In 2008, bass pro Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity had a pattern he thought would produce the kind of fish he needed to win the FLW Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray. But heavy rains before the tournament raised the lake level, ruined his plans and left him a disappointing 48th on his home lake.
This time, he was determined to have a solid backup plan in place, to fish a couple of shallow points on the lower end of the lake early in the morning, then move offshore and fish deeper water for schooling fish. His backup plan was to run up the Saluda River and fish around shallow brush. Everything came together this time, as Gagliardi won the Forrest Wood Cup and its $500,000 first-prize money by a single ounce.
On last Thursday’s first day of action, Gagliardi caught his limit on two shallow grass points in the back of a creek in the lower end of the lake, throwing a 5-inch Basstrix Paddle Tail Swimbait in scaled sardine color on ¼- and 3/8-ounce Buckeye Lures Swimbait Head.
“It was more like a place you would catch them on in April or May when the herring spawn is on, not the kind of place you'd normally catch them on this time of year,” Gagliardi said. “That place was really smoking that morning. But, even though I had a good bag and was in the top 10 I was disappointed. I had lost three or four really good fish.”
Disappointment aside, Gagliardi headed out the second day brimming with confidence, but that feeling soon waned. He caught three small keepers on the shallow grass and knew he had to make a move.
“I fished around a lot of my lower-lake places and never had a chance to improve,” he said. “That's when I decided to make the run upriver.”
Up in the Saluda, he Texas-rigged a 10-inch plum-apple Zoom Ol' Monster worm, which produced his best fish of the tournament – a 5 ½-pound largemouth – out of the shallow cover. Although he only weighed four fish the second day, Gagliardi had a two-day total of 23 pounds, 5 ounces, good for seventh place.
His first run on the third day was to the same shallow grass area in the lower lake, but the sizzle there had fizzled. He checked out some of his other lower-lake spots and caught four keepers but knew he needed a good kicker fish to stay in the hunt. He ran back up the river and caught a 5-pounder and a 3-pounder on that same Ol' Monster worm, giving him his heaviest one-day stringer of the tournament at 13-15 and put him in third with 37-4.
“At one of the places I fished on the third day it seemed that the fish might have been schooling early in the morning, so I decided to start there on Sunday,” he said.
When he got to the lower-lake area, the fish were already schooling, and he caught a limit, throwing a Yamamoto D Shad soft-plastic jerkbait. Then, he culled one of his smaller fish with a better fish off another spot.
“I decided to go back up the river where I thought I could catch another 5-pounder on the worm, but I did not get a bite up there,” he said. “At the time, I felt that was the right decision, but in hindsight, I wished I had stayed down lake and culled a few more.”
Hindsight or not, it did not matter in the end. Gagliardi weighed a limit on Sunday at 13 pounds, 14 ounces, boosting his tournament total to 51 pounds, 2 ounces, enough to beat Scott Canterbury of Springville, Ala.,by a single ounce.