Cox Losing Ground on Rayburn - Major League Fishing

Cox Losing Ground on Rayburn

Neece and Gleason are hot on the heels of the Florida superstar
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John Cox Photo by Jacob Fine.
January 25, 2020 • MLF • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

What was looking like a blowout has turned into a nail-biter.

For two days, the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event on Sam Rayburn was all about John Cox and his little one-cast crankbait spot, which had given him more than a 5-pound lead. And another big day from that honey hole with his Berkley Frittside crankbait might’ve made it near impossible for anyone to catch him. 

Instead, that spot produced one 12-incher and a whole lot of stress for Cox, who had to scramble up until the bitter end today to scrounge up 13 pounds, 3 ounces to barely hang on to his lead with 53-6 over hard-charging Corey Neece and Darold Gleason. 

Complete results

“I am honestly thrilled to catch what I did,” says Cox. “Just looking at past tournaments, I’ve bombed a lot of day threes, and today really felt like that. I pulled up to the magical spot, and everything seemed OK. It wasn’t. It was pretty dead. I tried to stay there, but it just wasn’t happening.”

While Cox’s morning could hardly have gotten off to a worse start, it was the exact opposite for the two anglers right behind him. 

Neece was able to get back on his spot that produced more than 20 pounds on day one (he couldn’t get on it yesterday due to other competitors), and he caught a 7-pounder within in the first five minutes and most of his 20-7 bag today by 9 a.m. 

Meanwhile, Gleason caught fish on his first, second and fourth casts of the morning, and basically caught fish at will for the first hour or so. The only thing holding him back is the lack of necessary kicker bites.

As for Cox, with his key spot bombing out, he went into full-blown scramble mode. 

“I just started running until I saw something I thought looked good,” says Cox, who left his main spot around 9 a.m. “I probably stopped 100 times, and about every 10 times I stopped I’d catch something.”

So what looked good? Anything and everything.

“Laydowns, grass, a point coming out or something that looked really fishy,” says Cox. “I’d just swing in and burn it quick. I just had the trolling motor on 100, and no fish came off the same thing. One came off an isolated stick. One came off a laydown. One came off a rock point. One came off a drain in the back of a pocket.”

Cox said nothing “felt right” today from the start. Though he does believe he finally figured something out with his junk-fishing while working his way back in. Cox was able to make three solid culls in the final hour. 

As for tomorrow, Cox knows he’s going to need something more than just his junk-fishing to compete with the solid patterns Neece, Gleason and a few other pros are on. What that will be, though, he’s not sure yet.

“I’m really hoping my little area turns back on,” says Cox. “If it doesn’t, we’ll just go scramble again and see what happens.”


Corey Neece

2. Corey Neece – Bristol, Tenn. – 52-10 (15)

If Corey Neece had been able to get on his special area on day two, he might be blowing away this tournament, and he might be doing it fishing for all of three hours each day.

After scrambling yesterday thanks to other competitors being on his spot, Neece was able to get back on it today and promptly caught a 7-pounder within five minutes and the majority of his weight by 9 a.m., just like he did on day one.

“That first fish really jacked me up and got it going,” says Neece. “It’s been a morning deal, but I actually pulled back in there late this afternoon and caught a 4-pounder, which was nice.”

The spot doesn’t look like much; just a giant grass flat. Yet, within the grass is a small bare spot that’s he’s hitting repeatedly. Much like Cox was doing the previous two days, Neece is making one specific cast that seems to be accounting for all his fish.

“Anything can happen tomorrow,” says Neece, who is fishing his first final day. “I’m ready to get back out there; that’s for sure.”


Darold Gleason

3. Darold Gleason – Many, La. – 50-1 (15)

Quantity is beyond easy for Darold Gleason to catch right now. If he’s to pull off the win in his first event on the Pro Circuit, though, he’s going to need to find some quality.

The rookie has an offshore starting spot that is loaded with 2-pounders, and he’s made sure to stack up on them first thing each morning to get an easy limit, usually within a dozen casts. From there, he’s tried everything to get those bigger bites. Unfortunately, they haven’t been coming.

“From 9:30 a.m. on it is a ‘snuggle struggle,’” says Gleason. “I caught three fish the rest of the day. I ran 25 miles back down from my starting spot to try and hit my shallow deal, but it just felt dead. I really had to grind.”

One thing he noted is that he’s seeing fish in all three phases of the spawn, which is why it’s been so difficult for patterns to materialize. Yet, being a rookie in his first event, he’s just thrilled to be in contention. 

“This mean so much,” says Gleason. “It’s not about the money or the fame. I just want to earn the respect of these dudes. I want to be one of these dudes, and I want to be able to do it for the rest of my fishing career.

“And to do it from an hour from my home, it’s just what we all dream of.”


Sam George

4. Sam George – Athens, Ala. – 46-3 (15)

Considering Sam George made the top 10 on Sam Rayburn last year, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise he did it back-to-back. That is, until you realize how he did it this go around. 

“I’m catching them the absolute complete opposite way of how I caught them last year,” says George. “Last year I caught them all in 25 or 28 feet, and this year I’m catching them up in the dirt. I honestly think the fish I’m catching are spawning fish.”

Keying on isolated wood in 2 feet or less, George says he’s had to run around a lot in a general area to find fresh pieces of wood, because he simply hasn’t been able to go re-hit anything and catch a fish.

George’s suspicion that the fish are biting is backed up by the fact that his bites seem to be diminishing each day – he only had eight today – and when he finds the right stretch, he catches them quick. That said, the rainy forecast for tomorrow has him excited.

“Honestly, the best day they’ve bit was the first day, which was the nastiest day,” says George. “I thought for flipping wood it would be terrible. I mean, I had 3-footers rolling in on my spots. And then I thought today I’d smoke them and I didn’t. So, tomorrow, maybe the clouds will make it better again.”


Tommy Dickerson

5. Tommy Dickerson – Orange, Texas – 45-8 (15)

Starting off your day with a 5-pounder like Tommy Dickerson has the last two days makes for a nice luxury; a luxury he didn’t have today.

“When that didn’t happen I was really worried,” says Dickerson. 

That worry was warranted, as he only caught seven keepers all day, with two key ones coming in the final 30 minutes. 

Part of the reason for that is because the off-colored water he’s been fishing has only gotten dirtier and dirtier. So much so he’s pretty sure he’ll have to abandon his area for Sunday. Fortunately, more than 20 years of experience on Sam Rayburn means he has plenty of history to go on as he tries to swing for the fences.

“I’ve got a couple of deep places that can really produce some big bags,” says Dickerson. “I wanted to fish them the first two days, but the wind didn’t allow. I should’ve went today, but if the wind allows tomorrow I’m going to stay out there the whole day.”


Complete results

Top 10 pros

1. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 53-6 (15) 

2. Corey Neece – Bristol, Tenn. – 52-10 (15) 

3. Darold Gleason – Many, La. – 50-1 (15) 

4. Sam George – Athens, Ala. – 46-3 (15) 

5. Tommy Dickerson – Orange, Texas – 45-8 (15) 

6. Jonathan Canada – Helena, Ala. – 45-8 (15) 

7. Kerry Milner – Bono, Ark. – 45-2 (15) 

8. Scott Dobson – Clarkston, Mich. – 43-8 (15) 

9. Ron Nelson – Berrien Springs, Mich. – 43-7 (15) 

10. Alex Davis – Albertville, Ala. – 43-4 (15)