John Cox to fish both Elites and FLW Pro Circuits in 2020

Vance McCullough –    

Photo Courtesy of FLW                                               


John Cox has made a career of doing things nobody else will.

It’s been a great career, including a Forrest Wood Cup win among other trophies and cash that has piled up.

To say he goes his own way is only part of the story. Cox often makes a way where others don’t see one. He will put his aluminum Crestliner boat in places others can’t take their fiberglass rigs. If he has a transducer on his vessel, it’s usually lying on the back deck, having been knocked off by some shallow obstacle Cox had to hurdle. ‘Beauty marks’ commonly adorn his boat after the first practice session of the year.

But the guy can fish.

He double qualified for an invitation to fish the Bassmaster Elite Series in 2020 via his high standing in the Bassmaster Central and Eastern Opens trails in 2019.

Which begs the question: In 2020 should Cox, an FLW Tour veteran, fish on the newly formed FLW Pro Circuit now owned by Major League Fishing – or accept his spot on the Bassmaster Elite Series?

His answer to his latest quandary is classic Cox. “Yes.” To both.

“I’m just gonna go ahead and fish both of them,” said Cox. “I’m going to fish the FLW Circuit and the Elite Series and drop about $82,000 in entry fees and see what happens.”

The two schedules present a couple of conflicts. “I’ll have to make a decision in April whether I’m going to fish the Bassmaster Elite on Eufaula or the FLW on Cherokee. Also, the FLW Championship, if I go to the Elite tournament on the St. Lawrence River, I’ll be in the off limits for that championship, so I’ll be out of it too. But, bottom line, I can at least fish 6 of the 7 FLW tournaments.”

That’s as clear as the picture gets for now. The details are as muddy as a backwater Cox has plowed with his lower unit in search of fish.

He figures the highest he can finish in the FLW standings without full participation would be 51st place. The top 50 guys get to fish the championship.

Then there’s the question of whether points are awarded for fishing the championship. “There are a lot of unknowns about how they’re going to do it. If they don’t take points through the championship, then whatever place I finish will be my points for that year, so I might be able to get better than 51st, but if I’m not allowed to do the championship and they do points through the championship . . .”

The method of awarding points will affect his trajectory in the MLF organization for years as the league recently clarified that it will wait 2 seasons and average each angler’s points totals to determine who the top 10 pros are. At the end of the 2021 season, those top 10 anglers will be invited to join the Bass Pro Tour in 2022.

Prior to that, however, only the top 110 FLW pros at the end of 2020 will be invited back to the FLW Pro Circuit for 2021 in the first place.

Nobody, including Cox, knows where he will ultimately end up in 2022. But then, his focus is much more dialed-in on the short term.

“I think we’re going to find out stuff as it goes so I feel like the best thing for me to do is to jump in both (tours) and make the decision in April, when I have to decide on one or the other.”

Cox has his work cut out – not just to qualify for the FLW Pro Circuit and possibly the BPT, or the Elite Series, but just to turn a profit.

“I know  a few people are going to get mad, but I’ve got to look at it as ‘where am I going to make the most money for the time and effort I’m putting in?’.”

Speaking of putting in the time and effort, it’s business as usual for Cox. “I’m already fishing that many tournaments, fishing both sets of the Opens, or if I would have picked up a Costa schedule and an Opens schedule, so I figured I might as well go all in and have a chance to win $100,000 at each event and, hopefully, cash a 10-grand check most of the time.”

Even if he cuts a bunch of those checks, Cox might still barely break even. He laughs at the thought, “I figure I’m going to have invested, staying in crappy hotels and eating Taco Bell, I’m going to have something like $136,000 invested in the season next year. As long as I come out winning two-and-a-quarter or two-fifty I’ll feel good.”

This is just another example of Cox doing things others won’t. “There are 5 of us who have the option to join the Elite Series and fish the FLW Pro Circuit too. I talked to the other guys and they said they aren’t going to.”

A few FLW guys will be defecting to the Elite Series. “A lot of the guys are like ‘I’m going to the Elites’ and they’re making that jump right away. I want to keep my options open and let it all play out. I’m not a fan of jumping on the new stuff right away. I’m still running the old trolling motor. I don’t use the electric steering one yet. I kind of wait things out, let all the bugs work out.”

Cox will be one to watch in 2020 not just because he can catch fish, but also because of the craft he’s going to catch them from. “So. B.A.S.S. isn’t going to let me swap boats when we go up North, which really sucks, so I’m running a walleye boat the entire season. A deep V. I’m sure after the first couple of tourneys go down everybody’s gonna be like ‘it’s unfair’ because I can’t even touch the water from my front deck it’s so high up. I’m like, six-and-a-half-feet tall now when I’m standing on the front of it. The downside is, when you get a fish hung up in the lily pads, you’ve got to get that fish all the way back to the middle part of the boat and get down in the floor to reach the water. So when you’re buried up, there’s no driving to it with the trolling motor and reaching it from the front. You’ll go right in.”

We’re in for an interesting 2020 tournament season and Cox has as big an interest as anybody. “I’m going to try it and if I don’t make any money, whatever, you know, I’ll regroup for the following year.

“But I feel good about it.”