Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 08/17/2014

Story and photos by Dave Rush

Columbia, SC - After an early season disqualification prior to the FLW season opener at Lake Okeechobee, Chevy Pro Anthony Gagliardi was a tremendous long shot to qualify for the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray.  Putting the early season incident in his rearview mirror, Gagliardi proceeded to fish brilliantly over the next five events, sneaking into the Cup by a one point margin and gaining the opportunity to fish for $500,000 on a lake he arguably knew better than any of the other 45 qualifying anglers.

Gagliardi who grew up fishing Murray as often as possible, came into the event as a hometown favorite and all of the pressure that comes with that resting squarely on his shoulders.  After lurking near the top of the leaderboard for the first 3 days of the event, Gagliardi closed the door on the win weighing in 13-14, which was his second heaviest bag of the tournament, and besting runner up Scott Canterbury by a mere ounce.  

Winning the Forrest Wood Cup in front of a jubilant hometown crowd made the victory that much more sweet for an obviously emotional Gagliardi.  "This is unbelievable," said Gagliardi "To win the Forrest Wood Cup, no matter where it is, is the most prestigious event that I could win in our sport.  But to do it here, in front of all these people who were rooting for me, it really just makes it that more special."

Tournament: FLW Forrest Wood Cup
Location: Lake Murray - Coulumbia, SC
Champion: Anthony Gagliardi 51-2
2nd Place: Scott Canterbury 51-1
Total weight separating 1st from 10th place: 17-11

1st Place Anthony Gagliardi (13-2, 10-3, 13-15, 13-14; 51-2 )
Gagliardi on his primary pattern:" I caught fish on a variety of different patterns this week.  I actually got on a herring pattern that was going on that was similar to something you would see happening on the lake in April or May.  It was a shallow herring bite that I wasn't even aware of until the tournament started.  I found the fish in a back of a long neck that had two points sitting side by side.  The fish were in there feeding like they would be early in the year and I was able to catch them on a swimbait for two days.  I did that for two days and it kind of died on me, and I had to move to another herring pattern that we do around here over deep brush fishing a fluke.  The other thing I had going on was fishing some shallow brush up the Saluda River with a 10" worm, some of the brush was stuff that I had planted myself before this tournament."

Gagliardi on overcoming on the water adversity on day 4: "There was a little spot that I wanted to start on this morning and there was a local sitting on it when I got there.  I went ahead and pulled in there and the fish started coming up and schooling everywhere between me and him.  You could tell right off the bat that he was a little agitated, he wasn't mad that I was there but more so that I brought all those boats with me and now they were going to know where his spot was.  We never argued, and I never got mad, but he stayed about an hour.  He rattled the heck out of me, and I was torn up this morning.  Every time the fish would come up on the other side of him and I couldn't throw at them, or he would throw at one I was trying to get to.  I was a basket case this morning, but he left on his own accord after staying about an hour."

Gagliardi on fishing in his comfort zone this week on Lake Murray: "My absolute favorite way to catch them is when they are out schooling and busting around.  I love sitting there waiting for the fish to come up, and not even making a cast.  I didn't do that today but normally I will sit there and wait, I don't care if it has been 20 minutes since they have come up.  Sometimes if you are just casting around you will miss an opportunity, and you are so much more likely to get a bite when they show themselves rather than just casting around.  There is no better feeling to me than when you see him come up and you are anticipating that bite and he just comes up and eats it."

Gagliardi on his special area: "It was an area that I had caught them schooling in the past, but was an area that I hadn't even practiced on.  I was running down the lake on the second morning, and as I passed that point I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye and I thought it was a fish, and I watched it as I rode by and didn't see anything else.  Yesterday I got there, and there were a couple of birds kind of hovering around and I caught 3 or 4.  I didn't catch any big ones, but I got the feeling that I just got in on the tail end of the fish schooling.  I decided to start there this morning and that was definitely the right decision."

Gagliardi on his shallow brush being a key to his victory: "I wrote that off up there after the third day of practice.  I fished 15 to 18 of them and never even had a tap, not even a bream bite.  The second day of the tournament I struggled on the lower end and only had 3 fish, and got to thinking about heading up there.   It was key for me having all that stuff lined up where I could make the exact cast on each one.  I went out of my way to put it on ugly looking banks where there wasn't much around.  These are small little brushpiles that you aren't going to find by idling over them.  All that hard work putting that stuff out paid off for me on day two, which was critical.  I caught 3 good fish out of those spots, and without that I don't pull this off."

