To sweep a four-day event, you must lead the first three days. Sounds obvious, right? Well, John Cox has done that, but it’s afforded him no comfort.
After setting the early mark on Day 1 with 24-12 — the event’s heaviest bag — Cox has amassed a three-day total of 66-2. The concern, however, is that he has yet to establish a significant margin.
On Day 1, 10 ounces separated first and second places. Day 2 saw Cox widen his lead to a pound and an ounce, but he entered Championship Sunday a mere 1 ounce ahead of Elite rookie Cody Hollen and Canadian hitman Cory Johnston. (Ties are broken by heaviest single day weight.)
In fourth place, the cagey veteran Clark Wendlandt sat 1 pound off the Day 3 lead, while rookie sensation Taku Ito started the final round in 10th place with a 4-pound, 9-ounce deficit.
The point? Cox has to sack ‘em up today because he has absolutely no room for error and anyone in the final field could potentially land on a school of studs and rocket to the top.
Wendlandt’s already showing this by leaning on his starting spot, catching nearly 19 pounds by 8:10 and taking over the BASSTrakk lead. Ito’s lighting it up too with a limit of 18 pounds by 9:13. (All weights unofficial until weigh-ins.)
Cox had a slower start with only two fish for 4-12 at 8:15, but he’s become accustomed to grinding this week. He caught a solid limit of smallmouth in the lake on Day 1 and then made a couple of big upgrades in the St. Clair River. Committing to the river on Days 2 and 3, he faced excruciatingly slow periods until dialing in particular current-related sweet spots where he capitalized on flurries.
Around 8:30, Cox moved to one of the areas that produced on Day 3 and connected with what he called “a big old nasty one” during the tense battle. BASSTrakk has that fish at 5-8 — definitely the kind of quality Cox needs, but he knows that filling a limit with such fish will likely mean grinding through numbers to find the difference-makers.
“I haven’t gotten on anything where I feel like I can grind on them,” Cox noted.
By 9:30, Cox had a limit of about 16 1/2 pounds. If previous days are any indication, he’ll hunt down a few more heavy ones and possibly find a school of quality fish that have pulled into a feeding position.
Targeting seawalls, docks and other hard targets, Cox is dropshotting a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm. He’ll likely stick with this presentation all day.
If the areas he’s been fishing the past two days don’t produce what he needs, Cox said he’s considering a run to Lake Huron. He got a couple of good bites there in practice, so this could be the day-saver, unless he lands on a pile of big ones downriver.
Something to note: Heavy weekend boat traffic turned Lake St. Clair into a washing machine on Saturday and today will see the same congestion. This may negatively impact anglers, in terms of rough water and potential encroachment on their intended fishing areas.
Cox has had company in the river, but he’ll face less of the constant churning than those fishing the lake.