Professional bass fishermen are fascinating. The best stories often revolve around the lifestyle and endless pursuits that go into tournament angling, that drive we all admire and the sacrifices we could never make. Somewhere mixed in is often a bit of wackiness.
John Cox is no exception. Cox currently faces the toughest schedule of any bass angler in the world, juggling both BPT and Elite Series schedules and fishing a few Pro Circuit events for good measure.
This being a condensed year already, Cox will attempt to fit 19 national tournaments into a period of 8 months. His travels will take him from Lake Okeechobee to Lake Champlain and as far west as Texas.
Nearly everyone who meets Cox likes him. Taking things in stride, he never seems to get overly excited or upset about any details, just a good guy with an easy smile. In fact, Cox’s laid-back style seems just the opposite of what you’d expect to find in a man trying to juggle the toughest tournament schedule in the history of pro bass fishing.
So, why is he doing this? The answer is typical Cox.
“I don’t want to work at boat shows or anything like that.”
Of course not. If you know John Cox, you quickly realize his reason for being a professional fisherman is to fish. Or more specifically, to fish competitively. And over the past few seasons, Cox has proven to be quite good at it. Four major victories in as many years, four trips to the Bassmaster Classic while only occasionally dipping his toe into the B.A.S.S. arena. Earnings over half-a-million.
When reviewing his career options, Cox sees competitive opportunities before everything else, something growing less common in our sport. “This may be a once-in-a lifetime-opportunity,” he claims.
Cox has never been good about sitting out a tournament with a fat payday. “When I see those and have to watch (online), it makes me sick to my stomach. All these years, that’s what’s carried me (tournament income). I don’t want to lose my house and my car.”
I doubt it would come to that, but it’s easy to understand where Cox is coming from. For him, like many starting out in the sport, there was no sponsor income early on, and little financial support to aid him along.
So, with a blank calendar to start, Cox aims to fill in as many days as possible fishing for a hundred grand. “I’m pumped about it. We (he and his sponsors) have an opportunity every week.”
So far, so good. Cox snuck in a win at one of his “bonus” events on the Pro Circuit, while chasing checks at four of five Elite events.
His undertaking is about to get tricky, however. The week of May 20 will present a direct conflict as the Elite Series competes at Lake Guntersville while the BPT visits the Harris Chain. Cox hopes to compete one day at the Elite (possibly two), then hightail it to Florida.
Another hurdle will come at Classic time, when Cox will be forced to miss any and all practice for the event in order to compete at the BPT at Chickamauga. With his previous record of wins at Chick, that’s a no-brainer for a guy looking to get paid. But it’s a big sacrifice.
A major problem may also occur during the northern swings this summer, when Cox may fall victim to a BPT off-limits violation for being on tournament waters while competing in the Elite series at the St. Lawrence River, and possibly at Lake Champlain.
All of this seems so confusing, so tiring even to me, sitting in front of a calendar and a map. How could someone, especially someone as unconcerned as John Cox, possibly pull this off without pulling out his hair?
For once, perhaps part of the credit can be given to someone other than Cox himself. Recently married, Cox admits it’s his wife, Melissa, who does the scheduling, takes care of logistics and juggles the kids' stuff. It appears to be working.
Another reason behind the madness is vintage Cox.
“New guys coming in are so good because (live broadcasts) expose everything. There’s no secrets. And once they get dialed in with the new sonar, it’s going to be unreal. That’s when I want to fall off the face of the earth. I don’t have a back-up plan or anything.”
Sure you don’t, John.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)