Having a Reel Good Time
For some, fishing means a relaxing day on the water — nothing but a rod, the fish and your thoughts. But for West End’s Ethan Cox, it is an addiction that he compares to gambling.
Fishing professionally means practicing, training and hard work.
His wrist flicks out and the thin line whips out over the water. He’s standing in his boat, practicing on his favorite fishing hole — Shearon Harris Reservoir.
“I’ve been doing this since I was knee-high to a grasshopper,” says Cox — his fishing rod an extension of his arm. His cast is a practiced, calculated move.
He doesn’t believe there is any method to learning to fish — “just practice.”
For being a professional, Cox is extremely relaxed on the water. “I like to talk and have a good time,” he says.
But he logs full workdays on the boat, learning to read the maps of lakes and trying to learn the habits of the fish.
“They don’t read the same (fishing) books we read,” says Cox.
A Family of Fishers
Cox and fishing partner Ben Dziwulski won the Boat U.S. Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship in May. Footage will be airing on NBC Sports in a few weeks.
The two North Carolina State University seniors were on the waiting list eight days before the two-day competition. However, their fish swept the competition by almost five pounds.
On the second day, the boys had a cameraman on their boat from the 5:45 a.m. blast-off until they came in. The competition required all fish to be over 14 inches. Teams kept the best five fish of the days for weigh-in.
Cox’s father — his pit crew, as Cox fondly calls him — helped them with the boat, lines and other logistics.
“Dad pushes me to be better and better,” says Cox. “The whole family fishes.”
But none fish quite like him.
Since graduating last spring, Cox has been working on securing his position as a sponsored, professional fisherman. He has applied with multiple sponsors and is using his business major to market himself.
“Fishing makes me a better person,” says Cox. “It keeps you humble.”
He shakes his head before starting the boat again to head to a different spot on Shearon Harris Reservoir.
“There are some days fish aren’t gonna eat.”
Regardless of temperamental fish, Cox does everything on his end to catch them. His boat is equipped with sonar, depth-seeker and other gadgets. Cox claims bass are notably lazy and looks for resting places. He has a well full of different poles, lures and even garlic spray — which apparently fish enjoy.
Professional fishing requires that all fish remain alive. There is a penalty for dead fish. Cox does not eat his fish, even when not in competition.
“I treat them good, they treat me good,” says Cox.
This year has been good to Cox. He calls it his breakout year. After he and Dziwulski nabbed the championship title, Cox has been entering and placing in any competitions he can find. Now he is gearing himself toward making the big leagues. He’s polishing his resume and diving into social media to gain notoriety.
“It’s just like any other job.”
High Stakes, High Rewards
Cox has never regretted his entry into the fishing world.
“I set my schedule up around fishing at State,” he says.
College fishing is considered a club sport, although with 300 colleges competing there is talk about it becoming a varsity sport.
Cox is spending his summer fishing for a new personal record. He’s been waiting to break the 10-pound mark on a catch for a long time, his biggest fish weighing in a little over nine pounds.
“Recreational guys go out and catch one that could be 12 inches. They’re tickled do death, think they just caught Shamu,” he says.
Fourteen inches is the minimum length in many “go big or go home” tournaments. He advises new fishermen to be patient and just have fun with it.
Fishing professionally has a lot of cost — high stakes, high rewards.
“Gas is what kills me,” Cox admits of his truck and boat. He has to place in the top 20 in most competitions to break even with the entry fee.
Cox is now trying to break into the elite ring of professionals and land a spot in a tour.
“I’m boring, all I do is fish,” he says with a laugh. “Hopefully, I’ll be fortunate enough to do this for life.”
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