Thursday, May 2, 2019

2019 FLW Tour Lake Chickamauga Day 1: John Cox Slams 24-11lbs!

Canadians Richardson 71st & Sim 75th
by Justin Onslow
Shallow water expert Cox grabs lead.
(Photo: FLW)
John Cox just has a way of not taking himself too seriously. Maybe that’s why he was able to quietly haul the tournament-leading sack to weigh-in and take the lead with only one angler left to cross the stage behind him.
Cox doesn’t get hung up on figuring out how much weight he has. He’s not always crunching the numbers and stressing out about the weight he needs. And on day one of the FLW Tour event on Lake Chickamauga, which is presented by Evinrude, his 24-pound, 11-ounce stringer was more than enough to position the nine-year Tour pro atop the leaderboard heading into day two.
For Cox, it’s a pretty simple formula.
“I’m going to go out there [tomorrow] and try to catch five more decent males, and I’m hoping I can get lucky and catch a 9- or 10-pounder,” he says. “The thing is, this place is awesome. Someone’s going to pull up on a drop or hit a stretch of shoreline and smoke them. Hopefully I can be consistent and get that 22 or 23 pounds every day and I’ll be all right.”
Consistency isn’t always Cox’s calling card, but that isn’t a knock on his immense talent. He just loves to fish shallow – especially sight-fishing, which he did plenty of Thursday – and that recipe often leads to trouble when things don’t line up just right. Today, they did.
The DeBary, Fla., pro marked about 10 fish in practice that he thought might help him during the tournament. Many of those fish had already been caught or moved off their beds by the time Thursday rolled around, but he was able to make the most of what he had. He also might have something left in his bag of tricks tomorrow.
“I started on a real big fish and got frustrated with it,” he explains. “I couldn’t catch her, and I just bailed on her.”
Cox returned to that fish several times throughout the day, each time finding a new male on the bed with her. After trying a few times to catch the “probably at least 10-pound” female, he determined he might have better luck on Friday.
Top 10 BELOW
“I was like, ‘Hey, go ahead and finish up and I’ll come back tomorrow,’” he jokes.
The problem is, according to Cox, a lot of the shoreline he’s been targeting is getting pretty muddied up, and with rain potentially moving in overnight and into the morning, his primary plan could go up in smoke tomorrow. His secondary plan?
“I never have a secondary plan,” he quips. “The water’s coming up. Sometimes it comes up and it actually gets cleaner as it comes up. For some reason a lot of the banks are really stirred up, which is cool. I’ll just go do something else.”
Again, taking himself too seriously just isn’t what Cox is about. And it works for him.
What Cox is about, though, is throwing a frog. There’s a good chance we might see a lot of that the rest of the tournament if his sight-fishing pattern dries up.
“I had it [a frog] on the deck the entire time today,” he adds. “That could come into to play – hopefully at some point.”
The thing is, you never really know what Cox is going to do on any given day, but more often than not it works out for him. Call it talent. Call it confidence. Call it whatever you want, really, but just don’t expect Cox to take it too seriously, whatever you decide to call it.
2. Ron Nelson – Berrien Springs, Mich. – 24-6 (5)
Ron Nelson won’t tell you much about the areas he’s fishing or what baits he’s using, but he will tell you he’s making all the right adjustments to put himself in serious contention this week on Chick.
Nelson started his day targeting the shad spawn up shallow, but he eventually moved out to deeper water, made a quick adjustment and rode that wave all the way to a 24-6 bag and second place on the leaderboard after day one.
“I started on a shad spawn, and I probably will again tomorrow,” Nelson explains. “It just didn’t happen for me today. I started on some wide ledges after that and caught a few fish that weren’t the right size. I made some adjustments and started catching them from there.”
Once Nelson hauled in a 6-10 giant to anchor his bag, he says it put the wind back in his sails. He was cycling through six or seven different undisclosed baits before finally getting some big bites and sticking with the bait that worked from there on out.
For Nelson to repeat his day one performance on Friday, he’ll need either a little luck (namely, the rain holding off) or to once again make the right adjustments to find quality fish. If all goes according to plan, he’ll be fishing on Saturday for the second-straight tournament.
3. Matt Greenblatt – Port St. Lucie, Fla. – 23-5 (5)
Matt Greenblatt was able to ride a fairly middle-of-the-road approach to a third-place start at Chickamauga. He split his time between shallow and deep water, and he didn’t really find any areas that produced better or worse than the rest.
Part of his success on day one could also be attributed to a little good fortune to start the day.
“I was boat 122, so I didn’t have the greatest of draws, and like everybody else, you’re wondering who’s on your spot when you get there,” he explains. “Making long runs gives a lot of chance for guys to be there. I got there, and I had it all to myself, and that really settled me down when I got there.”
Greenblatt had plenty of spots, though, and he caught fish at many of them. Culling consistently throughout the day and catching a lot of fish kept his mind in the right place.
“We caught them all day long,” he adds. “It wasn’t a flurry. It’s kept my head in the game. This is Chickamauga, and the next one could be a 10-pounder. It was real easy to keep my head in the game.”
Along with splitting his time both shallow and deep, Greenblatt also spent most of the day in the mid-lake area, eschewing long runs way up the river or down to the south end of the lake.
4. Ramie Colson Jr. – Cadiz, Ky. – 23-2 (5)
Like Greenblatt, Ramie Colson Jr. took advantage of multiple patterns and the fact that, at this time of year, Lake Chickamauga fish are spread out and catchable at just about every depth.
“It’s what I call that transition stage,” he explains. “At home I call it a ‘funk stage’. You can catch a few in and you can catch a few out. It’s kind of whatever you like."
Colson, a Cadiz, Ky., resident who is exceptionally familiar with Tennessee River fishing, knows this is a period in which fish can be caught somewhere other than offshore ledges, and he likes that.
“I like this better, instead of a slugfest as far as everybody being gunwale to gunwale out there,” he adds.
Like much of the field, Colson started his day shallow looking to take advantage of shad spawns. As the sun came out, he moved out deeper and began culling, ounces at a time and then a pound here or there. Unfortunately, Colson is finding it exceedingly hard to cull out a 2 1/2-pound-class fish with anything other than a giant.
“It’s interesting. This lake’s got them [giants],” Colson says. “You can catch numerous 2- or 2 1/2-pounders. It just seems like they skipped a generation.”
If Colson keeps catching big ones, though, those 3-pounders he’s been looking for to cull up won’t be missed.
5. Tim Frederick – Leesburg, Fla. – 23-0 (5)
Tim Frederick has a little bit of luck and a whole lot of experience to thank for his 23-pound bag on day one. If it weren’t for some early-morning fog, he may not have put together a solid limit as early as he did, thus allowing him to run around a little bit to upgrade.
“I got fogged in,” Frederick says of his run to the spot he wanted to hit to start the day. “Halfway up I got fogged in and pulled over halfway up and had a limit by 8 o’clock.”
That limit allowed Frederick to run some other stuff and upgrade little by little at each spot. But it was one special place Frederick upgraded three times, and it was a place he knows well.
“Two years ago in the Costa I should have won,” he explains. “I should have blew it away, but I missed a lot of fish on this one little magic spot I had. All during practice I had one bite on it. I knew what gets there, though.”
Frederick wanted to do some flipping after he caught his limit, but he wasn’t going to skip out on hitting that magic spot. Clearly, it paid off.
After finishing 10th at Cherokee in the Tour’s last stop, Frederick is riding high. He’s confident and he’s fishing well, and that’s about all he can ask for on a lake as good as Chick.

