CTF name: Joe.G
Real name: Joe Gagliardo
Age: 44
Current city: North Stonington, CT
Hometown: Norwich, CT
Family members: Wife Gina, Daughter Olivia (Liv), Sons. Joseph & James.
Occupation: Owner, Recovery Resources

1. You caught a 9-pound, 1-oz. largemouth in CT. (Pictured above.) Tell us the details...where, when, how, etc.
The details to this kind of fishing are pretty basic. Locate the structure, get your bait in the zone and drag / shake it slowly. That was pretty much all I was doing when that fish hit. There is nothing like a jig bite IMO.

I was actually out on a trial run with my boat assessing some early season problems and stumbled onto a beautiful day that turned out to be one of my best fishing days ever.

I was at Beach Pond in Voluntown, CT. I have a love/hate relationship with Beach as it can be one of the stingiest lakes in the state as some of you know. It also can make you shake like a kid with excitement. It was May and there were some fish up shallow. I threw a jerk bait for awhile but made the decision to go deep and went to a jig. It wasnít long before I got into some bass.

That particular day, I threw a jig up on the edge of a submerged rock that sits somewhere in 15-20 feet of water. In truth itís an obvious spot, but for some reason it doesnít get fished that often. I fished a tourney a couple of years back and watched the entire field take off flying right by. I gave it a few minutes, then pulled up and tossed a ľ-oz stalker jig and nailed a six-pounder for my first fish. I pretty much did the same thing when I caught the nine-pound fish. If memory serves me ,I caught a few good fish that day as a follow up to that toad. That would have been a nice bag to weigh in at a tourney. I could only wish.

2. Do you think a state record largemouth is out there swimming in our waters?
Absolutely. Even if we donít include the reservoirs Iím sure there is a pig out there. The year I caught the 9.1 there was a 9.14 taken during a night tourney on Beach. That being said, I think there has to be a few toads somewhere in this state that could tip the scales in the twelve-pound range. Maybe denial is bliss, but Iím fishing for that pig for the next 30 years (God willing).

3. Not necessarily naming specific lakes, what are your top 3 tips for landing a lunker largemouth in CT?
First and foremost, you have to fish lakes that have big fish in it. Sounds dumb, I know, but there are a lot of fishermen out there who are much better tourney anglers than me who havenít landed one over seven. The reason being is they simply put most of their time in lakes that have reasonably smaller fish.

When fishing for big fish I focus on smaller bodies of water that are relatively deep and have good amount of rocks. CT has a lot of small (100 Ė 400 acre) lakes that fit that description. Smaller lakes makes locating the offshore structure that much easier. It also should have trout in it. Bass that eat trout get big. I like the rocks for the obvious reasons, good structure that generally hide crayfish. The feel of dragging a jig over rocks is exciting in itself when using quality tackle. You feel everything which really helps paint a picture of what is down there.

A lake map is a must and there is just no way around putting your time in on a body of water. By using the lake map and a seasonal / weather pattern you can eliminate parts of the lake (or at least try), then focus on areas that you have confidence in.

The map will show you extended points and humps that are generally a good place to start looking. At that point, the hunt begins. Just start looking by doing a zig-zag with your boat and watching your electronics, or simply put some time in and fish the spots that look good to you. I always try to have a reason for what I am doing. I think my biggest pet peeve in fishing is aimless casting. Having a legit reason for fishing an area is imperative to me.

The shoreline will provide you with details, as well. A sloping shoreline bank should give you a quicker drop off. I try to look to see if there are rocky areas on the shore that may have been something years ago that had protruded out into the water. There could be wood piles from clearing a house lot or and old foundation from a cottage -- all clues that there may be something out deeper in front of them. All need exploring.

When fishing deep, open water spots I typically make long casts. I use a 7í heavy action Loomis or Shimano rod and good fluorocarbon line (Gamma). I donít go much higher than 8 Ė 10-lb. test in open water. I use a smaller bait casting reel like a Chronarch mg 50 which makes throwing a 1/8-oz. to 3/8-oz. jig pretty sweet all day.

If I have a feeling about a spot, I will fish it hard and stay on it long. Sometimes too long (in tournament situations) but you have to trust your instincts.

I also try to find the spot on a spot so to speak. This definitely includes boat positioning. I have spots that I just can buy a fish if Iím on the east side throwing west, but switch it around, and BANG they nail it.

Another example might be fishing an extended rocky point that has a few small pieces of wood on it that is hard to locate in 20í of water. There could be fish scattered throughout the point, but finding the small isolated wood on the rocks could put you on better fish.

Typically, I only throw a few colors, black, black & gold, black & blue and green pumpkin. I have been fishing jigs for about 20 years and have boated many over seven. I donít know the actual number but it is over two dozen. I have three over eight and one over nine. I had one fish in CT that I thought might be ten pounds, but that was the one of course that got away.

Joe with a 7-pound largemouth.

4. You've made a few bass fishing trips to Mexico. Tell us about how good the fishing is. What kinds of gear and lures do you use? What is your biggest Mexico bass? What is the biggest you have seen in person? Do you plan to go back?
El Salto and Baccarac are exceptional lakes and words cannot describe the scenery. Baccarac is the hot lake right now but they do swing over time. I did a lot or research prior to going five years ago and decided to go with an outfit called Pro Bass Adventures.

They have great people there that understand fishing and have Ranger boats (on Salto). The important thing is they have electronics and a few guides that can pattern the fish.

I use a seven-foot heavy action rod and a 7 Ďmedium-heavy action rod for everything else. You donít want to carry to many rods as they can get lost. Most times I use their tackle that includes pretty decent BPS rods and Curados. Imagine fishing a jig in 30í of water with 25-lb. P-line, getting a bite, setting the hook and...itís not moving, then it starts to move and you canít stop it. You pump it, reel quickly and suddenly your stuck in wood and you're all done.

