BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., easily defeated No. 48 seed Ishama Monroe of Hughson, Calif., by a 19-pound, 14-ounce margin Thursday to advance to the semifinal round in the $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship presented by Castrol on Lake Logan Martin in Birmingham, Ala.
Gagliardi set out to catch a conservative five-bass limit today knowing he only needed a small catch to continue his quest to become the first angler in history to win both the Angler of the Year title and the FLW Tour Championship in the same season. However, a couple of unexpected quality bites resulted in a five-bass limit weighing 12 pounds, 13 ounces.
He landed the heaviest catch on opening day Wednesday – five bass weighing 15 pounds, 12 ounces – compared to Monroe’s 2 pounds, 7 ounces – the lightest pro catch of the day. The staggering lead afforded Gagliardi an opportunity to conserve some of his better fish for his match-up against Danny Correia of Marlborough, Mass., Friday. Gagliardi finished third in the FLW Tour Championship during its 2004 stop in Birmingham.
“I caught a limit early and knew I had enough to advance,” said Gagliardi, who advanced with an opening round total of 10 bass weighing 28-9 to Monroe’s seven bass weighing 8-11. “After that, I picked up a crankbait and went searching. I found some new areas where I’m confident that I can catch fish. Plus, I didn’t go to the areas I fished yesterday.”
Heavy humidity and temperatures in the 90s greeted anglers from 28 states and Japan for the second consecutive day. The unfavorable dog days of summer, along with an abundance of local fishing pressure, made the bass finicky and tough for anglers to catch. In fact, only 18 anglers broke the 10-pound mark as a total of 400 bass weighing 686 pounds, 6 ounces were brought to the scale compared to yesterday’s 738 pounds, 2 ounces.
No. 47 seed Toshinari Namiki of Hachioji-City, Japan, upset local favorite Matt Herren, who was seeded in the No. 2 position coming into the event. Herren, of nearby Trussville, Ala., performed well despite fishing with a broken tailbone after falling in his garage Saturday. He weighed a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 14 pounds, 13 ounces, while Namiki had 10 bass weighing 21 pounds, 2 ounces.
“I’m fishing both shallow and deep,” Namiki said. “I’m using a jig and a worm and a crankbait around boulders and logs to catch my fish. Fishing is getting tougher each day.”
Herren caught his bass by throwing a big jig around offshore structure.
“To get my weight yesterday I had to fish my good stuff, so I had to go practice today,” he said. “My injury affected me a little and hurt my practice time, which hurt my fishing.”
Another exciting match-up pitted legendary Arkansas anglers George Cochran of Hot Springs as the No. 41 seed against Larry Nixon of Bee Branch as the No. 8 seed. Cochran, the reigning 2005 FLW Tour Champion, jumped to a 2-pound lead on day one over his close friend by targeting shallow-water bass using a worm and a small crankbait around brush. He found the better fish today as well, weighing five bass for 11 pounds, 14 ounces compared to Nixon’s five bass weighing 10 pounds, 6 ounces.
“I got lucky today,” said Cochran advanced with a total of 10 bass weighing 21 pounds, 2 ounces. “I got three good bites, and I caught all three of them, unlike yesterday when I lost a few good fish.”
Cochran’s biggest fish of the day came on a shad-pattern crankbait that he threw to a bass busting baitfish on the surface.
“I just didn’t perform today. I was on enough fish to win this thing, but it just didn’t work. Shallow water fish were more consistent, and I went deep,” said Nixon, who caught a two-day total of eight bass weighing 17 pounds, 10 ounces. “If anyone else was to win this, I wish it would be George. It would tickle me to death to see him win again.”
In the battle of big-money winners, David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., capitalized on his day-one 2-pound, 15-ounce lead over his Castrol teammate Darrell Robertson of Jay, Okla., to advance to round two by a mere 2 ounces. Dudley, known for “junk fishing,” weighed a five-bass limit of 8 pounds, 5 ounces Thursday and boosted his total catch to 10 bass weighing 18 pounds, 14 ounces. Robertson’s limit weighing 11 pounds, 2 ounces was an improvement on Wednesday’s performance, but not enough to advance. His two-day total of 10 bass weighed 18 pounds, 12 ounces.
“The weights really don’t show what I’m capable of,” Dudley said. “I have this one hole that is killing me. It’s holding some big fish, but I keep breaking them off. These Coosa River spots are some mean fish.”
Earlier this season, Dudley, 30, surpassed $2 million in career winnings, making him the youngest angler to accomplish that feat. He also holds the distinct honor of being the youngest angler to surpass $1 million in career winnings, a milestone he reached in March of 2002 at 26 years old. A win here would place him in second on the all-time money list behind the legendary Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., and just ahead of Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.
