Minneapolis (FLW) - The 2010 Angler of the Year title on the FLW Series Eastern Division came down to a three-man race at the fourth and final tournament of the season on Lake Chickamauga in Chattanooga, Tenn. In the end, FLW Series rookie John Cox edged out veteran pros J.T. Kenney and Damiki pro Bryan Thrift with 755 points out of a possible 800.
Those points qualified Cox for the no-entry-fee 2011 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita in Hot Springs, Ark. Cox started the FLW Series season off with a second-place finish on Lake Okeechobee in January. He then took seventh at Lake Eufaula in March, 22nd at Lake Champlain in August and 18th at Chickamauga last week.
He dug himself a major hole on day one of the Chickamauga event – catching only one keeper that weighed 4 pounds, 1 ounce. Starting the second day in 83rd place, Cox rallied to 26th with a stout 16-pound, 5-ounce stringer – the heaviest of the day. He then caught a limit worth 12 pounds, 10 ounces to finish the tournament in 18th place.
"I was so disappointed after that first day," said Cox, the Debary, Fla., native. "But I knew the fish were there. And when I saw the forecast for day two calling for clouds and rain, I knew a spinnerbait would work. I ran all the same stuff and they just ate it up.
"On day three I had a small limit early. But time was running out and I was starting to get worried because I knew the guys chasing me were going to catch them. With 10 minutes left in the day, I went back to the area I started on and caught two 3-pounders on back-to-back casts. When it's meant to be, it's meant to be."
Rounding out the top 10 anglers who qualified for the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup were:
2nd: J.T. Kenney, Palm Bay, Fla., 752 points
3rd: Damiki pro Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 749 points
4th: Koby Kreiger, Okeechobee, Fla., 730 points
5th: Scott Canterbury, Springville, Ala., 730 points
6th: Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C., 721 points
7th: Randall Tharp, Gardendale, Ala., 696 points
8th: National Guard pro Scott Martin, Clewiston, Fla., 693 points
9th: Mark Rose, Marion, Ark., 692 points
10th: Darrin Schwenkbeck, Varysburg, N.Y., 688 points
"At first, all I could think about was winning AOY; it's the biggest accomplishment of my career," Cox added. "But next August I'm going to be fishing for a half million dollars against only 58 guys. I get chills just thinking about it."
Coverage of Cox's AOY win will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) Nov. 7 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. ET on VERSUS. "FLW Outdoors," hosted by Jason Harper, is broadcast to approximately 500 million households worldwide.