The 2016 Forrest Wood Cup Recap – How John Cox Went Wire-To-Wire
The 2016 Forrest Wood Cup came down to a contest not only between anglers, but between contrasting styles of fishing.
Many pros decided to push far back into creeks in search of cooler incoming water and the bass that are attracted to it.
More than a few decided to also fish shallow, but to do so on the main lake where schooling fish were the target. These pros would lean against the butt seat on their front deck and keep their head on a swivel. When they saw a bass bust the surface the angler had to put a lure in the boil pronto. It had to happen right now and right on the money or it may as well not happen at all.
The most successful whack-a-mole bass caster this week was Michael Neal. “I’ve caught at least 50 bass on a Carolina Rig with a 6-inch worm this week,” said Neal, “None of them were the ones I weighed-in, but that would get the school fired up and I could catch the big ones on top.”
Neal wasn’t completely thrilled about every aspect of the offbeat technique. “I feel like I’m wasting time just sitting there waiting for one to blowup. I feel like I need to be casting. But that’s what it takes to catch them.”
And catch them he did. Neal was dialed-in on details that set him apart from other competitors. “I figured out that that lure had to have a feathered rear treble. It didn’t matter which lure I used, it had to have feathers on the back hook.”
Neal also admitted he’d lost about 20 good fish over the course of the tournament – a common ailment when playing this style of fast and furious fishing.
Once fishing had ceased, it was time to weigh ‘em up and crown a new champ. 2015 Cup Champion Brad knight shared, “It felt kind of weird, knowing someone else is fixing to have the title; that my year with it is about to be over. But I also felt . . . relieved, in a way.”
Jeremy Lawyer had the biggest bag of the day at 16-6. His total weight was 49-5, good enough to finish 5th.
With only two anglers left to weigh-in, Neal took the lead from Bryan Thrift. His 12-pound, 12-ounce sack pushed his total weight to 50-10. Todd Auten challenged, but settled in with 50-5 when he only produced 3 fish that weighed 7-9.
Then Cox strode to the scale needing 7 pounds, 6 ounces to retake a lead he had held from Day 1. His limit weighed 11-8, running his total to 54-13 and giving him a margin of over 4 pounds on Neal and Auten, more on the rest of the field.
Auten had all but closed the distance on Cox as the two entered Sunday’s final round separated by only ounces. He ran out of fish on the final day. He was on the right average size; just needed two more of them.
I followed Cox on the final day. He went so far back into the woods that I felt the need to check myself for ticks once we re-emerged. We pulled back at one point in the first creek he fished because we didn’t want to spook the bass in the shallow, clear water. The water’s clarity, lack of depth, and (most of all) lack of cover made it less than ideal for enticing the reaction bites Cox had counted on in his ‘A’ spot from the previous 3 days.
When he came out he said he was going back to his best water. And that he had caught 3 fish in this not-quite-right creek. The guy can catch fish out of wet tire tracks.
His primary area was deeper and the water was darker. And there was lots of cover. Laydowns. Shade. And duckweed. Cox picked it all apart with a Jackall Iobee Frog, a white buzzbait (1/4 oz.) and a creature bait that he pitched on his MHX rods.
Of course, he was able to access the creek when others couldn’t earlier in the week – due to lower water levels – because of his now famous 20-foot Crestliner aluminum bass boat. “The only knock against the boat in the past was a lack of storage room. Now, with the new layout, it hass all the storage of a standard fiberglass boat. And I can get on plane in shallower water, bump over logs easier and all of those things that make an aluminum boat a great choice for the way I like to fish.”
Cox definitely has a defined style. “The place I’m fishing doesn’t even show up as water on the chart,” chuckled the affable Tour veteran as he talked with media members after Thursday’s opening round.
Rick Clunn has said repeatedly that fishing pressure, not weather, is the single most important variable to successful tournament angling these days. Cox goes where few others cant. As a result, he now possesses a trophy few ever will.