COLUMBIA, S.C. – 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:
1st: Anthony Gagliardi, Prosperity, S.C., 10 bass, 47-12, $100,000
2nd: Ott DeFoe, Blaine, Tenn., 10 bass, 43-1, $45,000
3rd: Brent Chapman, Lake Quivira, Kan., 10 bass, 41-6, $38,000
4th: Chris Lane, Guntersville, Ala., 10 bass, 40-15, $32,000
5th: Jonathon VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich., 10 bass, 40-6, $30,000
6th: John Hunter, Shelbyville, Ky., 10 bass, 40-0, $26,000
7th: Jeff Sprague, Wills Point, Texas, 10 bass, 37-3, $23,000
8th: Bryan Thrift, Shelby, N.C, 10 bass, 36-13, $21,000
9th: Andy Montgomery, Blacksburg, S.C., 10 bass, 36-0, $19,000
10th: James Watson, Lampe, Mo., nine bass, 31-11, $16,000
Full results for the entire field can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 106 scorable bass weighing 317 pounds, 1 ounce caught by the final 10 pros Friday.
Gagliardi also earned Friday’s Championship Round $1,000 Berkley Big Bass award with his 8-pounder on the drop-shot rig in Period 2. Fellow South Carolina pro, Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, earned the $3,000 Berkley Big Bass award for the overall largest bass of the event with his monster 8-pound, 8-ounce largemouth that he weighed on Day 3 of competition.
After three events in the Bass Pro Tour regular season, pro Ott DeFoe of Blaine, Tennessee, is the leader in the 2023 Bass Pro Tour Bally Bet Angler of the Year (AOY) standings with 231 points. Pro Chris Lane of Guntersville, Alabama, sits in second place with 218 points, while pro Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tennessee, rounds out the top three with 202 points. Bally Bet will award $100,000 to the 2023 Bass Pro Tour Bally Bet Angler of the Year winner.
The next event for qualified Bass Pro Tour anglers will be the General Tire Heavy Hitters all-star event on Caney Creek Reservoir and Bussey Brake, April 24-29, in Monroe, Louisiana. The next regular season Bass Pro Tour event will take place next month – the Toro Stage Four Presented by Bass Cat Boats, May 16-21, at Lake Guntersville in Guntersville, Alabama.
The Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury featured pros competing using the MLF catch, weigh, immediate-release format, with each angler’s five (5) heaviest bass per day tallied as their day’s weight. Anglers strive to catch their heaviest five fish each day, while also feeling the pressure and intensity of the live scoring SCORETRACKER® leaderboard. Minimum weights are determined individually for each competition waters that the Bass Pro Tour visits, based on the productivity, bass population and anticipated average size of fish in each fishery.
The six-day bass-fishing event, hosted by Capital City/Lake Murray Country, showcased 80 of the top professional anglers in the world, competing for a purse of more than $805,000, including a top payout of $100,000 and valuable Angler of the Year (AOY) points in hopes of qualifying for the General Tire Heavy Hitters All-Star event and REDCREST 2024, the Bass Pro Tour championship.
Television coverage of the Fox Rent A Car Stage Three at Lake Murray Presented by Mercury will air as two, two-hour episodes starting at 7 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 7 on the Discovery Channel. New MLF episodes premiere each Saturday morning on Discovery, with re-airings on the Outdoor Channel.
Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Bass Pro Tour include: 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, Ark Fishing, ATG + Wrangler, B&W Trailer Hitches, Bally Bet, Bass Cat Boats, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, Daiwa, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, Ferguson, Fox Rent A Car, General Tire, Grundéns, Humminbird, Lowrance, Minn Kota, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Power-Pole, Rapala, Star tron, T-H Marine, TORO, Toyota, U.S. Air Force, Yellowstone Bourbon, Yo-Zuri and Zoom Baits.
For complete details and updated information on Major League Fishing and the Bass Pro Tour, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.