Anthony Gagliardi, an angler from South Carolina, has come to Grand Lake this week to keep his championship hopes alive.

“I had the worst finish of my career to start the season,” Gagliardi said. “It was a terrible start. I wish I could have that first one back.”

Gagliardi came in 165th at Florida’s Lake Okeechobe in February. He hauled in 13 pounds on his best day in a tournament that was won by a 75-pound bag.

Safe to say, it must have been something in the water. In the following months Gagliardi was red hot.

“My next three tournaments were all top 20 finishes,” he said. “So, it’s balanced out pretty good. Going into these last two with a chance to make the cup, I feel pretty good.”

This is Gagliardi’s 14th season as a professional fisherman; he has been patient and earned respect among the ranks, but one thing’s for sure, this profession doesn’t discriminate.

“Fishing changes,” he said. “The fish change, the techniques and tactics change. If you’re not willing to learn, you’re not going to last long in this sport.”

Gagliardi is a master of his craft. He’s taken the time to aggressively learn and develop insider-wisdom throughout the years. It has paid off, too.

His recent success on the water landed him on the cover of FLW Bass Fishing Magazine. In the photo, Gagliardi holds up a monster bass, just the size of fish he’s looking for this week on Grand Lake.

“Once you get to this level, you have to go out of your way to learn,” he said. “You’re usually fishing by yourself and guys aren’t willing to share information and tactics because you’re competing against each other. You have to make it a point to try to learn, otherwise you’ll get into a routine and before you know it everyone has passed you by.”

Heavy rain storms have flooded the Neosho and Spring rivers, raising the water level on the lake and posing a challenge for the anglers. The trouble now is that high waters and unstable conditions create an ever-changing fishing environment. What works today might not yield the same results tomorrow.

“To win, I think you’re looking somewhere around the 18-20 pound range (daily),” Gagliardi said. “But the amount of mud that has been pushed in over the last couple of days will be the biggest obstacle to overcome.”

The South Carolina native is nearly a thousand miles from home, but not far from the top. He’s ranked No. 29 in the FLW Tour Angler of the Year standings, safely inside the top-50.

It’s not where he wants to stay, but it’s something that millions of people dream of having. This week, Gagliardi will throw everything he has at another chase for the title, and he offered words of advice for anyone who hopes to one day do the same.

“People say all the time there is nos substitute for time on the water,” he said. “If this is really what you want to do, then you need to make sure to get out on the water as much as possible and to expose yourself to a lot of different situations and bodies of water.

“If this is what you love, stick with it; it’s a great career. Get after it and stay after it.”