Cox Wins, Neal Takes 2nd & 60K in FLW Championship

John Cox became the first angler to win the Forrest Wood Cup while fishing from an aluminum boat. (Photo courtesy FLW)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Aug. 7, 2016) – Professional angler John Cox of DeBary, Florida, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Sunday weighing 11 pounds, 8 ounces – enough to claim the title of Forrest Wood Cup Champion at the Forrest Wood Cup at Wheeler Lake. Cox went wire-to-wire with a four-day total of 20 bass for 54-13, winning by 4-pounds, 3-ounces over second-place angler Michael Neal of Dayton. Cox garnered the $300,000 top cash prize. Neal won $60,000 in the tournament featuring 50 of the top bass-fishing anglers in the world.

“It’s been an amazing week,” said Cox, who earned his third career FLW Tour win and pushed his career earnings to more than $920k.

Neal at the dock preparing for a long day on Wheeler Lake. (Photo courtesy FLW)
Neal at the dock preparing for a long day on Wheeler Lake. (Photo courtesy FLW)

The bridesmaid finish was Neal’s third on a Tennessee River impoundment in a tour-level career that dates back only to 2012, according to an article on

Neal told, “It’s very disappointing, but I’m not going to think about it right now. The first thing I thought of (when he got back to the ramp) was that I was probably going to come in 2nd again.”

He stuck with schooling fish in one place near the dam the entire day, but said he probably didn’t make 100 casts because the activity was more scarce than on previous days and the fish weren’t as numerous.

Michael Neal had fans watching on the water and in the stands. (Photo courtesy FLW)
Michael Neal had fans watching on the water and in the stands. (Photo courtesy FLW)

“It took a lot longer to get a limit and the first limit I caught weighed maybe 6 1/2 pounds. I caught my two biggest fish with an hour left, when the sun really started to pop out, and both were over 3 (pounds).

“If a shad didn’t fly out of the water, I wasn’t going to get a bite. I spent a lot of time sitting there with the rod in my hand.”

Cox’s winning area was located way in the back of Cotaco Creek, seven miles back off of the main river. Cox said that it would take him more than 40 minutes each day to work his Crestliner aluminum boat to the back of the creek, plowing over logs and timber as he made his way to the honey hole.

“That spot was the third creek arm that I checked in practice,” Cox said. “There was layer of duckweed and it looked like a great area to throw a frog.”

Cox said that he caught the majority of his fish throughout the week on a black- or bluegill-colored Jackall Iobee Frog on an MHX FP-885 rod. He also caught a few fish on a white ¼-ounce buzzbait and a Yamamoto Senko.

“The fish were definitely chomping the frog,” Cox said. “I was skipping it as far as I could under the trees into the shade.

“The key for me this week was definitely my aluminum boat and Mercury outboard,” Cox went on to say. “I would not have been able to get as far back into the creek and catch them out of that spot if I had been in a fiberglass rig.”

With his $300,000 victory, Cox made fishing history becoming the first pro to ever win a modern world championship bass-fishing tournament from an aluminum boat.

The top 10 pros finished the tournament in:

1st:          John Cox, DeBary, Fla., 20 bass, 54-13
2nd:         Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., 20 bass, 50-10
3rd:         Todd Auten, Lake Wylie, S.C., 17 bass, 50-5
4th:         Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 20 bass, 49-6
5th:         Jeremy Lawyer, Sarcoxie, Mo., 19 bass, 49-5
6th:         Walmart pro Mark Rose, West Memphis, Ark., 20 bass, 47-15
7th:         Jacob Wheeler, Indianapolis, Ind., 20 bass, 46-7
8th:         Chris Johnston, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, 20 bass, 44-8
9th:         Brandon Cobb, Greenwood, S.C., 20 bass, 44-4
10th:       Joseph Webster, Fulton, Miss., 20 bass, 42-3

A complete list of results can be found at

Overall there were 48 bass weighing 106 pounds, 12 ounces caught by pros Sunday. Nine of the final 10 anglers weighed in five-bass limits.

The 2016 Forrest Wood Cup at Wheeler Lake presented by Walmart was hosted by the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

FLW and Capital City/Lake Murray Country Regional Tourism Board announced Saturday that Columbia, South Carolina, will be hosting the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart, the world championship of bass fishing, Aug. 11-13, 2017, on Lake Murray. This event marks the third time that the Forrest Wood Cup, the sport’s richest prize, has visited Lake Murray.

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