En route to setting four new tour weight records, the top pro finalists put on one of the most amazing big-bass displays the Wal-Mart FLW Tour has ever seen Saturday.
This was a good one, folks. Gagliardi's 47-4 broke David Fritts' previous final-round record 47-1, set at Lake Eufaula in 1997 with immense help from the five-bass limit he caught Saturday, which weighed 28-4 and became the fifth-heaviest single-day stringer in FLW Tour history.
And that wasn't even the heaviest sack of the day.
That honor belonged to Tim Carroll, who, if only he'd landed a limit Friday instead of just three fish, might have stolen the show from the hometown favorite. Carroll caught a new FLW Tour single-day record weight of 30 pounds, 15 ounces Saturday, besting Jeff Coble's longstanding mark of 29-6 caught at Santee Cooper lakes in 1996.
Then there was Brennan Bosley, who pounded out his third limit over 20 pounds in three days 24-13 and grabbed his first $100,000 check for finishing second with a final weight of 45-12.
While Gagliardi's weight topped them all, all three of them Gagliardi, Bosley and Carroll, who totaled 45 pounds, 10 ounces in the finals broke Steve Kennedy's previous record of 44-14, set at Kentucky Lake in 2003, for heaviest weight in the FLW's two-day final-round era. And fishing through relentless rain, cold and wind Saturday they each did it on one of the most miserable days of fishing they'll likely see all year.
Not only that, Lake Murray already holds the FLW Tour record for opening-round weight 49 pounds, 8 ounces which was set by Darrel Robertson in 2003.
Simply put, this bass fishery puts on quite a show.
"That's truly a testament to this lake more so than it is to me," Gagliardi said. "What we saw here today shows you what this lake is capable of, not just in the numbers of fish it has, but in their size."
The star of the show, of course, was Gagliardi. The crowd showed up in force to support its hometown favorite from nearby Prosperity, S.C., and it was handsomely rewarded by Gagliardi's record-setting performance.
It was the second FLW Tour victory for the 28-year-old pro, who now has well over a half-million dollars in FLW Outdoors career earnings. His first victory came at Kentucky Lake in 2004 coincidentally, another tournament where he outfished out Bosley on the final day. But, to take a big one on his home lake, there was no doubt which win was sweeter for Gagliardi.
"Kentucky Lake was my first win, but there is no comparison," he said. "All those big fish coming out of the livewells at the same time today had my nerves worked up. To break the final-round weight record and win the tournament at the same time is an amazing feeling."
Bosley, who finished seventh at the 2004 Kentucky Lake event his only other top-10 showing on the FLW Tour stuck to his Flat A Bomber crankbait pattern to catch his 24-pound, 13-ounce limit Saturday.
"I fished the lower end of the lake all through practice and the tournament," the pro from Benton, Ark., said. "I have a lot of confidence in cold, clear water, maybe because I'm so used to Beaver (Lake, in Arkansas). All my damage today was done right down by the dam on about four or five points. This was totally a pattern tournament for me.
"This place has more big fish than any lake I've ever been to," he said. "Right now, it has the hottest bass fishing than any other lake in the world."
Taking home $50,000 for third place was Carroll, who hails from Owasso, Okla.
The opening-round leader stuck to his deepwater jig pattern and might have set some really mean records if not for two lost fish on Friday. The first three days, Carroll caught three different bass weighing more than 9 pounds, and Saturday his kicker again was the biggest of the day at 8-9. But it was Friday and his three-bass weight of 14-11 that ultimately put him behind the eight-ball.
"It killed me," he said. "I did go for big fish, and it was a lost opportunity yesterday. I had two big fish pull off, and I just missed another one. But that's just part of this game. It's going to be hard to top this one."
Still, Carroll did take some solace in his record-setting weight Saturday. He said that, even when he knew he had close to 30 pounds in his livewell, he kept fishing to try and cull out his smallest bass, a 4 ½-pounder, with another 8-pounder.
After the top three big guns, the weights dropped off significantly in the final round.
David Wolak of Warrior Run, Pa., posted his first FLW Tour top-10 finish in fourth place with a final weight of 25 pounds, 1 ounce. He earned $40,000.
Jeremiah Kindy of Benton, Ark., finished fifth and collected $30,000 with a final weight of 21 pounds, 12 ounces.
The balance of the top 10 pro finishers at FLW Tour Chevy Open at Lake Murray were:
6th: Clifford Pirch, Payson, Ariz., 21-1, $28,000
7th: David Smith, Del City, Okla., 18-13, $26,000
8th: Matt Herren, Trussville, Ala., 18-11, $24,000
9th: Katsutoshi Furusawa, Tokyo, Japan, 12-12, $22,000
10th: Terry Segraves, Kissimmee, Fla., 7-5, $20,000
Nick Gainey of Charleston finished in 59th place and received a check for $5,000.
A pair of South Carolina anglers also shone in the Co-Angler Division. Charles Ward of Greer was the winner and received a check for $40,000 for his efforts. Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg finished in 4th place and collected $9,000.
Most of the participating fishermen agreed that, even in the pouring rain of Saturday, this was the finest tournament fishing they had ever seen.