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FWC Preview - Making the Case for Cox

FWC Preview - Making the Case for Cox
John Cox

It’s bound to start soon – all the yada-yada that 2017 is likely to be the year when the Forrest Wood Cup sees its first two-time winner. Every year we hear it, and every year it doesn’t happen. What’s different about 2017 is that the Cup is on Lake Murray Aug. 11-13, and John Cox is defending his 2016 title. Though Cox and Murray are strangers to each other, if ever there was a body of water suited to his talents, it’s the 50,000-acre lake outside Columbia, S.C.

At the moment, to Cox it’s not so much how Murray fishes as how it looks. He’s never fished it, though he gave it a once-over last year after winning the 2016 Cup on Alabama’s Wheeler Lake. After all the hoopla had died away and everyone had left for home, Cox headed back to his Florida home, but detoured to South Carolina long enough to explore the site of the 2017 Cup. Without wetting a line, he liked what he saw. Because he had a golden pass to the 2017 championship by virtue of winning at Wheeler, he knew he was going to be fishing a lake that, in many respects, was Wheeler Part Deux.

“I was kind of shocked at how big it was; I thought it was a lot smaller,” says the defending Cup champion. “But it has a lot of feeder creeks and coves. In some ways it lays out similar to Hartwell and maybe a little like Santee Cooper [two other South Carolina lakes], which I like to fish, except without all the trees. So it [Murray] looked like a really neat place where there’s going to be lots of shallow fish and some out deeper on all the brush piles. I’m really excited about going back and fishing it.”

Given that Murray is a “really neat place” for somebody to pick up a $100,000-a-day paycheck for winning the Cup, Cox is an automatic favorite, but there are several others whose fishing talents fall right in the same wheelhouse.

Bryan Thrift, Andy Morgan, Scott Canterbury … take your pick, with more to come. Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., won there in 2014 on a variety of lures and “soft” patterns that had him casting for unpredictable schooling bass in the lower lake with a soft-jerkbait rig, using swimbaits to catch bass foraging on blueback herring in shallow grass and fishing brush in the Saluda with a Zoom Ol’ Monster worm.

John Cox

Which all sounds good to Cox, who’s one of the best at exploiting typical heart-of-summer conditions. He won the 2016 Cup fishing a relatively small area in Wheeler’s Cotaco Creek with a bevy of baits – most notable among them a frog. Cox is one of the best frog fishermen in the game, and Michael Bennett dominated the 2008 Forrest Wood Cup at Murray using a frog, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that a frog will do the trick this year.

“I would like it if there was a strong frog bite. That’s kind of dependent on the lake level. It’s more of a higher water situation,” contends Cox. “When I poked around there [Lake Murray] after last year’s Cup the lake seemed fairly low to me, and I felt like maybe 2017 was going to be more for the outside stuff. If it gets a ton of rain, a lot of things will be in play.”

The 2017 Forrest Wood Cup won’t be the endurance test it’s been in years past. Because it’s been shortened by a day to three rounds, Cox thinks that the contestants won’t necessarily have to scramble the last day just to catch a limit.

“It’s hard for a spot to hold up over four days. It’s a whole lot better to milk, say, a brush pile for a couple of days and then scratch something together the third day,” observes Cox. “Even so, at lakes like Murray in the summer, it’s all about toughing it out and showing up in the right place at the right time and throwing the right baits.”

Cox envisions a tournament where anglers such as himself make a zillion flips or pitches a day to cover of one sort or another, while others skip docks or cherry-pick brush piles for a fish or two in each round. The program might also include fishermen such as Gagliardi or Tennessee’s Michael Neal (not that either is locked in yet) anchored down in places where schooling bass are apt to pop up at any time of day.

If the prospect for topwaters is good, many anglers will stay in the main lake; if it’s tougher, they might stay glued to the feeder creeks. None of the probable patterns is better than the next one at this point; it’s all just wait-and-see. And Cox is trying his best not to lock himself into a battle plan before he even shows up at Murray.

“I hope I can talk myself out of going to Murray on the way back from the Potomac tournament,” he says. “Sometimes I’ve made assumptions about a place based on the last time I saw it, and then it’s not like that at all when practice or the tournament rolls around.”

Last year, he didn’t pre-fish Wheeler Lake either. He went in green, practiced for three days and formulated his approach based on what he found in the prequel.

And look how that turned out.

John Cox

Tags: forrest-wood-cup  lake-murray  john-cox  colin-moore  pre-tournament  2017-08-11-forrest-wood-cup 

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The FLW Cup Playing Field

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Summertime on Champlain

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