Story by Justin Brouillard | Photos by Tanner & Travis Lyons
Although he resides in Georgia, the three-year NPFL pro had only fished Lake Lanier a handful of times. Living on the West side of the state, his involvement in Alabama clubs has kept him from making the trip to the ‘spotted bass factory’ that hosts the 2023 season finale.
As announced on his Facebook page on October 18th, Cox has been diagnosed with a stage 4 hereditary and terminal kidney disease called Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). Due to regularly scheduled follow-up appointments, the commitment to fish professionally across the country is too much to plan.
Cox said in his post “I will be ‘all in’ on making a top 20 finish in hopes of sliding up from 26th to the coveted top 25 in AOY and make our first ever Championship be my final National level event!”
As a follow-up post on his Instagram, Cox noted that his longtime travel partner, who sits 27th in the Progressive Angler of the Year standings, right behind Cox at 26th, has graciously helped him out this week on Lanier as the two anglers battle for a spot in the 2023 NPFL Championship next March, which would be Cox’s final professional event.
Cox said on Wednesday that “finding fish has not been hard, but getting them to commit has been tough. The fish are in a funk, due to turnover, and I have not been able to find anything consistent that I can be confident I can get bite.”
His good friend and travel partner Ron Johnson did find a confidence bait.
“Going into day one, I am going to lock that ‘bait’ in my hand and see what happens,” he said. “In practice, they would follow but not bite; it would make you sick to your stomach to watch four- and five-pound spots not bite. What Ron found did get bites, and I did not throw it once in practice – it should be interesting.”
Cox admits that fishing offshore is not his forte, but is looking forward to getting out and battling for a championship spot for next March.
“Year one, I finished 40th. Year two, I was in 30th, and this year I have the chance to finish in the top 20 in AOY,” he added. “I have learned a tremendous amount over the last few seasons doing this. Learning new lakes, meeting new people, and making new lifelong friends, as well as the format we fish, was a learning curve. The ownership group gave us a platform to test our skills from the regional to the national level and it has been amazing; I have loved every minute. With the current situation I am dealing with, I can’t be gone that long.”
Some of what he learned on the road was how to prepare for a tournament. He noted a few years ago, he would get dialed on a bite and in his mind, feel like he had it figured out for the tournament.
“I was too stubborn to change and I would ride it out for the event,” he said. “As I progressed, I would not get locked into anything; I find as many ways to get a bite as possible, even if it was something I didn’t like to do. Over a week, things change so much; it’s been fun.”
While this may not be his last event, with a championship qualification possible with a solid finish in his home state, Cox wanted to settle down, take it all in, and enjoy his time. He also wanted to thank everyone who allowed him to embark on this journey in 2021.
“A very special thanks to the owners and staff for making these years possible for a guy like me to compete at this level. I will cherish the memories and friendships I’ve made along this journey, for the rest of my life. Also, a huge thanks to all of my sponsors, friends, and family that helped make it possible,” concluded Cox.
Good luck, John!