Looking to be the first to ever win the Cup twice, Anthony Gagliardi fell off a few pounds on day two and dropped into third. He’s less than 3 pounds off the lead and, as the hometown hero, he’s plenty close to making a run on the final day.
Gagliardi is fishing from about Dreher Island to the dam and has focused his efforts more on shoals, points and areas than specific targets, sometimes fishing way out near the main channel and sometimes a fair bit back in the larger creeks and bays.
“Today I had a hard time catching them on the stuff that was back in, and I felt I had to be on the main-channel stuff,” says Gagliardi. “But that got hard to do later on with the boat traffic.”
Tossing a soft-plastic jerkbait and a pencil popper, Gagliardi believes the schooling bite suffered due to the change from cloudy to sunny skies. If it doesn’t rebound, he’s got some other cards to play as well.
“I’ve got a series of shallow brush piles that I’ve yet to fish,” says the Prosperity, S.C., pro. “I did that last time [the 2014 Cup on Murray] a couple days, and I caught the three biggest fish I weighed in that tournament doing that. I almost did it today. At 1 o’clock when the boat traffic was bad and the bite was really tough I was just about to make a run up the lake to try to catch a big one. I fished a place on the way and caught a big one, and it threw a little hiccup in my plan, and I didn’t make the run. Tomorrow, if things aren’t going extremely well, I might pull the trigger and see if I can’t hit the jackpot up there.”
Anthony Gagliardi won the Forrest Wood Cup in 2014 on Lake Murray, and he’s in great position after day one to be the first to win two. Weighing 21-1, which was amazingly the biggest bag Gagliardi has weighed all season, he sits in second place just 4 ounces behind Atkins.
Fishing a lot like he did on the final day of his 2014 win, Gagliardi leaned hard on the offshore schooling bite to accumulate his catch. Unlike in 2014, he spent most of the day actually casting, not simply waiting for fish to surface on blueback herring. Throwing just a topwater plug and a soft-plastic jerkbait, the South Carolina pro says he’s only caught about eight keepers on the day, but he caught a lot of quality and one near-6-pounder for a kicker.
“That was probably the biggest fish I’ve ever caught fishing like I do out there,” says Gagliardi. “I’m probably not going to catch one like that tomorrow, but I still have some stuff left. I can get bites, and when I get bites a lot of them have been quality bites. If things work out like I envision I think I can have five good fish, but maybe not with a kicker like that.”
As a veteran of Lake Murray, Gagliardi admits that his weight on day one surprised him, but he’s not entirely shocked to see the bite as good as it is. He says the water temperature has dropped about 10 degrees over the past three weeks, and that slim hint of fall-ish weather has the offshore fish chasing more willingly than they did in 2014.