Gagliardi primary baits and equipment:
- 3/8 oz Buckeye Lures J-Will Swimbait Head
- Basstrix 5" PaddleTail Swimbait
- Gary Yamamoto D-Shad (Olive Shad)
- Zoom Super Fluke (Pearl White)
- Unnamed 10" Worm
- Gamma Edge 10lb Fluorocarbon
- Gamma Edge 12 lb Fluorocarbon
- Gamma Edge 16 lb Fluorocarbon

2nd Place Scott Canterbury (10-0, 11-3, 16-0, 13-14; 51-1 )
Canterbury on his primary pattern: "I was just fishing shallow and covering a lot of water like everyone else.  I did catch a few key fish off of boat docks during the tournament on a jig, but mostly it was grass and rock.  If I could find the wood and grass together where there was a little bare spot out in front of the grass then that was the deal with the shade.  Today I figured them out around lunch running shallow wood, but I just missed the opportunities that I had to do well."

Canterbury on his overall thoughts on his Forrest Wood Cup performance: "I feel good about how I fished this week.  Day one was the day where it came undone for me, I just tried to force things to happen and only weighed in four fish.  After  that I just went and fished on instinct, and scrapped everything and went fishing. I didn't fish  clean today, where I had a couple of missed opportunities that probably cost me the event.  I beat everyone else but Anthony, and he showed out here this week and deserved to win."

Canterbury's primary baits and equipment:
- Various Halo Rods
- Punisher Lures Prototype Buzzbait
- 1/2 oz Dirty Jigs Pitchin' Jig
- 1/2 oz Dirty Jigs Swim Jig
- Reaction Innovations Vixen
- Jackall Lures Mudsucker
- Bruiser Baits Evil Twin Trailer

3rd Place: Brent Ehrler  (13-5, 12-7, 13-5, 11-10; 50-11 )
Ehrler on his primary pattern: "I didn't have that great of a practice but I did find some schooling fish that I could chase some during the mornings.  Once that would slack off I would run a little topwater on some shallow banks, and then concentrate on some deeper brush with a drop shot.  Each morning I was able to catch several on the schooling spots and then run to my brushpiles to finish out my limit.  After I would get my limit I would lay off of the brush, because I just didn't feel like there were that many fish that lived there.  Each day just kind of developed as it went on, with the third day being the best because of the extended overcast conditions."

Ehrler on changing conditions on day four: "Today was different for some reason.  The previous days if you got the bait within 5 to 10 feet of the schooling fish they would bite it, but today they wouldn't.  I saw several nice 3 to 4 pound fish that just wouldn't eat my bait, and I am not sure why it changed today.  The key for me was getting some of those fish to bite in the morning, and then being able to go and finish my limit, but it didn't happen for me today."

Ehrler's primary baits and equipment:
- Gary Yamamoto D-Shad
- 14 lb Sunline FC Sniper
- Gamakatsu EWG Hook
- 6" Straightail ROBOWORM
- Gamakatsu Rebarb Hook
- Lucky Craft Gunfish 115
- 1/4 oz Reins Tungsten Drop Shot Weight
- 8 lb Sunline FC Sniper
- 30 lb Sunline FX2 Braided Line
- Daiwa Steez Spinning Rod
- Daiwa Steez Spinning Reel
- Daiwa Tatula Type R Casting Reel
- Daiwa 7'2" MH Tatula Casting Rod

4th Place Casey Ashley (9-0, 11-14, 15-9, 14-00; 50-7 )
Ashley on his primary pattern:"I was just burning up a lot of water with my trolling motor on about 60, throwing a few topwater baits.  I knew that the tournament would be won shallow, and I thought that the only way I could catch a big bag was to fish shallow.  I just put the hammer down each day and went looking for those big fish that were up there wanting to eat.  Yesterday I was near a couple of deep brushpiles that I knew about and was able to catch a couple of nice ones out of that stuff.  It was just typical junk fishing, and that is something I am really comfortable doing."

Ashley's primary baits and equipment:
- Rebel Pop-R
- Unnamed 3/8 oz Buzzbait
- 15 lb Hi-Seas 100 % Fluorocarbon
- 17 lb Hi-Seas Grand Slam Monofilament
- Quantum Smoke Casting Rod 6' 6"
- Quantum EXO Casting Reel 6.6:1
- Quantum Smoke Casting Rod 7'

5th Place: Steve Kennedy (9-13, 9-15, 10-9, 20-2; 50-7)
Kennedy on his primary pattern:" I found a mayfly hatch going on up the river during practice.  I was seeing big five pound fish coming up and gulping down mayflies, which I have never seen in my life.  I never could get back on those fish during the tournament until today, where I just had one of those miracle days.  I think those fish started to get grouped back up and positioned right yesterday, and everything just fell into place today.  I was just skipping my bait as far back up in the stuff as I could, and most of them were sitting right up on the bank."

