Never underestimate Drew Cook’s desire to make his living as a Bassmaster Elite Series pro. Consider what the Florida resident overcame at the first Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Open of 2018 on Florida’s Kissimmee Chain.
Seven days prior that event, Cook was on Kissimmee practice fishing and doing what he loves to do best, punching grass with a stout flipping rod. He sensed a bite and reared back with his usual ferocious hook set. His 1 1/4-ounce tungsten weight shot out of the water and hit him square in the mouth with the force of a bullet.
The impact knocked out three teeth, including one front tooth, and shattered part of his jawbone. The nerve from his missing front tooth was alive and exposed. Cook called his dentist.
“He wanted me to come back that night to pull the nerve out and grind down what was left of my broken teeth,” Cook said. “I didn’t want to cut my practice short so I decided to tough it out.”
It hurt like hell whenever Cook opened his mouth, drank something and tried to eat. Despite the agony, he continued practicing. A few days went past before he was willing to set the hook with the same gusto as before the accident. He then competed in the tournament and pulled off a third-place finish.
Six months and two surgeries later, Cook “finally had a tooth back in the hole.”
Given Cook’s determination, it should come as no surprise that he is an Elite Series pro at the tender age of 24.
“It’s a dream come true,” Cook said. “I’m rigging my new boat, getting my baits ready and negotiating with potential sponsors.”
Cook’s goals for his first Elite season are to catch a limit every day and qualify for the 2020 Bassmaster Classic. His long-term goal is to make bass fishing, “my one and only job.”
Cook grew up on the shore of Lake Talquin, Fla., with is father, Finley, and mother Kathy. His father began taking him fishing at such an early age he can’t recall their first outings.
“My parents took a picture of me with my first bass,” Cook said. “I’m told I caught it off our dock, but I don’t remember it.”
Cook’s memories of fishing with his father are much clearer from about age 4 on. They fished Lake Talquin regularly in a 16-foot, fiberglass boat equipped with stick steering. At age 10 Cook was allowed to fish alone from this boat, provided he stayed in one bay where his parents could keep an eye on him.
“When I was 12 they let me fish the whole lake,” Cook said.
Primarily a “self-taught” angler, Cook claims he never missed a The Bassmasters TV show and that he gleaned everything he could from magazines about bass fishing. He began fishing local tournaments when he was 13.
Since he was too young to enter by himself, he “roped" his dad into fishing some of the tournaments. He also teamed up with anglers who were older. Two of them, Daniel and David Boyd, both avid tournament fishermen, were mentors for Cook.
“They still captain for Jr. anglers to this day,” Cook said of the Boyds.
While attending Robert F. Monroe, Cook competed in high school bass tournaments. In 2012 he won the Bassmaster Florida State Championship at Lake Okeechobee.
“I caught the high school record for the biggest one-day total at that tournament,” Cook said. “My limit weighed over 32 pounds. It might still be the record.”
After high school Cook attended Florida State University to pursue a degree in criminology and entrepreneurship. He also competed on the college’s bass fishing team.
“I wasn’t spectacular, but it was a good learning curve,” Cook said. “I’m best friends now with some of the anglers I met while fishing in college.”
Tragedy struck during Cook’s senior year at FSU. His 52-year-old mother was hit by a car while bicycling, which caused her death. She was training for a triathlon. She had always been very supportive of Cook’s bass fishing passion and often attended his weigh-ins.
“I feel like there’s a master plan and that was a part of it,” Cook said.
After graduating from FSU in 2017 Cook took a construction job so he could pursue the 2018 Bassmaster Opens. His plan was to give the Opens one shot to make the Elite Series. His aim was dead on.
“It’s been my lifelong dream to fish with the Elites,” Cook said. “It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was six years old.”
Cook’s sponsors include Lowrance Electronics, Big Bite Lures and AFTCO.