By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

John Cox didn't find the three-tour schedule he fished in 2020 to be overwhelming at all and he hopes to do it again at some point. He won't attempt it this year, though – there are just too many overlapping dates on the schedules.

Therefore, he'll compete on the Bassmaster Elite Series and the MLF Pro Circuit, but not the MLF Bass Pro Tour.

"I'd love to do all three again," said the 36-year-old Floridian. "I really liked not over-practicing and, at some tournaments, not practicing at all. It was cool to go back and forth between the five-fish limit (the Elite Series and Pro Circuit formats) and the Bass Pro Tour (all scorable fish count). It was a nice change of pace and I enjoyed trying to figure that new format out. Hopefully down the road I'll get to do it again.

"The whole reason for not doing it this year is just too many conflicts. I'd have to miss the Classic for one of them (there's a BPT event set for that same early-March timeframe) and there's four or five other ones that run into other events. It'll only be three or four tournaments less than I fished last year and I should only have to miss one – if I end up making the (Pro Circuit TITLE) Championship, I'll have to miss one Elite."

He'll compete in two championship derbies in March: the Classic at South Carolina's Lake Hartwell and the BPT's REDCREST about three weeks later at Grand Lake in Oklahoma. He finished 29th on the BPT points list after fishing a full season and squeaked into the Classic via the revised standings even though he was disqualified from the St. Lawrence River tournament because he'd competed in a BPT event there during the Elite Series off-limits period.

His total winnings from 20 tournaments in 2021 were $306,980, with more than a third of that derived from his Pro Circuit victory at Lewis Smith Lake.

Simple Objectives

Cox said his only concrete goals for this year are to qualify for the TITLE in August and the 2023 Classic. In sort of a secondary quest, he'd like to finally win a tour-level event in his home state.

He'll get three cracks at that one. The Elite Series opens at the St. Johns River Feb. 10-13 and both circuits will visit the Harris Chain of Lakes before St. Patrick's Day arrives.

"I've gone into the final day with a big lead several times, but I always end up blowing it somehow," he said. "I've just never been able to make it happen."

He's particularly looking forward to the Classic – Hartwell was the site of one of his six tour-level triumphs and he's also had a couple of runner-up finishes there. He also boasts a victory at Lake Chickamauga, where the Elite Series will visit in early April.

The Chickamauga derby is one of the events that conflicted with the BPT schedule.

"That's a place where I've done really well and I wouldn't be able to sleep knowing that a tournament was going on there and I wasn't in it," he said.

Not Much Water Time

Cox said he's done far less fishing this offseason that he would've preferred. He and his wife sold one of the two side-by-side houses they owned in DeBary, Fla. and moved their family to another place a few streets away that has a large shed he can use for equipment storage and a long driveway that's convenient for parking boats.

He's keeping the other house in order to store a boat there, and also because the fishing on the pond that it sits on is superb. He figures he can turn it into an Airbnb or Vrbo rental and keep up with the mortgage and utilities if he has guests in it for six days out of each month.

Meanwhile, he and the family are enjoying life in the new place. He was astounded by how easy it was to secure the financing for it.

"Back when I bought the first one, the bank people were like, 'What, you're a professional fisherman? Heck no, we're not lending you any money,''' he said with his trademark chuckle. "Now here's this half-million dollar house and they're like, 'Sure, we'll give you a loan.'

"We just keep thinking that somebody's going to show up and take the keys away from us."