focusing on an area with some different water color. 

“The area I’m fishing has a certain type of water color, and it stays that color year round,” says Dickerson. “Most people don’t fool with it, but with the water being low, many spots were getting so much pressure. I said I need to get somewhere there won’t be a lot of people. That’s what I have, as I’m the only boat in there.”

 

Jon Canada

4. Jon Canada – Helena, Ala. – 33-3 (10)

Dickerson has had his area to himself because of water color. Jon Canada has been all alone for a different reason: distance.

Canada has been making quite the run to a special stretch – he has seen only one other competitor boat in his area the entire week – and once up there, he’s doing something no one else is doing. The problem is, all the wind that’s made for some rough rides back to weigh-in both days also may be ruining his spot.

“Half my area is getting blown out by the wind,” says Canada, who also notes more local fishermen around him today. “I covered a ton of water today. I couldn’t catch them the way I had been catching them. I had to slow down and catch them a couple other ways.”

Obviously tight-lipped about the area and what he’s doing, as he had been able to catch his fish with just two rods on his deck, Canada hopes that he can go up and grind out another good stringer tomorrow. 

“I’m just going to go up there and swing,” he admits.

 

Hunter Freeman

5. Hunter Freeman – Monroe, La. – 33-0 (10)

Hunter Freeman had a place he found in practice that looked perfect. So perfect that he checked it over and over – with nothing to show for it. When he was struggling yesterday, Freeman figured he’d check it one more time, and that time they were there.

“I got one to bite [Thursday], and it was an 8-pounder,” says Freeman. “Today, I broke my line on one and got another to bite, but I haven’t spent much time there. I’ve just pulled up for five or 10 minutes and left.”

Freeman says he’s about to get much more acquainted with it this weekend.

His main lipless crankbait pattern that helped him catch 20 pounds a day in practice has all but deserted him after today. And, considering Freeman thinks the spot is one of the best big-fish spots on the lake – it’s an offshore hard spot in the mouth of a drain – his plan for tomorrow is to lean on the big-fish hole a lot harder.

“We’re going to show up on it first thing tomorrow morning throwing a big crankbait and see what happens,” Freeman says. 

 

Top 10 pros

1. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 40-3 (10) 

2. Darold Gleason – Many, La. – 34-15 (10) 

3. Tommy Dickerson – Orange, Texas – 33-7 (10) 

4. Jonathan Canada – Helena, Ala. – 33-3 (10) 

5. Hunter Freeman – Monroe, La. – 33-0 (10) 

6. Kerry Milner – Bono, Ark. – 32-5 (10) 

7. Corey Neece – Bristol, Tenn. – 32-3 (10) 

8. Greg Bohannan – Bentonville, Ark. – 31-12 (10) 

9. Joshua Weaver – Macon, Ga. – 31-2 (10) 

10. Chris McCall – Palmer, Texas – 30-15 (10) 

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