(Photo by Brian Lindberg) Anthony Gagliardi can still remember the words as they left FLW Director of Tournament Operations Bill Taylor’s mouth and traveled via cellphone signal with a piercing acuity:
“Well, Anthony, I hate to do it, but I’m going to have to disqualify you from the Okeechobee Tour event …”
The words were like barbed wire ripped across Gagliardi’s back.
“It’s still sickening to go back and think about that moment,” Gagliardi recalls. “That was a bad time; I mean a really bad time, the absolute lowest point of my career, without a doubt. Honestly, the thought of throwing in the towel on the whole season did cross my mind.”
Thankfully, he didn’t. The Chevy pro instead did the almost unthinkable, accomplishing a virtual mission impossible: He qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup – being held on his home fishery of Lake Murray – in just five tournaments after being disqualified from the season-opening Tour event on Lake Okeechobee. Read More
PARIS LANDING, Tenn. - Under normal circumstances a pro doesn’t get overly excited about placing 48th in a tournament, but you would have thought that Anthony Gagliardi had won the way he reacted after Friday’s second-round weigh-in here on the shores of Kentucky Lake in the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude.
Though the Chevy pro didn’t make the cut and won’t fish Saturday, he did learn that he had qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup, a goal that had seemed virtually impossible to him in February. Because of an inadvertent rules infraction, Gagliardi was disqualified from the first Walmart FLW Tour event of the year – at Lake Okeechobee – and faced a steep uphill climb through the season to earn a berth in the championship. It takes place August 14-17 on Lake Murray near Columbia, S.C. It will mark Gagliardi’s 10th appearance as a pro in the Forrest Wood Cup.
“Release, relief, elation combined with just about every other emotion you could imagine – that’s what I feel right now,” says Gagliardi. “To be honest about it, I thought my season was pretty well laid out for me when I learned I was disqualified. I planned to fish every tournament and do the best I could, but I didn’t feel any pressure because I felt it [qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup] was such a long shot. But then I had a good tournament at Hartwell [seventh place], and as it went along I started thinking that it was possible. And that’s when I started feeling the pressure.”
After Hartwell, the FLW Angler of the Year in 2006 finished 30th at Sam Rayburn, 13th at Beaver Lake and 46th at Pickwick Lake in early June. By then, it was apparent that Gagliardi’s season was riding on this, the last qualifying tournament of the year.
Bassfan.com > Day 4: 5, 15-08 (20, 57-01) Gagliardi was pleased with his outcome this week and now has back-to-back Top-10s after a 165th to open the year at Lake Okeechobee.
"I couldn't have asked for anything more really," he said. "It was a good tournament. I fished really clean today. Looking back, there's nothing I could've done differently. As a whole, I feel really good."
His day started better than the previous 2 as he boxed a decent limit of smallmouths before 9 a.m. That gave him the freedom to poke around and try to pick off a couple upgrades through the rest of the day.
"I was ecstatic because the last 2 days they'd been real slow for me up until about 11," he said. "I had all day to catch a couple big largemouth or do whatever I wanted to try to do to upgrade. I probably had 12 pounds at the time and felt like I was in super shape.
"I was doing some things to try to catch some largemouth down in the clear end and that never materialized for me down there. I abandoned that part of the lake and came back toward this end and pulled out the umbrella rig and caught two good ones in the last hour."
The first was a 5 1/2-pounder and the other was another solid upgrade.
"That (big fish) was the key to my day and key to my tournament really," he said.
Third-place finisher Anthony Gagliardi holds up his biggest bass from day four on Beaver Lake. One of the few anglers who played the smallmouth game this week was Anthony Gagliardi. He stayed true to that pattern this week without throwing much of the A-rig at all. The Chevy pro did catch two key fish on the rig today in the last 10 minutes, upgrading him to a 15-pound, 8-ounce total for the day and moving his cumulative weight up to 57-1.
“I bounced back and forth between my smallmouth places and pockets with largemouth where I could cast an Alabama rig today,” said Gagliardi, a Prosperity, S.C., resident. “I only caught seven keepers today. Two of those came at the very end of the day when I ran back near Prairie Creek to some dirtier water and caught my 5-pounder.”
Gagliardi noticed that the further towards the dam he went, the smaller the smallmouth got for him. As a result, he elected to fish between the Starkey Marine area and Rambo Creek to find the larger smallies.
“I was pretty surprised today when I found a largemouth on bed. I went up shallow just to look around a bit and there was one sitting on bed. That was the only fish I caught off bed, but it was just so windy I couldn’t stick with it today.”
Fishing with jigging spoons is one of the most productive winter patterns, especially when bass are holding in deep brush and on ledges. I’ve got spoons in all sizes and shapes, from about a half-ounce to an ounce. The brand doesn’t matter so much to me, but most of the spoons I use are either silver or white. If it’s a cloudy day, or if the water is stained, white seems to work best. The rest of the time, I stick with silver. Depending on where I’m fishing, I’ll use a larger spoon if I think there’s a good chance I’ll get on big fish, or downsize if all I’m likely to catch are 2-pounders.
Fish react to a spoon differently depending on the water temperature. If it’s early in the season, I’ll rip the spoon off the bottom 3 or 4 feet. That seems to trigger strikes better. If the water is really cold and the bass aren’t very aggressive, I just lift the spoon up and let it flutter back down on a semi-slack line. Either way, I favor a 7-foot, heavy-action rod and 14- or 15-pound-test fluorocarbon line. I’ll start out ripping the spoon. If the fish are aggressive, they’ll hit it fairly hard either on the fall or when you rip it. If I don’t get any strikes, but still think there are bass down there, I’ll go to the more subtle retrieve. Most of the time a fish in cold water won’t really slam the spoon; you’ll typically feel a weight on the line on the next uplift or the spoon. That’s when a bass has inhaled it.
----- Chevy pro Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C.