Cox catches Open lead

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James Overstreet

DAYTON, Tenn. -- Friday is “Moving Day” in each of the nine Bassmaster Opens held throughout the U.S. each year.

When an angler makes a mark on Day 1, continued success on Friday almost always is the difference in surviving the cut to 12 or heading home.

Few anglers have moved around more than John Cox in the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open No. 2 Chickamauga Lake. And he’s moving right up the leaderboard because of his versatility.

Cox, a pro from Debary, Florida, said he’s covered just about every inch of this 38,000-acre impoundment of the Tennessee River over the past two days. And while that’s obviously hyperbole, what’s not an overstatement is his lead in this three-day tournament.

Cox boated the second-heaviest bag of the day – a 25-pound, 7-ounce limit of five bass that gave him a two-day total of 47-13. That haul has him in prime position to win the tournament and the bounty of prizes that come with victory, including a Triton/Mercury boat-motor package worth $40,000, $8,000 cash, and most importantly, a berth in the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

On Thursday, Cox said Chickamauga has been a perplexing study. And despite his lead, he didn’t change his tune after Friday’s weigh-in at the Dayton Boat Dock.

“It’s amazing how much this area changes from day to day,” Cox said. “A spot I think is going to have clean water will have dirty water, and the next day it’s clean. So I just keep moving.”

Cox’s biggest bass on Friday weighed 8-15, and he caught the fat female on 8-pound test line. He said the big bass ran with his lure and put up a big fight.

“I had to chase her like a tarpon,” he said. “I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I was having pains.”

Cox won $250 as the Livingston Lures Day 2 Leader. The other 11 anglers who made the cut and will compete on Saturday include Hunter Shryock (second, 44-5); Shaw Grigsby Jr. (third, 42-6); Michael Neal (fourth, 41-0); Ish Monroe (fifth, 40-0); Wayne Hauser Jr. (sixth, 38-12); Sam George (tie seventh, 37-3); and Brandon Lester (eighth, 37-3); Justin Lucas (ninth, 35-14); Bill Weidler (10th, 35-13); Josh Douglas (tie 11th, 35-5); and Wes Logan (12th, 35-5.)

The nearly 400 pros and co-anglers competing in this Southern Open dodged rain storms throughout the day, but the intermittently foul weather did little to disturb the extremely heavy bites that have been routine on “The Chick” in recent months.

Shryock, the Day 1 leader, was strong again on Day 2 with a five-bass limit that weighed 18 pounds, 14 ounces. The Ohio pro is just 3 pounds and change behind Cox, and is fishing with confidence after making the Top 12 at the first Southern Open of the season on Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes in January.