Kennedy on the changing conditions during the tournament: "When I first found those fish during practice the water was way up in the river.  Once the tournament started that water really started to drop, something like four or five feet.  Yesterday the water level started stabilizing, and it put those fish where I could reach them up under the shade.  Today I got five key bites and put them all in the boat, where yesterday I lost two big ones that really hurt me."

Kennedy primary baits and equipment:
- Zoom Horny Toad
- Unnamed 50 lb Braided Line

6th Place: Matt Herren (10-4, 10-14, 11-15, 14-15; 48-0)
Herren on his primary pattern:"I came in here with a short amount of practice and just had to fly by the seat of my pants. All I was doing was just flipping a little worm around docks.  It was just a typical summertime deal where I was targeting shade, just simple fishing like I like to do.  There was a short window where the sun would get up and those fish would get in that shade.  I got all out of the pattern I could get, I just didn't get the big bites I needed to win."

Herren’s primary baits and equipment:
- Unnamed 6" Fliptail Plastic Worm (Green Pumpkin)
- 3/16 oz Elite Tungsten Weight
- Kistler KLX 7'3" Rod
- 14 lb Gama Edge Fluorocarbon

7th Place: Bryan Thrift (14-9, 10-7, 13-14, 5-8; 44-6)
Thrift on his primary pattern:"My primary pattern was just covering a lot of water and throwing topwater up shallow.  I really wasn't targeting anything specific, just fishing whatever looked good. They bit good two days, but I couldn't get them going today. I did catch a few fish cranking this week also, when I would leave my topwater areas."

Thrift primary baits and equipment:
- Unnamed 3/8 oz Buzzbait
- Damiki D Pop 70
- Damiki DC 400
- Zoom Horny Toad

8th Place: Mike Wooley (9-8, 14-12, 8-9, 10-7; 43-4)
Wooley on his primary pattern:"I was just fishing some humps offshore here this week with a Carolina rig. I just call it old school offshore fishing."

Wooley primary baits and equipment:
- 7' 3" Dobyns Champion Series Rod
- 7.1:1 Lews BB1 Pro Speed Spool Reel
- Strike King Tungsten 3/4 oz weight
- Strike King Rage Hawg

9th Place: Scott Martin (13-6, 7-8, 11-9, 3-6; 35-13)
Martin on his primary pattern: "I just mixed it up here this week.  The fluke was the deal for me in the mornings, and then a frog and a buzzbait in the afternoon.  I just was covering new water each day, that was really the key."

Martin primary baits and equipment:
- 7’3” Okuma Scott Martin’s TCS Heavy Action Rod
- 7.3:1 Okuma Helios Air Casting Reel
- Okuma Helios Spinning Reel
- 7' Okuma Scott Martin's TCS Medium Fast Spinning Rod
- 1/4 oz Buckeye Lures Buzzbait
- Zoom Super Fluke
- Bruiser Baits Super Swimmer
- P-Line Spectrex 10 lb Braid
- P-Line CXX X-Tra Strong 20 lb

10th Place: Jacob Wheeler  (12-5, 11-13, 7-2, 2-3; 33-7)  
Wheeler on his primary pattern: "Basically the biggest thing for me was just covering a lot of water with a little buzzbait.  If I could find any type of wood and grass with shade around it that was almost guaranteed to get you a bite once the sun got up."

Wheeler primary baits and equipment:
- 17 lb. test Sufix Invisiline 100% Fluorocarbon
- 7’3” Okuma Scott Martin’s TCS Heavy Action Rod
- 7.3:1 Okuma Helios Air Casting Reel
- 1/4 oz Prototype Accent Buzzbait
- Unnamed Soft Plastic Frog
- Unnamed Soft Plastic Swimbait


1st:          Chevy pro Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., 19 bass, 51-2, $500,000
2nd:         Straight Talk Wireless pro Scott Canterbury, Springville, Ala., 19 bass, 51-1, $60,000
3rd:          Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., 20 bass, 50-11, $50,000
4th:          Casey Ashley, Donalds, S.C., 20 bass, 50-7, $40,000
5th:          Steve Kennedy, Auburn, Ala., 20 bass, 50-7, $35,000
6th:          Matt Herren, Ashville, Ala., 20 bass, 48-0, $30,500
7th:          Chevy pro Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C., 18 bass, 44-6, $26,000
8th:          Michael Wooley, Collierville, Tenn., 16 bass, 43-4, $24,000
9th:          Scott Martin, Clewiston, Fla., 16 bass, 35-13, $22,000
10th:        Rayovac pro Jacob Wheeler, Indianapolis, Ind., 13 bass, 33-7, $20,000