|FLW photo by Jeff Samsel|
From the onset, I'll acknowledge that the other angler was in the area first. Also, it's public water, and he had every right to stay and fish. Many anglers likely would have stepped back, knowing what was as stake for someone else, but that's a personal choice. That said, Gagliardi didn't claim otherwise. He never asked the other angler to yield or did anything to try to push him away. He simply joined him fishing the area.
Regarding the question of moving in on someone else's spot, I believe an important distinction must be made. The other angler was not fishing a defined hotspot, such as a sweet spot on top of a hump, a specific brushpile or a dock. He was working an area where the bass were schooling. On virtually any lake where fish school on the surface, whether those fish are largemouths, stripers, white bass of something else, anglers commonly run those school together. The whole cove doesn't belong to the first angler on the lake. And while I couldn't hear every word spoken, by my understanding, the other angler didn't object to Gagliardi fishing near him. He didn't like the of armada of onlookers that saw his area, and that would have been the same whether they actually had fished 100 yards from one another or 10 feet apart.
Gagliardi also didn't crowd the other angler. He did move to the same area, but the other angler actually did far more pushing tight to Gagliardi's boat and shadowing every shift, based on what I saw. Again, though, they were fishing schoolers, so they both adjusted positions based on where the fish were breaking.
Closely related, I think Gagliardi's comment in the press conference that he threw over the other angler a couple of times made it sound like he was being a bully and felt self important because of the tournament. That wasn't the case. They both threw across one another a couple of times. That happens sometimes when you're chasing schoolers and one suddenly comes up. You only have a moment when bass are eating herring, so you react. A fish comes up, and you cast to it. Occasionally that puts you across the other angler, or, if the fish are sort of between you, your baits might land simultaneously side-by-side.
Most importantly, Gagliardi never said a harsh word. Even when told that he needed to "get a real job," he didn't counter with anything negative. He simply told the other angler that he'd caught fish there the previous day and was going to stay and fish that school, and then he quietly went about his business. He represented FLW and tournament bass fishing well, as I know he will continue to do as Forrest Wood Cup champion.