Photo by Jody White - A former FLW Tour Angler of the Year, Anthony Gagliardi is no stranger to the top of the standings. Back in five-bass competition on a consistent basis, the South Carolina pro is thriving, with a 10th-place showing to start the season at Okeechobee, a 29th at Smith and a runner-up finish on the home pond at Murray.
Gagliardi has finished in the top five in the FLW Tour standings three times before, and he nearly always qualified for the FLW Cup, so the idea that he’d win another AOY isn’t wild, especially given a little home cooking.
Obviously a great bet in the Carolinas and on clear, southern fisheries, Gagliardi has had a long enough career that you can find a bad event or a good event for about any situation you want. Of course, that’s not a knock – even Bryan Thrift doesn’t catch them literally every time. If forced to pick a stumbling block going forward, it might be the St. Lawrence. Though you’d think he’d be great when it comes to smallies, Gagliardi didn’t make the Knockout Round in the Bass Pro Tour event on Sturgeon Bay in 2020 and he’s got a bit of a checkered past up north. Still, he’s wildly good and likely won’t be the only pro slightly on their heels when smallmouth season fully engages.
Photo Jody White - Back in 2014, a lost 5-pounder late on the final day by Scott Canterbury opened the door for Anthony Gagliardi to overtake him by an ounce and win the FLW Cup on Lake Murray. Gagliardi now knows what it feels like to be on the other end.
Already with the biggest bag of the tournament sitting in his livewell the final day, the local favorite had one 3-pound, 9-ounce bass he wanted to cull out. He hooked the fish to do it, a 5-pounder that would’ve made weigh-in razor close. Unfortunately for him, he accidently left his Power-Poles down, the fish wrapped around one and it broke off.
Then again, if not for a “shank” on Day 1, Gagliardi might not have needed that fish at all to win.
Despite having a home on the lake, Gagliardi admits he doesn’t fish Murray all that often during this time of the year. So any advantage he had was definitely muted.
“I practiced herring-spawn stuff, and I didn’t find them,” says Gagliardi. “I had a handful of spots I’d caught them before, but they weren’t there in practice. I found some bedders. So that’s what I did the first day.”
Yet, he also caught a lone fish Day 1 on a herring-spawn pattern. So he decided to “keep them honest” and start on it Day 2.
“I caught a limit quick, and then I went to another spot and culled a couple times,” says Gagliardi. “I went sight fishing for a few hours and didn’t do any good. Then I went back to the herring and caught my two biggest. That just pointed me in the right direction. So that’s all I did from then on.”
Cycling through main-lake points, Gagliardi says he threw a lot of different things, but a Berkley PowerBait Power Swimmer on a 1/16-ounce head was his biggest player, with a Sebile Magic Swimmer and a double soft-jerkbait rig with Berkley PowerBait Jerk Shads also getting the call often. He threw the swimbait on a 7-foot Level medium-action spinning rod and Abu Garcia Revo MGX reel rigged with straight braid to short Gamma fluorocarbon leader.
While the switch allowed him to increase his weights every day, it ultimately couldn’t help him overcome that start.
“My Day 1 was a flop,” says Gagliardi. “It was teed up for me, and I just shanked it into the water.”
4. Anthony Gagliardi – Prosperity, S.C. – 51-4 (15)
Photo - Charles Waldorf If there is anyone Becker may be worried about most, it’s Anthony Gagliardi. After all, he was the obvious pre-tournament favorite thanks to being a local who has won more than once at the top level on Murray.
Then again, Gagliardi admits he’s surprised he’s done as well as he has this week.
“I keep telling people, I don’t fish here much during this time of the year,” says the 2014 FLW Cup champion. “I have a handful of spots I’ve caught them before, but they weren’t there in practice. So, I just went practicing like everyone else.”
Hence why he started Day 1 sight fishing. But eventually, he made the switch to the herring spawn, and his weights have kept going up, with today being his best day all week.
“I had a good day today,” says Gagliardi. “I caught more than 20 some fish, and I lost a legit 6 just as the rain started. But as soon as the rain quit I caught fish on my last five casts of the day. They just didn’t like that rain.”