UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

King of consistency

King of consistency
Anthony Gagliardi receives the Land O' Lakes Angler of the Year trophy for being the most consistent pro on the FLW Tour in 2006.

The 2007 Wal-Mart FLW Tour is right around the corner, but before a new season begins and another points race gets under way, it might be worthwhile to have a look back at the 2006 season to see how Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., captured the 2006 Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year title.

Stop No. 1: Lake Okeechobee
Dates: Jan. 18-21, 2006
Finish: 30th
Key Lures: ChatterBait with a shad body; Baby Brush Hog

When Gagliardi first examined the 2006 FLW Tour schedule, he had a sneaking suspicion that he could make a decent run at Angler of the Year for two reasons: Lake Murray and Kentucky Lake.

Lake Murray is Gagliardi's home lake and one of his favorite places to fish in the winter.

Kentucky Lake is one of his favorite places to fish in the summer, especially since he took his first FLW Tour victory there in May 2004.

So what's all this got to do with Okeechobee?

"I really felt like I needed a solid start at Okeechobee, after that the track would sortLake Okeechobee lures from top to bottom: ChatterBait; Zoom Baby Brush Hog. of come to me, especially at Murray and Kentucky Lake." Gagliardi said. "But getting off to a good start in Florida was imperative if the rest of it was going to fall into place."

Actually, Gagliardi got off to a fantastic start at Okeechobee on day one, sacking 14 pounds, 11 ounces and starting the tournament in seventh place.

"I was fishing down south, catching some quality fish on a ChatterBait and a Baby Brush Hog," he said. "Two of my better fish came on the ChatterBait, and the others came from pitching the little Brush Hog on an 1/8-ounce weight."

But on day two, things came unraveled. His water muddied up down south, and by midday he had just two tiny keepers in the well.

At that point, Gagliardi made what he considered to be one of the key moves of his year.

"I made a run from Belle Glade all the way around to Moonshine Bay," he recounted. "It left me only 30 minutes to fish, but in that time I caught one 3-pounder that salvaged the whole tournament for me, giving me a 30th-place finish instead of a 60th-place finish."

Stop No. 2: Lake Murray
Dates: Feb. 8-11, 2006
Finish: 1st
Key Lures: 3/4-ounce All-Terrain Tackle jig; Brian's Bees B-10 crankbait; 1/8-ounce Spot Remover jighead with a Zoom finesse worm

If there was ever a national tournament that Gagliardi felt he could lock down and call his own, it was the Lake Murray FLW event on his home lake in February.

During the tournament, Murray was pulled down to an extreme low level, some 11 feet below normal pool, and Gagliardi used this to his advantage.

"A lot of pros on tour know Murray very well," Gagliardi said. "But with the lake being so low, I knew it was going to be a completely different place than any of us had ever seen before - like fishing a completely new lake. With that in mind, I spent the fall and winter sinking brush and graphing really deep breaks that I knew would be in the 20- to 30-foot range when the tournament started."

Lake Murray lures from top to bottom: 3/4-ounce All Terrain jig; Brian Bees B-10 crankbait; Spot Remover jighead with a Zoom finesse worm.Gagliardi's plan worked like a charm. In one of the most memorable events of the 2006 season, Murray surrendered giant limits to anglers, especially Gagliardi, who amassed a four-day catch of nearly 90-pounds of bass for the win.

He dragged a 3/4-ounce All Terrain jig off the deep breaks and clipped the tops of offshore brush piles with a Brian's Bees crankbait to catch most of his bigger fish.

Interestingly, Gagliardi noted that one of his key moves in the Murray event was to go to the finesse tactic of a finesse worm on an 1/8-ounce Spot Remover the third day.

"The first two days of the tournament, I came out swinging," Gagliardi explained. "I went to my big-fish stuff first and fished those places all day. But by the end of day two, I noticed that some of my best deep places were wearing a little thin, and that made me nervous going into the finals. So at the start of the third day, I dropped back and punted a little bit. I went up the lake to a couple of `limit holes' and secured a limit with the Spot Remover. With five in the well, I could settle down and focus on upgrading."

Stop No. 3: Pickwick Lake
Dates: March 1-3, 2006
Finish: 49th
Key Lures: Lucky Craft Pointer 78

After a 30th at Okeechobee and a win at Murray, Gagliardi was second in the AOY points going into Pickwick.

Like many pros, Pickwick was a brutal survival tournament for Gagliardi. A stingy Pickwick Lake: Lucky Craft Pointer 78.15-inch keeper rule on largemouth and smallmouth combined with tough fishing conditions made a couple of keepers go a long way.

Gagliardi started Pickwick with a bang. After day one he sat in 13th place with 10 pounds, 1 ounce. But on day two, he zeroed, falling from lucky 13th to 49th.

"The first day I had a good boat draw and headed straight for a well-known community grass bed on the lower end of Pickwick," he recalled. "I used a Lucky Craft Pointer 78 to catch three fish pretty quick. I picked up one other later in the day, and that was it.

