"It sure was frustrating, I'll tell you that," says Cook after finishing 29th in the first of three 2009 Northern Opens. "I knew I didn't have much going into it. But after the first day, when I caught a limit and left biting fish, I though I might be able to put something together. It didn't work out that way."
Cook's frustration is understandable. In practice he found an old, sunken boat wreck off a deep point in the Sassafras River. On Thursday he caught a limit in about three hours from it. Exercising traditional competitive angler thought, he left the area with his fish still biting, believing he could take more weight from it another day.
"I didn't get on it on Friday, my launch was too late. Then, on Saturday, I couldn't catch anything from it. I don't know why. The current was running pretty good, but the fish were either gone or they weren't biting.
"Looking back on everything I wish I'd continued to fish it on Thursday. I think I'd have had a lot more weight. But, you know, you make decisions based on what you know and think at the time, not what you know and think after everything's over."
Despite his tough performance, Cook did accurately predict the fish would be in a winter pattern. Specifically he told us the bass would be holding on small, deep spots out of the current. While deep may be a term of art, all three of the top finishers caught their fish from rocks near heavy current, placing their baits into slack water spots.
And he did come close on the winning weight. He said it'd take 50 pounds. The winner, Dave Mansue, weighed 47 pounds, 6 ounces. There's no defending his cut-weight predictions, however. He estimated it'd take 25 pounds to make the Friday night cut; a little over half that got it done.
His big bass prediction was way off, too. He guessed someone would catch an 8 pounder. That was not to be. She weighed 6 pounds, 8 ounces, and was caught on the first day by Jeremy Prouty off the same wreck Cook was fishing.
To be fair, however, Cook wasn't the only one to have trouble. After the first day only four limits were brought to the scales by the Top 30 professional anglers, and there were a total of 10 blanks during the same period of time. That's tough fishing.
Given the tough conditions and changing environment — and considering that he finished 29 out of 191 anglers and didn't catch a bass two out of three days of competition — Cook's overall view of the tournament and his performance were credible. He earned a grade of C.