The hunt for double-digits
Despite this being the fourth time the FLW Tour has come to Chickamauga – the Lake of the Giants – no FLW Tour pro has managed to weigh in a double-digit bass on the southern big-bass factory in Tour competition. Billy McCaghren came awfully close on Thursday with a 9-13 behemoth to take Big Bass honors, but we’re still waiting to see a true 10-pounder come across the weigh-in stage.
So far in just 2019, 70 bass over 10 pounds have been confirmed from Chick’s waters, to say nothing of the 10-plusses that anglers didn’t bother reporting. While we’re getting to the tail end of the spawn, this is a lake at which 10-pounders can be had all year long. Don’t be surprised if a couple end up being weighed in by the end of the weekend.
The century club might be safe
Breaking 100 pounds in a four-day tournament is a monumental feat that isn’t likely to be achieved this season on Tour. Chickamauga is really the last best chance to get it done.
Unfortunately, it’s going to take some mega-bags to get there. At our current rate, no one is even on pace to do so after day one, and repeating multiple big bags is harder than it looks. It’s always possible – especially on Chick – that someone weighs in 30-plus tomorrow and gets on track to top 100 pounds, but, at this point, odds are heavily against anyone averaging 25 pounds per day.
AOY update (and ROY, too)
Tour rookie Miles Burghoff only weighed in 12-6 and currently sits in 96th place heading into day two. And yet Burghoff still remains atop the AOY standings, which means he’s also still on top as the ROY favorite.
It’s unlikely anyone catches Burghoff in the ROY race, but the AOY race is tight. Cox, Scott Martin, David Dudley, Braxton Setzer, Joseph Webster and Terry Bolton are all on his tail, and a good portion of that group really caught them on day one.
From here on out, it’s Burghoff Watch 2019. Buckle up.
Consistently inconsistent
Weather in eastern Tennessee isn’t what you would call “predictable.” Forecasts for Thursday called for the possibility of some afternoon rain showers that never came. Instead, rain moved in overnight.
Tomorrow’s forecast calls for rain all morning and early afternoon, but it’s hard to say if that will actually come to fruition. If rain does move in, though, expect to see a lot of day one patterns go by the wayside.
Top 10 pros
1. John Cox – DeBary, Fla. – 24-11 (5)
2. Ron Nelson – Berrien Springs, Mich. – 24-6 (5)
3. Matt Greenblatt – Port St. Lucie, Fla. – 23-5 (5)
4. Ramie Colson Jr. – Cadiz, Ky. – 23-2 (5)
5. Tim Frederick – Leesburg, Fla. – 23-0 (5)
5. Billy McCaghren – Mayflower, Ark. – 23-0 (5)
7. Randy Allen – Gilliam, La. – 22-14 (5)
8. Andrew Upshaw – Tulsa, Okla. – 22-7 (5)
9. David Dudley – Lynchburg, Va. – 22-2 (5)
10. Austin Felix – Eden Prairie, Minn. – 21-0 (5)

No comments:

Post a Comment