John Cox and custom rod building are inseparable. Like the big bang, custom rod building brought life back to his inconsistent fishing career and now, Cox is the FLW custom angler to beat.
Top 3 Takeaways from John Cox
Marrying his sight fishing abilities to his custom spinning equipment, John Cox along with the help of Mud Hole and MHX, created a lethal combo for Hartwell. Beginning to turn the corner from Professional to Champion, John Cox hit his fishing stride right in time.
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Here are the top 3 takeaways from the third installment of John Cox: Building a Champion:
1. Bass Fishing Outside of FL
Bass fishing in Florida is unique compared to other states for many reasons. For one, there’s little environmental variation between bodies of water because the warm weather remains most of the year. This warm weather can sustain vegetation like cat tails, hydrilla, and lily pads virtually year-round. Together, these factors have given rise to a strain of Florida bass that is genetically different compared to other bass across the nation.
The bass outside of Florida have environments that are quite different. Fishing outside of Florida, bodies of water will have some vegetation but their climates can also create creeks from rain runoff, have rocks or rocky shorelines, and even exhibit ice during winter. Since John Cox grew up in Florida, he wasn’t prepared for the bass fishing outside of the Sunshine State that would require him to tune up his equipment for FLW’s various environments.
“I went five years without winning another tour event,” and “I went four years of being really inconsistent,” he explains. After finding initial success at Red River in 2011, John Cox found himself struggling on the remaining waters of the FLW Tour. He concludes, “I didn’t realize because I didn’t know what I know now about rod building, but the stuff I was using was mostly Florida based.”
Cox goes on to clarify, “everything was really stiff, they were big rods—7.5-8 foot rods—and to be consistent on the tour, you have to be able to fish everything.” To “fish everything” as John puts it, you need equipment that can be modified to do the job in each location’s given conditions. Cox believes to compete on the FLW Tour, “you need to be able to customize everything,” and he concludes, “looking back at it, there were so many things I could’ve done different with my equipment if I was able to build my own stuff.”
2. John Cox Meets Mud Hole
After his realization on the FLW Tour, John Cox went to find out more about custom rod building. In 2015, he met up with Mud Hole Custom Tackle and MHX to begin building his own rods. Now John isn’t too brave to admit “at first I was just intimidated,” and he jokes, “I got to put all these guides on and they got to be perfect?”
However, it wasn’t long before Cox caught on. His enthusiasm for rod building quickly emerges as he explains, “I started learning so much about it,” and “after I built that first rod at Mud Hole, it just opened my eyes to how easy it was.” John can’t help but grin as he continues, “I went to Bob and I’d tell him this blank I have, I want something softer,” and “we’d find the blank, and if we didn’t have it,” then “we’d go make it, get it, and order it.”
Getting ready for Hartwell, John Cox knew he was going need to get his custom spinning rod dialed in for the bedding fish that frequent the clear water. John details, “I took a SJ-842 and I built a couple different ones, but that was the one key one that had enough parabolic bend to drive the hook in and handle those big fish.” Cox recalls working on that rod with Mud Hole and MHX, “It was awesome, it just helped so much.”
3. Cox and the Custom Confidence
After building the fishing rods that he always needed for the FLW Tour’s diverse environments, John Cox felt prepared for the upcoming season. Cox talks about his practice habits, “I fished 24 days straight and it was all sight fishing, it was all with that spinning rod,” and proudly recollects, “I caught some 6-7 pounders on that rod, on really light line and it was the perfect application for it.”
Poised for success with his custom spinning rod tailored to his techniques, John Cox proudly declares, “I had some much confidence going into Hartwell where if these fish were going to go in the beds, I was going to catch them.”
John hit Hartwell with everything he had, knowing the bass would hit back. Cox repeatedly demonstrated his mastery of sight fishing with his custom spinning rod by catching the fish others simply couldn’t. John remembers, “everybody was on the bank,” and “I would wait for someone to work a fish and leave it. Then, I would pull in and catch it.”
The grin on his face stretches even further when asked how Hartwell ended. John responds, “It was so cool that it was me and him [Clark Wendlandt] going neck and neck going into this thing because he’s someone that’s been my idol forever.” Taking a break to chuckle, he continues “I mean I had a Wheaties box with Clark on it.”
Although John’s idol briefly became his ultimate sight fishing foe, he didn’t shy away from the challenge and won Hartwell with a whopping 67 pounds and 6 ounces of bass. Cox caught twenty bass—five each day—to secure his second FLW Tour victory and set his sights on the Forrest Wood Cup.