UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

Cox and Dudley on their AOY Chances

Cox and Dudley on their AOY Chances

One tournament left. One title on the line. One point separating two anglers. One is a legend, and the other is on the verge of being one.

Yeah, the finale of this year’s FLW Tour Angler of the Year race is going to be fun.

Every angler starts his season with the hope of being in contention for AOY by the final tournament. Mathematically, only a handful of anglers are still in it this year, but realistically, as the FLW Tour heads to its final stop of 2019 at Lake Champlain, it’s a two-angler race.

In one corner you have the current leader, John Cox, who is seeking to hoist the only FLW Tour trophy he’s yet to earn (he’s won three FLW Tour events and an FLW Cup). Yet, he might be considered the “challenger” in this bout, what with the man behind him by only one point being three-time Angler of the Year champion David Dudley.

The stage is set for quite the battle, and with that, we caught up with both to see where their heads are at with the most coveted title on the line.

 

John Cox

Cox: “I want to do that”

Cox doesn’t want to think about it, but it’s hard not to considering the circumstances.

Back in 2012, the FLW Tour finished its regular season on Lake Champlain. While Cox was finishing 103rd, capping off a mediocre second season on Tour, he got to watch Dudley win that event, and, in the process, win the AOY title for 2012. It was Dudley’s third AOY title in five years, cementing his place among the legends of the sport.

“I was there,” Cox says of that 2012 tournament, “and I remember watching him on stage and thinking, ‘I want to do that one of these days.’ Well, I got what I wanted, or at least a chance.”

What Cox really wants right now is for the Champlain tournament to begin.

There might be no angler in the sport who’s fishing better than the Debary, Fla., pro right now. Cox finished second at the Bassmaster Central Open on Lewis Smith at the end of April, won the FLW Tour event on Lake Chickamauga at the beginning of May and then won again on Chick at the Bassmaster Eastern Open at the end of May.

When you have momentum like that, you want to keep it rolling. It’s not just momentum, though.

“I was in such a routine,” says Cox before the near month-long layoff before Champlain. “My alarm wasn’t even going off, and I was getting up at 4:30 a.m., which, if you know me, that’s a big deal.”

Of course, that’s when he wasn’t losing sleep over thinking about AOY.

“When I left Chickamauga [after the Tour event], Angler of the Year was instantly on my mind,” admits Cox, who says a similar thing happened in 2015, when he ultimately finished second to Scott Martin in the AOY standings. “I can say I’ve lost sleep over it. It really hit me when I got home that first night.

“I’m trying not to think about it, but I really want to win.”

 

David Dudley

Dudley: “It’s cool to me”

At 43, Dudley is by no means an old man. That didn’t stop him from wondering if he’d peaked and was past his prime.

“At a certain point you start to pay attention to age,” Dudley admits. “I’m not an old fart. I’m still young for this sport, but there were a couple years there where I started wondering, ‘Oh my gosh. Am I on the downslope?’ I was still making championships, but I wasn’t contending like I was, you know.

“So to be in this position at 43, going for my fourth Angler of the Year title, it’s cool to me.”

No one has yet to win AOY four times on the FLW Tour; a fact not lost on Dudley. Yet, having been down this road many times before, don’t expect anything different from him at Champlain.

Dudley says his game plan will be the same there as it is every tournament. It’s the same game plan he’s used to win his previous three AOY titles.

“I’m going to go there and try to catch as many and as big of fish as I can, day after day,” Dudley says. “You do that, and you do it well, and Angler of the Year falls in your lap.”

The Virginia pro admits he’s certainly not lacking confidence with the final tournament being held at Champlain. He’s excelled there in the past. Along with his victory in 2012, he has two more top 10s among a total of seven top-25 finishes at the Northern fishery in the last two decades.

“I have confidence anywhere we go,” Dudley says. “But I like Champlain, and I like the time of year we’re going. I’ll put it this way: I like my chances.”

Of course, the same could be said for Cox, who admits that of all the Northern “finishing” lakes the season could end on, Champlain best fits his style.

Whether it leads to a new legend’s first or a veteran legend’s historic fourth, the finale of this year’s Angler of the Year race should be one to remember.

Tags: sean-ostruszka  sean-ostruszka-  article 

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