COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Professional angler Anthony Gagliardi knows his way around Lake Murray. The Prosperity native has been fishing there for years.
And that knowledge of the lake paid off in 2014 when he won the Fishing League Worldwide Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Murray.
"Lake Murray's been a part of my life as far back as I can remember," he said.
Now that the event is back on the lake this weekend, Gagliardi is going for the $300,00 top prize. He's currently ranked third in FLW 2017 Angler of the Year standings.
"Being familiar with the lake, my knowledge, just growing up here and spending a lot of time here definitely helps," he said. "There's no magic formula. Just because you're from somewhere, I mean, it doesn't always mean that you're able to come out on top in tournaments."
Gagliardi said to compete on the home lake, sometimes he has to put aside all his familiarity with the waters and open his mind to new things.
"You remember so much history about a lake and you get locked into a certain type of fishery or certain places and other guys come in from out of state with a fresh outlook and they see the lake differently," he said.
This is the third time FLW is bringing its bass fishing championship to Lake Murray. It was held here in 2008 and 2014. Gagliardi said his fellow competitive anglers love it.
"You can utilize a lot of techniques here," he said. "there's a lot of different types of water to be able to fish just here on this lake."
The FLW people love Lake Murray, as well. Tap here to read why. Thousands of fans, fishing enthusiasts and casual observers alike, are expected to attend the Forrest Wood Cup events this weekend at venues throughout the Lake Murray and Columbia region.
"Anthony Gagliardi is one of the legends in FLW," said Joseph Opager with the league. "His win in 2014 was a storybook ending. I mean, we couldn't have written a better season for him and for FLW. He's a great ambassador for the sport and it certainly helps bring out the local crowd when they've got a local favorite competing."
"They want interaction with the community and it builds up excitement," Gagliardi said. "That's one of the reasons we're back and it's just a testament to the people here at Lake Murray Country that have really put a lot of effort and time into making this thing as big as it is."
Gagliardi said winning in front of the home crowd in 2014 was special since he spends just about every weekend of the season competing on fisheries across the country.
"To win one of those, in the first place, is pretty special," he said. "But to be able to do ot on your home lake, when you have so many friends and family that are in attendance, and just people from the local community that have expressed support -- that's what really made it so special to me."
Gagliardi has been fishing professionally for 18 years, straight out of Clemson with an engineering degree in hand. That degree helped him design his own line of rods, called Level Performance Rods.
"Knowing that I had something to fall back on if my fishing career didn't take off, at least it allowed me to fish a little bit calmer," he said. "It wasn't like I had to do this and I had to be successful or I didn't know what I was going to do."
Gagliardi also appreciates having a local sponsor like Falcon Boats out of Newberry.
"It's been wonderful to work with a boat company that's, you know, 15 or 20 miles from my house, from up where I live near Dreher Island. They build a tremendous boat and they're great people and to be able to represent a company like that, that his here local, that's been really fun."
Look for Gagliardi on stage at the final weigh-in Sunday afternoon at Colonial Life Arena.