John Cox won the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup this week on Wheeler Lake with a four-day catch that weighed a total of 54 pounds, 13 ounces. Cox won $300,000 fishing from an aluminum Crestliner boat and pushing it further back into places that other boats just couldn’t get to. He’s fished the last few years out of an aluminum boat with no electronics other than a simple GPS. He has mastered going into shallow areas and seining them for all the resident fish in the area.
Here’s how the top 10 caught their fish this week:
John Cox 54-13
Cox's key baits this week fishing the very backs of creeks were a Jackall Ioyobe frog in white and bluegill colors for the majority of his fish and then a handful came on a buzzbait and a Yamamoto Senko.
“Today I got back in my sweet spot and I set the hook on a fish on the frog and it was pulling drag and I was like this is her. And she pulled off. I thought I had lost it. Then I went 50 yards and a big one blew up and I set the hook and broke it off. I put on another frog went 50 more yards. A third big blow up and I caught her. Such an emotional last hour for me.
I got the best equipment so it just seems easy for me. I built an FB885 MudHole Custom Rod to fish a frog this week, and I just put my head down and jacked those fish all week.”
Michael Neal 50-10
Rest of his fish came on Carolina-rigged Big Bite Baits 6-inch Finesse Worm and he caught a key 3-pounder the final day on a Big Bite Baits Yo Mamma rigged on a swing head. It was the only pack of Yo Mamma’s he had in his boat the final day.
“This is a mega school that lived out deep earlier this year and now they just moved up but they could live here all year. They have a pocket to spawn in, a deep ledge and then shallow feeding zones. I sat around for long period of times just watching for fish and then when I saw one I shot it out there right on the splash.
“I put a feather on my topwater baits. I think that feather mimicked the little bitty shad they were eating. I was throwing mostly clear topwaters so that little feather mimicked the shad.”
Todd Auten 50-5
Auten’s key baits this week included a 1/2-ounce Zorro Black and Blue Flipping Jig, a 1/2-ounce Z-Man Black and Blue Chatterbait with Zoom Ultravibe Speed Craw, a Live Target White Frog, and a prototype Zorro Buzzbait with a Zoom Horny Toad as the body.
“I only lost one fish the first day, so I fished clean. But the backs of my creeks got muddy and it was really tough for me today. It stings a little to finish this one without a limit after catching better every day. I love fishing these summer championships.”
Bryan Thrift 49-6
“I started out this tournament throwing a Damiki D-Pop the first two days. I went back through one of my areas the third day and picked up a jig and started swimming that jig out and caught 13 pounds, so they just got off that topwater bite and you had to be sub surface. I had to cover a ton of water.
“It was key being about to get up on pad in 1.8 feet of water with a T-H Marine Atlas jack plate and run in and out of spots fast all day with my Ranger and Evinrude G2 combo and just cover lots of water.”
Jeremy Lawyer 49-5
BFL All-American champ Lawyer's key baits this week for schooling fish were a Yellow Magic popper custom painted by Fall Creek Lures in Forrest Wood Cup Shad, a 1/2-ounce homemade white slab spoon, a LiveTarget 7DBB crankbait in Green Shad and few fish came flipping a Reaction Innovations Smallie Beaver.
Mark Rose 47-15
I caught them early in the mornings on a buzzbait. I caught schooling fish on a Strike King shaky head. I caught several fish on a Strike King Bull Worm out of brush piles. I thought I would fish deep all week but as the week went on I could only catch them in water knee deep.
Jacob Wheeler 46-7
I’ve been throwing an Accent Game Changer buzzbait with just a toad on it. I could skip it under trees and over logs. I flipped a 9/16-ounce blue swirl jig and Gene Larew Punch Out Craw as a trailer. I’ve been running the backs of creeks; that’s just how I grew up fishing and what I love to do."
Chris Johnston 44-8
“I kept the momentum going into this tournament. I didn’t have a good practice. I had a few schooling spots that I didn’t think they were very good. Turns out they had some good fish on them. I just had to grind out to catch them this week. I eliminated the deep pattern. I didn’t go far enough back in the creeks like Cox did. I had to stick with my schoolers all week.
I was trying to cast 50-60 yards to where I saw a swirl so my gear was critical with Shimano reels and G.Loomis rods.”
Brandon Cobb 44-4
“I caught 10 or so keepers today just like I have all week but the fish were all just small. I flipped all week. I don’t like to slow down and fish like that, but it was the only way I could get bites this week. I caught most of my bass this week flipping a Zoom Baby Brush Hog in Tilapia this week.”
Joseph Webster 42-3
"I fished some shallow and some deep. I fished a Norman DD-22 deep crankbait and a worm on structure spots the last two days because I felt like that was the only way I could catch a bag big enough to get myself back into contention. I caught a lot of fish through the week on a drop shot rig."