Much like fourth-place finisher David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., who led the event the first three days, Gagliardi locked into a deep cranking pattern on Kentucky Lake to take the victory. He caught his tournament-winning bass on a Lucky Craft deep-diving crankbait.
“I spent my whole practice trying to put together a deep cranking pattern,” Gagliardi said. “I stuck with it the whole time and never changed my game plan. I executed well and made sound decisions, and that is what it takes to win.”
Despite having the run of the mammoth Kentucky and Barkley lakes, Gagliardi stuck to the Kentucky Lake side all four days but, like everyone else, found the windy conditions that plagued the event every day to be less than favorable. “Yesterday I caught two fish when I did not know that I had a fish on,” he said. “It’s just so hard to position the boat and hold yourself in the right depth. It’s a battle.”
Gagliardi has fished the FLW Tour off and on since 1999, and Saturday’s victory was his second career top-10 finish on the FLW Tour. “It feels like it’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I haven’t fished that long, but you wonder if it’s ever going to happen, if you’re ever even going to come close. This is my first top 10 in two years and to win it is just amazing.”
Rounding out the top five pros are Hackney (10 bass, 29 pounds, 3 ounces, $37,000); Castrol pro David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va. (10 bass, 27 pounds, 15 ounces, $25,000); Fritts (10 bass, 26 pounds, 14 ounces, $20,000); and Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan (10 bass, 26 pounds, 11 ounces, $18,000).
The tournament began Wednesday from Kentucky Dam Marina in Gilbertsville with a field of 200 pros and 200 co-anglers competing for two days for one of 10 slots in Friday’s competition in both divisions. Co-angler competition concluded Friday with Stephen Tosh Jr. of Waterford, Calif., claiming the $20,000 top prize. The 10 pros who advanced to Friday’s competition continued to fish Saturday for an accumulated two-day weight.
Fukae took over the Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year points race thanks to his fifth-place finish on Kentucky Lake – his fourth top-10 finish of the season. Fukae, who has 908 points for the year with one event remaining, is a former Japanese angler of the year and is making a strong run to claim similar status here in the United States. Trailing him in second is Hackney with 875 points.
The four-day tournament, which was presented by Pedigree, is the fifth of seven events that comprise the $6.8 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour, which culminates with the record-setting $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship and Outdoor Show in Birmingham, Ala., Aug. 11-14. At the championship, the winning pro earns the sport’s largest cash award, $500,000, and fishing fans are treated to hundreds of displays featuring special offers on everything from crankbaits to bass boats. Featuring two $500,000 events, two $900,000 events and two $1.25 million Open events during the regular season, the FLW Tour is the nation’s top tournament circuit.
The regular season will come to a close with the Forrest Wood Open on Lake Champlain near Plattsburgh, N.Y., June 23-26.
Coverage of the Kentucky Lake tournament will be broadcast to 65 million subscribers of the Outdoor Life Network on the “FLW Outdoors” television program. A tournament preview show featuring bass-fishing legend Hank Parker will air May 30 at 1 p.m. Eastern time and June 3 at 5 p.m. Eastern time, and fishing fans can watch the tournament weigh-in with hosts Carlton Wing, Taylor Carr and Charlie Evans June 6 at 1 p.m. and June 10 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Tournament veteran Larry Nixon will host a tournament wrap-up show June 13 at 1 p.m. Eastern time, and that show will re-air June 17 at 5 p.m. Eastern time.
Gagliardi will also be featured on “FLW Outdoors Presented by Wal-Mart” on Sunday from 9-11 a.m. Eastern time. The cutting-edge radio program hosted by Keith Lebowitz and Tony Casillas is broadcast live on the World Wide Web at FLWOutdoors.com. The show is also broadcast throughout Texas and parts of Oklahoma on Fox Sports 1190 AM KFXR in Dallas. Listeners who would like to ask a question of any show guest can e-mail the question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, the Wal-Mart FLW Tour is administered by FLW Outdoors, the world’s leading marketer of competitive fishing. Other FLW Outdoors-sanctioned tournament trails are the EverStart Series, the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour, the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye League and the Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail.
Wal-Mart and many of America’s most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its six tournament trails. Wal-Mart has been the title sponsor of FLW Outdoors since 1997.