Lake Murray has been good to professional angler Anthony Gagliardi . Coming into the event, the Prosperity, South Carolina pro had two major national wins – including the prestigious 2014 FLW Cup – and banked nearly a half of a million dollars in career tournament winnings from Lake Murray, alone. On Friday, Gagliardi added another big trophy and another $100,000 in earnings from his hometown fishery. Gagliardi caught 16 scorable bass, with his best five weighing 26 pounds, 13 ounces, to win the top prize of $100,000 at the Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury.
Gagliardi’s two-day total of 10 bass weighing 47 pounds, 12 ounces, earned him the win by a 4-pound, 11-ounce margin over second-place finisher Ott DeFoe of Blaine, Tennessee, who weighed in 10 bass totaling 43-1.
“There is something about this lake, I don’t know what it is, but this lake just suits me,” Gagliardi said. “I don’t even fish it all that much – I honestly don’t – but this lake is just incredible, and I am so proud to be from here. Lake Murray showed out for everybody this week.
“If you’d have told me that I was going to be able to catch that kind of weight doing the things I was doing today, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Gagliardi continued. “I started the day out thinking I was going to fish conservatively and just try to get to 18 pounds and see what happens after that. But I caught a 5-12 early, and then the 8-pounder – just a huge, huge fish. Then it was on. This has just been a blessed day all around.”
Gagliardi spent his week targeting fish that were feeding on the blueback herring, but he did it in an unorthodox way – with a drop-shot rig keying on schools of striped bass.
“This is not how I envisioned this tournament playing out,” Gagliardi said. “The herring bite is usually the deal this time of year, and I practiced that way. But I just didn’t find the places that I felt like had big enough fish. And then I figured out the other deal, and just went with what I had.
“I was fishing points that had herring, and I was specifically looking for points that had stripers on them,” Gagliardi continued. “I slowed down and used that drop-shot so I wouldn’t have to worry about catching the stripers. A lot of times I’d throw into groups that I knew were stripers and I’d watch the drop-shot go down through them. The stripers would swim around and act real crazy, but it would get down and if there was a largemouth in that group of stripers he would bite the drop-shot.
“I was also seeing some fish on the Garmin LiveScope – individual fish, and I caught a lot that way as well, but I never thought I would have been fishing like I was today.”
Gagliardi had an extremely disappointing start to his 2023 Bass Pro Tour season, finishing tied for 79th place at the first event of the year at Stage One on Lake Toho. Now, after a 17th-place showing at Stage Two on Cherokee & Douglas Lakes and the win on Lake Murray, Gagliardi finds himself back inside the REDCREST qualification line at 27th place in the Bally Bet Angler of the Year race.
“I was really nervous about this one, from the standpoint of doing well,” Gagliardi said. “I knew the lake was going to fish really good, but this time of year, with the fish spawning, I didn’t think any local advantage was going to come into play. So I just wanted to have a good tournament and not bomb on my home lake.
“But as the tournament progressed I was able to stay consistent, and the farther into the tournament I advanced I started to devote more time to the drop-shot deal when I figured out I could get a good quality bite. And that’s what I stuck with the entire day, today.
“It’s been my time a couple of times on this lake,” Gagliardi went on to say. “That’s three major wins on this lake, and another second-place finish as well. She’s been good to me over the years, and this is just such an awesome feeling. I love this lake.”
The final 10 pros from the Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury finished:
- Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., 10 bass, 47-12, $100,000
- Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., 10 bass, 43-1, $45,000
- Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan., 10 bass, 41-6, $38,000
- Chris Lane, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 40-15, $32,000
- Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 10 bass, 40-6, $30,000
- John Hunter, Shelbyville, Ky., 10 bass, 40-0, $26,000
- Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, 10 bass, 37-3, $23,000
- Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C, 10 bass, 36-13, $21,000
- Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C., 10 bass, 36-0, $19,000
- James Watson, Lampe, Mo., nine bass, 31-11, $16,000
Full results for the entire field can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.