No. 39 seed Luke Clausen of Spokane, Wash., who won the FLW Tour Championship here two years ago as a rookie then went on to win the Bassmaster Classic earlier this year, could add yet another $500,000 win to his list of accomplishments this week. Clausen caught 10 bass weighing 26 pounds, 10 ounces to oust No. 10 seed Tom Monsoor of La Crosse, Wis., who caught 10 bass weighing 20 pounds, 1 ounce.
On the co-angler side, Matthew Parker of Whitesburg, Ga., moved from ninth place to take the lead with a total of eight bass weighing 18 pounds, 6 ounces. The 48 co-anglers compete against the entire field, with the top 24 advancing after day two. Co-angler competition concludes Friday with the winner taking home $25,000 cash.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Fred Martin of North Little Rock, Ark. (10 bass, 17-13); Mark Cummings of Pembroke, N.C. (seven bass, 17-5); Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, S.C. (10 bass, 16-14); and Bob Bjorkland of Centennial, Colo. (10 bass, 16-12).
Parker caught his bass while fishing with Tyson pro Jim Moynagh of Carver, Minn.
The four-day tournament will conclude Saturday with the winning pro walking away $500,000 richer. The top 48 pros and co-anglers from the six-event 2006 Wal-Mart FLW Tour advanced to the no-entry fee championship, the most lucrative bass tournament in the history of the sport. Anglers were seeded according to their year-end ranking.
Championship contenders will take off from Pell City Lakeside Park, located at 2801 Stemley Bridge Road in Pell City at 7 a.m. each day, and daily weigh-ins will be held at 5 p.m. in the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Arena. The outdoor show featuring more than 140 exhibits; fishing seminars by Hank Parker, Forrest L. Wood and other bass-fishing legends; and free daily giveaways runs noon to 9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. Friday is free Berkley tackle day, and Saturday is free rod and reel and free Fujifilm camera day. Daily giveaways are for children 12 and under accompanied by an adult.
One lucky fan attending Saturday’s final weigh-in will also win a new Ranger Z20 Comanche bass boat powered by Yamaha. Three qualifiers will be drawn for the boat giveaway during each day’s 5 p.m. weigh-in, with the final three qualifiers and the eventual winner drawn Saturday. Fans must be present to qualify and win. Admission is free, and entry forms are available at the outdoor show.
The week’s festivities also include a taping of “The Best Dam Sports Show Period” on the Chevy stage in the outdoors show at the BJCC at 1:30 p.m. and a free concert presented by Chevy featuring country artist Craig Morgan at 4 p.m. Saturday in the BJCC Arena.
In addition to the tournament festivities, professional anglers will visit patients ranging in age from 5- to 18-years-old at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham on Friday at 10 a.m. Aside from signing autographs and providing a needed break for the children, the anglers hope to cultivate an appreciation of the environment by teaching about the conservation of fish habitat and being respectful of nature. The anglers will also take this opportunity to explain why more than 50 million people pick up their rods and wet a line each year – because fishing is a fun, wholesome activity the entire family can enjoy.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Series, Stren Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail presented by Abu Garcia, Stratos Owners’ Tournament Trail, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series, Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series and Wal-Mart FLW Striper Series. These circuits offer combined purses exceeding $37.9 million through 249 events in 2006.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournament programs, call (270) 252-1000.
Wal-Mart and many of America’s largest and most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its tournament trails. Wal-Mart signed on as an FLW Outdoors sponsor in 1997 and today is the world’s leading supporter of tournament fishing. For more information about Wal-Mart, visit Wal-Mart.com.
Day Two Notes:
* Tylenol Rapid Release Gels pro Gabe Bolivar of Ramona, Calif., who is also the Gain Rookie of the Year, was edged out by Gary Yamamoto of Mineola, Texas, by a mere ounce.
* Six pros lost by 1 pound or less. Two pros – Tyson’s Jim Moynagh of Carver, Minn., and Gabe Bolivar of Ramona, Calif., lost by 1 ounce. Chevy pro Kim Stricker of Howell, Mich., defeated Moynagh.
* Chevy pro Luke Clausen of Spokane, Wash., celebrated his 28th birthday Thursday.
* Terry Bolton of Paducah, Ky., lost his opening round match to Dean Rojas of Grand Saline, Texas, by 7 ounces and was denied the chance to avenge his 4-ounce lose on Kentucky Lake to Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala. Rojas will now face Kennedy in the semifinal round.
* 13 lower seeds upset their higher seeded opponents.
* Five pros came from behind to advance to the semifinal round.
* The last three FLW Tour Championship winners – Wal-Mart pro George Cochran (2005), Chevy pro Luke Clausen (2004) and Castrol pro David Dudley (2003) – advanced to the semifinal round along with Chevy pro Dion Hibdon (2000). If one of these anglers wins, it would be the first time an angler has won two tour championships.
* David Dudley and Luke Clausen are the two youngest anglers in history to surpass $1 million in career winnings.