Opens profile: 'Tin Man' John Cox

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James Overstreet

John Cox’s tournament successes have become more frequent over the past three years. The Floridian’s most recent accomplishment is winning the 2017 Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Chickamauga in April.

Cox is currently second on the Southern Open’s AOY standings with one event left. He has competed in 28 Bassmaster events since 2004 and has made the money exactly 50 percent of the time, earning $124,180 in the process.

“I qualified two times for the Elite Series, but I didn’t have enough sponsor support then to fish it,” Cox said.

Most of Cox’s damage has been done fishing the FLW Tour. He has amassed $974,224 in career earnings there. The 2016 Forest Wood Cup is one of his five FLW victories.

Known as the “Tin Man,” Cox competes from a Crestliner aluminum bass boat.

He began fishing from tin boats when his mother, Marie Cox, bought a johnboat for him 19 years ago when he was 12 years old. He and his friend Jeremy Schwartz were soon entering johnboat tournaments from the 12-foot craft, which was powered by an electric motor.

“I’d come home from school every day and practice for our johnboat tournament on the weekend,” Cox said.

A lifelong resident of Debary, Fla., Cox lived two minutes from the St. Johns River while growing up. The johnboat tournaments often took place on Rodman Reservoir and smaller waters near home.

“My parents would drop us off Friday,” Cox said. “We’d fish all day and spend the night at the ramp in a tent. Then we’d fish the tournament on Saturday. My parents would pick us up after it was over.”

When Cox was 14 his mother bought him a very used 15-foot fiberglass boat with a 70 hp outboard for $700. Cox sold his johnboat, which provided just enough money for a trolling motor on the fiberglass rig. The new boat allowed him to expand his horizons and compete in larger open tournaments.

In 2006 Cox won a 21-foot Triton Bass boat powered by 225 horses by finishing third at a Bassmaster Southern Tour event on Lake Eufaula. His friend Jeremy Schwartz took a job and was no longer available to fish team tournaments with him. Cox found a willing replacement in Keith Parson.

Cox and Parson fished tournaments together for the next 14 years, and some of those years were quite profitable. In 2010 their winnings totaled nearly $80,000. It was enough to bankroll a shot at the FLW Tour, which Cox had qualified for by winning the FLW Series Point Championship in 2010.

Cox entered as a boater, while Parson entered as a co-angler. The first two FLW events were a disaster for them. They had only enough money left to compete in the third tournament on the Red River. They each won their respective divisions at the Red River and collected a total of $120,000.

“That kept us going,” Cox said.

In 2013 Cox signed on to fish tournaments with aluminum Crestliner boats powered by Mercury outboards. He had come full circle to his johnboat days.

It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for Cox over the next few years. He had to do odd jobs to supplement his tournament winnings, which included painting, cleaning apartments and a little guiding.

Three years ago, Mud Hole Tackle became Cox’s primary sponsor, which eliminated the need for doing odd jobs. Cox believes that building his own custom rods has also improved his fishing mechanics.

Cox’s primary goal for competing in the 2017 Bassmaster Southern Opens was to win one of them and qualify for the Bassmaster Classic, which he has done.

“What really set me off is when B.A.S.S. announced that the [2018] Classic will be at Lake Hartwell,” Cox said. “That happens on the same week I won an FLW Tour event at Hartwell last year.”

Cox hasn’t written off fishing the Elite Series should he qualify for it. It will come down to which schedule is more favorable to him.

“I like fishing new places, but I do much better on lakes that I’ve been to several times,” Cox said. “It’s almost like having a home field advantage.”

Besides Mud Hole Tackle (with MHX Rod blanks) Cox is sponsored by Crestliner Boats, Mercury, Lew’s, Power-Pole, Lowrance and Dirty Jigs.