Cox takes top AOY spot with third-straight Top 10

John Cox has exhibited a simple formula for success in taking the No. 1 spot in Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year race: Compete constantly. Practice? Not so much.

The 36-year-old DeBary, Fla., pro arrived at Santee Cooper Lakes last week for only a few hours of the final practice day. He’d been competing in another tournament. He left South Carolina with his third-straight Top 10 finish on the Bassmaster Elite Series. And he left in a hurry to compete in another tournament.

This has been Cox’s method of operation for some time. It’s a schedule that would exhaust any normal bass tournament angler, if there is such a thing as a “normal” bass tournament angler. Cox clearly thrives on competition. And it seems he’s always happy doing it.

Giving him big reasons to smile this Elite Series season are a fourth-place finish at the St. Johns River, a seventh-place finish at the Harris Chain of Lakes and another seventh-place finish at the Santee Cooper Lakes. Cox was second in the AOY standings to David Mullins after the Harris Chain. He moved into the lead after Santee Cooper when Mullins finished 29th.

AOY points are awarded on a descending one-point-per-place scale starting from 100 points for the winner. Cox now has 285 points. Mullins is second with 265, followed by Stetson Blaylock (257), Brandon Palaniuk (254) and Drew Cook (248).

The nine-tournament Elites Series AOY race is aptly described as a marathon, not a sprint. After each tournament the remainder of the season we’ll recap the ups-and-downs, mostly the ups, in this space, and try to add some historical perspective.

The great history lesson for anyone who has already posted a miserable finish this early is Brandon Palaniuk’s 2017 AOY season. After starting the year with a 12th-place finish at Tennessee’s Cherokee Lake, Palaniuk placed 105th at Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. In a normal year, after a performance like that you would adjust your goal to climbing back up the AOY standings far enough to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. However, Palaniuk went on a remarkable run that included a win at Sam Rayburn, back-to-back third-place finishes at the St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain and fifth place at Toledo Bend. He didn’t finish worse than 29th place, with the exception of that bomb at Okeechobee, in a 10-tournament season. And he won the AOY title by 14 points over Jason Christie.

Topping the list of anglers who improved their AOY standings at Santee Cooper were Luke Palmer and Caleb Kuphall. Both jumped 31 places. Palmer was 62nd after placing 46th at the St. Johns and 66th at the Harris Chain. His fourth-place finish at Santee Cooper moved him up to 31st overall. Kuphall was 75th after placing 47th at the St. Johns and 87th at the Harris Chain. His second-place finish at Santee Cooper moved him up to 44th overall.