"I went back to that spot the next morning and stayed for about 30 minutes. I knew it was over down there, so I just started fishing new water and nothing materialized."

Gagliardi's 10-pound catch at Pickwick put him in the AOY driver's seat leaving Pickwick.

"I started to get pretty excited about my chances at winning the title at that point," he added.

Stop No. 4: Beaver Lake
Dates: April 5-8, 2006
Finish: 30th
Key Lures: Lucky Craft Slender Pointer 112; Bomber Long A

Beaver Lake lures from top to bottom: Bomber Long A; Luck Craft Slender Pointer 112.Beaver Lake was essentially a jerkbait and topwater tournament for Gagliardi. He used a Lucky Craft Slender Pointer 112 under the surface and a Bomber Long A waddled across the surface to do most of his damage on schooling fish.

He brought in 7 pounds, 13 ounces the first day and a stronger 10 pounds the second day to record a 30th-place finish.

Despite the strong finish, Darrel Robertson of Jay, Okla., jumped in front of him for the AOY lead by just a few points going into Kentucky Lake.

Stop No. 5: Kentucky Lake
Dates: May 10-13, 2006
Finish: 27th
Key Lures: Texas-rigged Zoom Ol' Monster; Carolina-rigged Brush Hog

In a way, great pro bass anglers are like great surfers: Just when you think the wave has swallowed them up and buried them, they come shooting out of the tube, riding the wave with twice the speed.

Such was the case with Gagliardi at Kentucky Lake.

With an inherent love for Kentucky Lake and its offshore ledges, Gagliardi had high Kentucky Lake lures from top to bottom: Zoom Brush Hog; Zoom Olhopes going into the fifth event of the season.

But after a dismal four-fish catch weighing 8 pounds, 3 ounces on day one of a big-fish slugfest, it looked like the wave had swallowed the Folgers pro.

Though he disappeared from the AOY race for a brief moment, he came shooting out of the tube on day two with a comeback catch of 19 pounds, 6 ounces to finish 27th and recapture the AOY lead.

"That was the real turning point of the season right there," Gagliardi said. "If I can look back at one defining moment that gave me the trophy, day two at Kentucky Lake was it."

For the event, Gagliardi committed to fishing a Carolina-rigged Brush Hog (full size) and a Zoom Ol' Monster 10-inch worm (with a 1/2-ounce weight) on deep ledges. But on day one, he never connected with the school of fish he was targeting.

"There was one school of big fish out there, but they would not settle down on one place; they kept roaming up and down the ledge, and I just never came across them the first day," he explained. "I changed my timing of how I was fishing the ledge the next day and connected with them. When I found them, it was on. That will no doubt be one of the most memorable days of my career."

Leaving Kentucky Lake, Gagliardi once again assumed the AOY lead heading into Champlain.

Stop No. 6: Lake Champlain
Dates: June 21-24, 2006
Finish: 44th
Key Lures: Zoom Super Fluke; Baby Brush Hog on 1/8-ounce Spot Remover

"Lake Champlain is one of the scariest places you can go with an Angler of the Year lead," Gagliardi said going into the last event. "It's easy to go there, catch 14 pounds a day and still bomb in the standings. So there is no such thing as `playing it safe' or `fishing conservatively' on that fishery."

Champlain lures from top to bottom: a Zoom Super Fluke; Baby Brush Hog rigged on a Spot Remover jighead.As a result, Gagliardi was forced to fish like he needed to win.

"I knew there was a bunch of fish up the lake, but I actually went south, banking on fewer bites but better quality," he said.

He targeted spawning smallmouths with a one-two combination of a Zoom Super Fluke and a Baby Brush Hog on an 1/8-ounce Spot Remover.

"I couldn't really see the beds, so I fished the Fluke fast over the flats, and when a smallmouth would come up after it, I'd reel the Fluke up out of the way, pick up the Brush Hog and flick it right back over where I saw the fish. Most of the time, they would eat that little Brush Hog on the first pitch."

In the end, Gagliardi finished 44th with a two-day total of 29 pounds, 13 ounces to become the 2006 Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year with 1,025 points.

Retrospect

Gagliardi's AOY lure lineup from the 2006 season demonstrates the versatility Anthony Gagliardi signs autographs in the Folgers booth after claiming the 2006 Land Oneeded to keep up with the top rung of professional bass fishing. From new lures like the ChatterBait and Lucky Craft's Slender Pointer to old standbys like the Texas rig and Carolina rig, having the confidence and complete understanding of what to fish in every situation is what constitutes the best anglers during a season.

Interestingly, other than the ChatterBait, not many of Gagliardi's selections were of the bank-beating variety. Lures like spinnerbaits, pitching jigs and shallow-running crankbaits were noticeably absent.

Instead, his lure selection for 2006 leaned heavily toward an offshore and suspended bass mix, something that is likely to be a continuing trend in FLW events in years to come.

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