John Cox maintains a small lead going into the final round / photo courtesy of FLW

Cox Keeps Small Lead at Forrest Wood Cup on Day 3

John Cox saw his big lead dwindle to nothing on day three and the final round should be interesting.

John Cox of Florida led for a third straight day at the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup on Wheeler Lake with a catch of 11 pounds to push his three day weight to 43 pounds, 5 ounces. However the tournament will go down to the wire now as his lead dwindled from more than 5 pounds to 9 ounces on Saturday. Sunday will be a shootout. 

Cox is finding the fishing to be more of a grind every day. He moved around more today. But the amount of fish in the backs of the creek seems to be dwindling.

The tournament is coming down to the battle of fishing obvious cover in the backs of shallow creeks or chasing schooling fish on shallow structure spots on the main lake. 

The top 10 cut is as follows:

  1. John Cox 43-5
  2. Todd Auten 42-12
  3. Michael Neal 37-14
  4. Bryan Thrift 37-13
  5. Jacob Wheeler 37-3
  6. Mark Rose 36-9
  7. Brandon Cobb 35-9
  8. Joseph Webster 34-13
  9. Chris Johnston 34-3
  10. Jeremy Lawyer 32-15.

Here is what some of the rest of the field had to say about the fishing on Wheeler Lake Saturday.

Todd Auten

It’s all about making little adjustments every day. The last two days has been about grinding it out fishing in water 5 feet or less. Just fishing around shallow cover and showing them a different bait every 30 minutes or so. The storm rolled in and it really helped and I was able to fish the way I like to fish.

I’m just throwing jigs, Chatterbaits and topwaters. I found this area in pre-practice. I caught 5 good ones in there pretty quick and then got out of there. I had three other keepers after that but none of them helped me. I think the storm rolling in caused those big ones to bite for a small window. I took me until 12:30 to get my limit. But I wanted to have something for tomorrow.

I’m just fishing a lot of wood cover and changing up baits a lot to keep showing the fish something different. I figured out something a little better every day. I messed up and chased schooling fish the first day. I abandoned that completely the last two days and just fished hard in a one general area. I’ve got a few other deals I can run to tomorrow so we’ll see. I think it really depends on what the whether does to get those big fish to bite. 

Michael Neal

I camped on my one spot today. I feel like the fish are there to win. I had two other good fish today that didn’t stay hooked up or I would have had a big bag. There are a mix of smallmouth and largemouth there. I’m throwing 3 different walking topwater baits and a Carolina rig. I can throw the rig to get fish to bite and fire and then they come up schooling and I catch the better fish on the topwater. Today I had 15-20 keepers. So I feel like I can catch fish and I’m around the right quality to make a run at it. I haven’t had any company this week. I’m just hoping it gets sunny early tomorrow. The storm front doesn’t hurt or help me. But I feel like it made that shallow bite better for the other guys. So I’m hoping for more sun tomorrow. 

Bryan Thrift

It was a little better than yesterday. I’m running all over the lake. I had 9 keeper bites today where I’ve had just 6 or so the last two days. I’m just fishing by the seat of my pants. I run around and try different stuff and run back and forth up and down the lake. I had to stop at 11:30 today and get gas. I’m throwing a Damiki D-Pop around shallow cover and running a ton of water just trying to show as many different fish the bait as I can in one day. 

Mark Rose

I’m still mixing it up shallow and deep. I ran my topwater program but I still went deep and fished brush piles and some of the ledges where I’ve had big bags in the summer here. I still feel like my only shot to win this thing is to have a big bag in like 15 minutes on one of those deep spots. So I’m going to keep mixing it up. I’m not going out with a game plan. 

Brandon Cobb

I’m just flipping. Which is tough for me because I want to fish fast and throw a buzzbait or something like that. But they way it has gone this week you flip a lot of water and then you will catch a few together. You’re just running into groups of fish here and there. I had one creek the first two days and that really dried up on me today. I caught 4 out of it and ran to another area and caught several real quick and had to leave because I was so far away. So I’m hopeful I can do more in there tomorrow. I’m just cycling through a few flipping baits. 

Joseph Webster

Fishing the lower end of the lake 55 miles away and I got a few places down there and this one place I hadn’t even checked until today and they were there a lot better this morning. So I caught fish there pretty good first thing this morning and missed a fish or two. Then I ran down to another deep spot I had some good fish on that I’ve been trying to get to go all week and today two of those fish bit. So I ended up with a good limit. I feel like if I could get those deep fish to go I could have 17 pounds. But there are good ones on that schooling spot too. 

Jeremy Lawyer

I only had 4 fish today but that big one saved the day for me. I’ve been fishing the same point all week and just waiting them out. That storm hurt me a little bit. There weren’t near as many fish working that area today as the past two days. I caught that big one about 12:30 today. I finally left because I only had 3 keepers. I had jumped off another one. But I finally ran back down the river pulled into a place and caught a 3 pounder flipping. So I’m not sure 

Jacob Wheeler 

Man I ran back to my deal today and I got back there and there were kayaks everywhere. Not just guys sort of leisurely fishing. These were hardcore fishermen up on casting decks flipping with big flipping sticks and throwing frogs. Like serious fisherman. The first guy I get near tells me he just caught a 5 pounder. So I wasn’t prepared for that. 

I fished around in that creek and caught a few fish, but I finally ran out of there and ran to another little creek I found on the map last night after the tournament just scouring the lake looking for something similar. I ran in there and caught a few good fish. So I’m not sure if I can run back in there and catch more in that one but I’ll go check it. 

I’ve got a few other places where I know some good fish live. So I might run to those specific fish, and fish the log, the undercut bank or the piece of cover they would likely be on back there and then run out to the next one. If I could catch 13 pounds in a creek and then run around to where I know some of those big ones are. 

Shane Lehew

I caught most of my fish this week on a Shane’s Baits Inline Buzzbait and a 9/16 ounce ER Lures jig. I just didn’t get a big bite again today and you have to have that here. I chased a bunch of schoolers early and wasted too much time doing that. I caught two fish while they were schooling and then started dragging a jig around and caught a 2 pounder. I made my way back and at about 2:30 I stopped on a place on the river and caught a 3 pounder and 1 1/4-pound spot. 

JT Kenney

I ran around and tried to duplicate my pattern from day two and fished the same place. I went to that same log where I lost a good one and caught a 3-pounder. I was throwing a Nichols Spinnerbait, flipping a Gambler flipping tube and a 6th Sense Movement Crankbait. I don’t know if the fish just didn’t bite or if I just caught all the fish that were in that small creek. I caught like 10 or 11 bass today but just not good bites like yesterday. 

Brandon McMillan

It was really a fun week but today the fish just didn’t bite for me. I finally scrapped what I was doing and picked up a drop shot and caught me five but they just didn’t weigh anything. I caught most of my fish this week on a Spro Poppin’ Frog and flipping a Zoom Z-Hog with a Flat Out tungsten weight. I caught some the second day on a 4x4 Swim Jig. 

The place I was fishing was a depression off a ditch. My boat was basically beached and I was fishing really shallow water but it got a little deeper back in there. The first day I caught like 15 pounds and left it after 3 hours. I went back all day the second day and caught some. And today I had one 5 pounder roll on the frog and didn’t get it. 

I had to abandon my spot and just go scrape up a limit with a drop shot. There is $300,000 worth of fish in there but you just can’t fish much through there but a jig or a frog because of all the debris.

Ray Hanselman

I caught most of my fish this week on a Strike King Sexy Frog and a Rage Tail Menace flipping lily pad fields. 

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