2019 BASS ROY Cook eyes bigger prize in 2020

Vance McCullough


“I feel like I left AOY out there on the table and I ain’t happy about it.”

After taking Bassmaster Rookie of the Year honors amid the strongest field of rookies in Elite Series history, Drew Cook can only think of what might have been. “I’m very appreciative for winning Rookie of the Year, but I lost angler of the Year in four days. That gives me a little fuel for next year.”

“Without a doubt” Cook says he will come out swinging harder in 2020.

Cook rolled into Detroit for the AOY Championship with an 11-point lead. He nearly unified the ROY and AOY titles.

“I feel like it was a rookie mistake. I tried to go catch a bag that would put me in the Top 10 so I could go fish the next day. That’s the only time it’s really hurt me, doing that. I made a really long run, took a really big gamble and was fortunate to scrape up 13 or 14 pounds on the way back. Had I just gone and done what I did the day before and caught 18 or 20 pounds, then I would have moved up there around 16thplace and that would have saved me. I ended that tournament in 35th. I lost a lot of points in that one day.

“I’m not saying to not fish to win every event, but at some point, you’ve got to sit back and look at the big picture of AOY and make a decision on that. It may not have worked out either way, but that was one that stuck with me. And it didn’t feel right. All day. That was when I knew I had made a mistake.”

The costly choice on St. Clair contrasts sharply with Cook’s performance in what many consider the toughest tourney of the year. “At Lake Tenkiller, I was in 2nd or 3rd going into the 3rd day. I didn’t weigh-in but one bass but all day long, I felt, and I told my camera guy, ‘I feel like it can happen at any time’. Ten minutes before weigh in, 5 minutes before weigh in, I was never spun out, never worried. It just didn’t happen, so you’ve just kind of got to deal with that.”

When rookies are competing for the AOY title right into the championship event, one has to wonder how they got so good so fast. For one, the younger pros are quick to embrace technology. “There are some people fishing on the Elite Series that still use flashers,” notes Cook. “We didn’t ever have flashers growing up. I’m not the most tech-savvy but in our group of young anglers, that has a tremendous amount to do with it – the quick success – not just being a shallow water power fisherman and only being able to do well whenever those events come around. We’re all good at it now. We grew up with these electronics. It’s a lot easier for us to learn them.  We have things at our fingertips that nobody has had before, between the internet and Google and Google Earth and YouTube. I mean there is nothing you can’t YouTube and figure out how to do. Within 30 minutes you know how to do something you’ve never done before because of YouTube.”

YouTube aside, Cook’s favorite electronics include his Lowrance HDS Live units. “There is one tournament that I would not have caught them in if I did not have the Lowrance Live Sight real-time sonar. At Cayuga I was able to see the little isolated clumps of grass and points in the grass line. I was throwing a crankbait and without that I would not have been able to do what I did,” said Cook of his 9th place finish.

Technology notwithstanding, Cook polished his old-fashioned decision-making skills on the Elite Series. He points to the Cayuga tournament for another example, “It was a very bad practice. The dock talk was terrible. People were saying that 16 pounds was going to be a big bag. Well, the first morning I caught 19 pounds in about 30 minutes and I laid off my fish. Gonna save ‘em, you know. I got to weigh in and I was in 25th place. I had to lean on them even harder the 2nd day and I caught 22 pounds to get up into the Top 10 but if I would have known the first day and went ahead and caught 21 or 22 I think my day 3 and day 4 would have been better because I had to throttle them the 2nd day to make up for it and going through a bunch of three-and-three-quarter-pounders and four-pounders to get up to that 22, well I could have just caught 21 and 21 the first two days and had 21 more the 3rdday and been right there in the hunt.”

Though he made mistakes, Cook feels he was well prepared for Elite Series competition. “It was everything I thought it was going to be and more. I feel like I was very prepared. In 2007 a rookie would have fished some weekend tournaments and then jumped into the Top 150’s or whatever. Me, I fished with B.A.S.S. from Juniors to High School to College to the Nations to the Opens to the Elite Series, so it wasn’t like a big leap. It was just a small step because I had steppingstones all the way up there. That’s another thing with these young guys who are up and coming – they know how to fish three-and-four-day events because we have them in college and in the Opens so it’s not as much of a shock to everybody coming up now.”

While he was disappointed at losing AOY, Cook knows that his ROY title will mean more to him as the years pass, especially considering the guys he had to beat. “It’s a big deal right now that I won from this class but 10 years from now when Garrett Paquette, Patrick Walters, Lee Livesay, Luke Palmer and Tyler Rivet are all household names, it will mean even more. All of those guys are very good. They are here and they will stay here for a long time. To be able to win against them was a big deal.

“My main goal was to win Rookie of the Year because you only get one shot at it. I can win Angler of the Year next year. I didn’t have to win it the first year. I would have liked to but, you only get one shot at Rookie of the Year.”

Cook’s other main goal going into 2019 was to qualify for the 2020 Classic. Check that box. “I’m beyond excited about being in my first Classic, but it being on Guntersville is really special because Guntersville played a big role in me making the Elites. The team trail I fished right out of high school, their championship was on Guntersville two years in a row and winning both of them gave me the money to fish the Opens to qualify for the Elite Series.”

The only tournament Cook hasn’t won on Guntersville was the Elite tourney he fished there this past year. “I feel like that one should have gone a lot different. But I like the lake, spent a lot of time there, had good success there. I’m really looking forward to the Classic.”

As advanced as the young guys are in the art of angling, Cook is also wise beyond his years off the water. With respect to his first Classic experience, “I would like to just take a step back every once in a while, and soak it in, not just let it zoom by. And it’s gonna be hard to do, obviously. And with it being the 50th Bassmaster Classic, it’s going to be huge.

“I’ve thought about this tournament my whole entire life. To finally make it, it’s gonna be surreal.”

Before the Classic rolls around, Cook and friends have a couple of Elite tourneys to fish. He hopes for good weather as they return to the St Johns River where he jumped from 61st on Day 1 in 2019 to 18th on Day 2 with a big sack of bass. “That set the tone for the whole year right there.”

Back to his point about missing the AOY title last season, Cook is fired up for 2020. “I’m still going to fish every event to win it, but if I do get in that situation where it comes down to AOY stuff, I’m going to evaluate winning it and AOY points instead of just going for it. We’ve got an amazing schedule for my strengths.”