What a season’s it’s been for my son-in-law, Anthony Gagliardi. As I mentioned in February, after he inadvertently broke a practice rule before the first tournament of the year on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and was disqualified, it looked like there was little chance that he’d be able to qualify for the FLW championship on his home lake, Lake Murray. There was little chance, but still a glimmer of hope. He said at the time that to recover the season he’d have to have a better run that he did in 2006 when he won Angler of the year. That’s a tall order. 2006 was a great year for him and he had a 30.2 average finish. But, you play the hand you’re dealt, so March is when Anthony’s season really started.
He fished the second tournament of the season of Lake Hartwell in South Carolina on the weekend from March 6th to March 9th and finished in 7th place. That pulled him up from 179th place in the standings to about 110th.
Sam Rayburn Lake in Texas on March 27th to March 30th was next. Anthony has never done well at Sam Rayburn. Every Angler has one lake that isn’t kind to him and this was Anthony’s. This year he finished in 30th place which moved him up to 74th place overall. I saw him a few days later and he was still smiling. Sam Rayburn wasn’t on his “Oh crap” list any longer.
April 10th to April 13th found Anthony at Beaver Lake in Arkansas. He’s done well at Beaver Lake before, finishing in 3rd place there just last year. This year he didn’t finish in 3rd, but he did manage 13th. That was enough to pull him up to 44th place in the standings. 38th place is where he needed to be to make the Cup tournament. Three tournaments in and he was knocking on the door.
On June 5th to June 8th Anthony was at Lake Pickwick in Kentucky. Pickwick has always been a mixed bag for Anthony. He’s done well there, but he’s also had some really bad tournaments on that water. He couldn’t afford a bad tournament this year and he didn’t have one. He didn’t make the cut for the final two days, but he did finish in 46th which moved him up to 37th place overall. As of right then, he had a spot in the Forest Wood Cup. The question was, could he hold on?
The last regular season tournament was on Kentucky Lake, June 26th to 29th. Anthony had his first professional win there in 2004 but, like Pickwick, Kentucky Lake has never been a consistent friend. After the first day he was in 58th place. Not a bad performance for sure, but all the numbers said that he had to end up at 50th place or better to seal the deal. There is no pressure like knowing that your entire season depends on what you do in one tournament. It’s a pressure that every athlete feels at one time or another in his life, whether it’s the quarterback trying to thread a pass through three defenders and into the hands of his favorite receiver or a pitcher with a one run lead looking at two outs, a 3-2 count and bases loaded in the ninth. This time, it was an angler who had to pick up eight places at weigh-in to hold his spot.
On day one Anthony had a bag weighing 16 lbs – 13 oz. It would have been more, but one of his fish died so he had a penalty. He’d have to do at least that well on day two, probably better, to move up. He weighed late on day two so we watched as angler after angler walked to the scales and weighed their fish. Finally they called Anthony’s name and he slowly walked to the scales. Usually I can read his face. I can tell whether he had a good day or one that he’d rather not talk about right now. That day he should have been playing poker. I couldn’t tell a thing.
He slipped his bag onto the scale and we waited to hear the numbers. 17 lbs – 2 oz the announcer said and that put him in 43rd spot. I cringed. I had my heart set on 20 lbs. Twenty would have done it, I just knew it. Seventeen…I wasn’t sure. There were still nine or ten anglers behind him who were in a place to push him back up the standings. If six beat him, he might still make it. If all ten did, it was over.
The next fifteen minutes was agonizing. One angler after the next weighed in some beat him, some didn’t. Finally, when he was at 47th place, only two were left in a position to push him aside. One weighed in and his weight was more than Anthony’s. That moved him to 48th. There was one left and his face told the tale. He wasn’t taking Anthony, not today.
48th place that should be enough, just barely, but enough. Then I looked at the numbers more closely. He didn’t have a clean 48th place. There was actually a three way tie at 47th. I had no idea how the FLW statisticians handled ties so, for now, all I could say for sure was that Anthony finished somewhere between 47th and 49th. He really needed that 48th. The spreadsheet that I was keeping said that, with the day two results where they were, there was a three way tie at 36th place. A 48th place finish would guarantee him 38th place no matter how they broke the tie. 49th would put him in a tie for 38th and the tiebreaker process would come into play again. We waited.
At 8:30 that night word came in. Anthony finished in 48th and through some statistical magic ended up in 37th place overall. HE WAS IN!
FLW did a nice article on the drama at Kentucky Lake. BassFan did another one here. It’s the first time since the DQ in February that either mentioned how challenging this season has been for Anthony. It’s nice to know that his efforts haven’t been ignored. By the way, he said that he needed an average 30th place finish. His actual average was 28.8.
As usual this year’s Forest Wood Cup is filled with high octane competitors, so I have no idea how it will end. But if Anthony wins it, and he is one of the favorites, then this tale will go down in bass fishing history as the quintessence of a competitor who never gives up. While true, I prefer to think of it as the story of a tiger whose roar will not be silenced and who refuses to go silently into the night.
I couldn’t leave without re-visiting the video from February. Somehow it seems a little more accurate now.