September 1, 2014 by Jody White
You’ve heard about Chevy pro Anthony Gagliardi’s storybook season, and the techniques he used to win the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup.
Beyond that, we thought it was time to get to know the South Carolina pro himself.
1. Do you have any pets?
We do. More than we should, I think. We have a new puppy that isn’t much of a puppy anymore. She’s a Rhodesian ridgeback, and she’s about 4 months old now. We have an outdoor cat, and between the two kids (daughter Laken, 6; son Cruz, 4) I don’t know what other little critters we have in the house. I know my daughter has a guinea pig though. We also have some fish in a saltwater aquarium that’s mine, and I’ve had it running for a few years.
2. What’s in the aquarium?
I’ve got two clownfish; there’s a good bit of coral in there, a lawnmower blenny, a Mandarin goby and a few others.
3. Is that a lot to care for?
It’s not too bad. It was a fun project, and since I got it up and going it has been pretty easy.
4. What’s your favorite color?
I don’t really know. Let’s go with orange for Clemson.
5. Any nonfishing hobbies?
Not really. I used to play a lot of golf, but I’ve been too busy lately.
6. You and Brent Ehrler were both throwing the Yamamoto D-Shad at the Cup and finished first and third, respectively. Was that just a coincidence, or is there a reason?
If I had to guess I’d say it’s because of the weight. The D-Shad is a little heavier than a standard soft-plastic jerkbait, so you can throw it a little better. I still throw a standard Zoom Fluke a bit, but I felt like it was important to be able to make longer casts at Murray.
7. You maintained incredible mental focus this season despite some long odds. Do you think you can carry that forward into 2015?
I hope to; that’s definitely the goal. I don’t know if I will or won’t, but I want to be able to feed off this year and the momentum from this win. There have been a lot of cases when guys follow up a big win with a mediocre season, and I’m going to try my best to guard against that.
8. What was more special to win, your AOY in 2006 or the Forrest Wood Cup?
Definitely the Cup. In a normal year, I might be 50/50 on it, and if I had never won either, money aside, I would lean toward winning an Angler of the Year. But because of the circumstances, it [the Cup] was definitely sweeter to me than when I won Angler of the Year. I think most guys would love to be able to win the Cup on their home lake.
9. You pocketed $500,000 for winning the Cup. I know you bought yourself a paddleboard, but have you splurged on anything else?
To date that’s the only purchase I’ve made, other than eating out for some dinners. To me, the money is a security blanket. This sport is so volatile, and you never know when you could have a bad year. I want to save as much as I can to take the pressure off me. I think it might let me fish more relaxed and take a few more chances than I normally would.
10. You have an engineering degree from Clemson. Do you think you approach fishing any differently because of that?
I don’t think I fish any differently, but I’m analytical by nature. It might help me prepare differently, but once I’m out on the water, I’m not thinking about angles and percentages to help me cast under a dock.
11. You’ve said you love to fish for schooling fish, and most people consider that to be your biggest strength. Why do you enjoy it so much?
It’s similar to why a lot of guys like to hunt. There’s a hunting aspect to it. It’s visual. It’s not just about casting to a target and hoping one’s there. I’m casting to a fish I can see, and I hope it’s going to bite. There’s a little bit of exhilaration you get from seeing those fish come up, and you have such a short window of time to make a cast there and make the proper presentation. It’s a whole lot of fun. Just fishing down the bank and pitching at a stump, that’s not as much fun. I’d rather fish for bass that are blowing bait out of the water, and you might see a 4-pounder blowing up. It’s exciting.
12. You stood around and waited a lot for schoolers on Murray. What’s the longest you’ve waited for fish to break in a tournament?
I didn’t wait as long here as I have in other cases because I knew I could catch some when they were down. I actually caught three of my five schooling fish when they were down. As long as I feel confident I can get bites, I will make casts.
But, I’d say 75 percent of the time when they are schooling, I won’t cast. I’ll hold my fire for a long time, but I start getting antsy at about 20 minutes. Sometimes I think casting can help to fire them up. I think that action can make them move more, like when a boat goes by.
13. What are your off-season plans?
I don’t know for sure. I want to fish a little, because that’s too long of a layoff to go through without fishing [the first 2015 Tour event is March 5-8 on Lake Toho]. I’ll probably look for a few regional tournaments that I think will be fun. I’ll also spend some time working on my rods. I’ve got a line of rods with RainShadow and Batson Enterprises coming out. I’m going to put together a line of rods from scratch with all their blanks and components. That will probably take a lot of time, so I’ll spend a lot of the fall on that.
14. Who taught you how to fish, and how old were you when you started fishing?
Shoot, I was young. I was fishing when I was 4 and 5. I remember liking to fish as far back as I have memories. I fished with my dad and uncles and grandfather when I was that young. It was a friend of the family who kind of got me into tournament fishing. His name was Gary Surratt. I was probably 12 or 13 when I fished my first tournament.
15. In a recent interview you said that Chevy pro Larry Nixon was your idol growing up. What first drew you to him?
When I was younger I watched his video about worm fishing a lot, and when I watched all the old Bassmaster tournaments, he was always the one I pulled for. Once I got to know him more personally I still looked up to him. He’s a great fisherman and is just a nice guy and always helpful to everyone.
16. What was your first fishing boat?
Probably the one that I remember the most was just a V-bottom Starcraft, though we probably had something before that. It’s like a boat you’d see up north, probably a 17-footer. It was just a fishing boat and had a 70-hp Johnson on it. It was probably a 1970-something model boat.
17. What was going through your head when you were sitting on stage watching Steve Kennedy weigh in on the final day of the Cup?
Well, before he weighed in, I kind of figured he had it won just because of the rumors that were flying around about him having at least 22 pounds. I knew I didn’t have enough to compete with that. When he pulled his fish out and got closer to the end, I remember thinking that he’s going to have to pull out two really big fish to have 22 pounds. I started to see a door opening for me.
When it turned out he had the 20 pounds, I knew it was going to be close and that I had a chance to eclipse him with what I had. At the time I didn’t think Canterbury had as much as he did. I went from thinking I had a pretty good shot, to thinking I didn’t have enough when Canterbury weighed in and took the lead. So my emotions were back and forth for the last 30 minutes of weigh-in.
18. Where will you display the Cup?
I’m not sure where I’m going to put it. I have some shelves in my office where some of my other trophies are kept. That thing is pretty big though. It doesn’t really fit there. It’ll probably go in the office somewhere. I might just have to put it on a filing cabinet. Right now it’s on the dining room table. That’s where it sits until I figure out where it’s going to go for good.
19. We heard that you’ve encountered some giant crayfish around your house on Lake Murray. What’s the story there?
This lake’s got some monster crayfish in it. They’ve been in here like that for years. I haven’t done this in a number of years, but you used to be able to take a spotlight out in the fall, in September, and shine that thing around shallow water on the bank and see their eyes glow. They’re giant crayfish. They crawl up in the front yard every now and then. When they spread their claws out, they’ll stretch across a shovel blade. They’re big enough you could crack the claws and eat them like a little crab leg.
20. What has the local reaction been like since you won? Are you a local celebrity now?
I don’t know about that. I’ve had a lot of people roll their windows down at a stoplight or stop sign, or if I’m sitting in a parking lot, and congratulate me. A lot of people have come up and congratulated me and told me they were pulling for me. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have known me otherwise if I hadn’t won that tournament. It’s been pretty cool.