Joe with a 10.5-lb. bass he caught on a trip to El Salto, Mexico.

You sit there for a minute and fester on what just happened and consider that the fish you just had on could have been a 15 or 16 lbs. That happened to me a few times, and even though I lost some giants it was still was an amazing experience. Lying in bed at night pondering that feeling of power that some of these fish have that got away surely makes for some sleepless nights.

Carolina rigging is big down there and it works great. Big 9Ē lizards in watermelon / red flake were the color just about every time I was there. We also caught big fish swimming big 1-oz. white jigs w/ a twin tail trailer. It was a different type of jig fishing that included crawling the bait just off the bottom very steady. There was one trip to El Salto where there was a top water bite that was sick. We used Zoom frogs one day and literally had to throw them up onto the bank.

The water was down about thirty feet so when the bait came off of the bank it was a straight shot down about 20 Ė 25 feet and the bass were sitting tight on the edge. If you hit the water they would spook and if you hit the bank to hard the bait would suck into the mud and you couldnít pop it off w/o getting a slingshot effect.

When you put it all together and hopped the bait gently off the bank it was like clockwork. What a sight to see, the explosions were the most vicious Iíve ever seen and the anticipation was second to none. I had my chances at giants and did manage five fish over 10 with the biggest going 10.8.

Lake El Salto

There was a boat only a few hundred yards away fishing the same flat as me and they caught a 12- and a 13-lber. within minutes of each other. Once the cheering started we asked if we could pop in and take a look and it was quite a sight to see.

We couldnít get anything bigger than 8ís that day but when youíre getting 6, 7ís and 8ís all day complaining shouldnít be in your vocabulary.

I have had some bad days down there too. Fishing is fishing no matter where you are I guess. When I say bad days it was partly due to a friendship gone bad with a guide / friend I had made over the years. Add a tough bite and it wasnít fun. We still managed twenty fish a day with one going over 8, but in Mexico that is not considered stellar numbers.

I used a Findbass giant Mino and a Jighead 10Ē stick bait both which produced fish over nine pounds for me, my brother or my friend Doug from Arizona. At Baccarac there is a small store on the resort, an older gent named Russ runs the store and at the end of my trip I donated the remainder of Jigheads 10Ē baits. A few months later I was informed that he had made some name changes and started selling them under Russís secret Senko.

If youíre looking for a top water bite, November on Baccarac is the time to go. Just make sure you replace your hooks with solid beefed up hooks or they will destroy them. Popping in November can be crazy, it reminds me of fishing for stripers except they're green and I think more violent.

5. Besides fishing down south, you've fished up north in Maine. Why is Maine a good bass fishing destination?
Maine is a beautiful place. The scenery is amazing and the available lakes and ponds are crazy. Everywhere you look there is a lake. I think its simple math in Maine. Thereís a lot of water and fish vs. fewer fishermen, the exact opposite of CT. I mostly enjoy the Ďgetawayí that Maine provides us.

It takes Jighead and I three hours to get to our place on Sebago. I know our area well enough now that it has a home type of feeling about it. The fishing is part of the equation. Good company, good food and lots of laughs. This year Buckcall and Booty will be joining us and Iím looking forward to this trip more than Mexico.

The one thing Iím learning about Maine is that the LMB bite is much better than I knew. Iíve gotten some tips from some ex-Maine guys who now live in CT on the LMB fishing there and I was really surprised at the numbers of big largies there.

In hindsight why I was surprised I donít know. Pretty stupid on my part not to think there wasnít big lmbs up there. The smallies are so abundant there that you can easily catch one hundred fish per day when they are in pre-spawn mode. We have yet to find a lake that has giants in it as far as smallmouth goes but have caught dozens upon dozens of fish in the four + lb range.

Fellow CTF member, Jighead, with a batch of Maine smallies.

6. What tips can you share with an angler who does not do a lot of fishing with a jig?
Iím no expert by any means but I would suggest just throwing it and throwing it a lot. Try some finesse jigs to potentially increase the number of bites. That may help to build your confidence with the overall jig bite.

Take a black jig with a well proportioned trailer and just chuck it anywhere you would throw your other baits. Bass will hit a jig on the drop so watch your line and be alert when itís falling.

Let it hit the bottom and do some small hops, a slow drag / shake and even dead stick it. Watch your line closely because sometimes the bite can be a very subtle line jump or you might see it slowly heading left or right. Swings are free so Iíve always lived by that theory, if you think itís a fish swing away. Hopefully you will have a day when their just crushing the jig. If (and I hope it does) that happens you will be hooked forever.

The structure youíre throwing at is generally isolated and of course away from the boat. Make sure you donít waste your time dragging the bait all the way back to the boat if there is no reason too. Know what you are throwing at and how big it is in relation to you so you keep your bait in the strike zone.

Keep at it and trust that you will catch better fish by doing it. Use a heavy fast action rod, and if you can try a good fluorocarbon for feel. It makes the process much more interesting which in turn will keep you focused more and your bait will stay in the strike zone longer.

7. What strategies and lures do you rely on when targeting deep water bass?
I think I covered most of what I know and do in relation to deep water fishing. Primarily I throw a jig, tube or worm. Two years ago I started throwing swim baits and I also started drop shotting with some level of seriousness. Deep-water jigging will produce big fish for you OR it will make for a long day if they're not feeding on crayfish directly on the bottom.

8. What are some of the most rewarding things about being a father to three young kids?
Being a father is everything to me. My wife and I had some hard times early in our marriage in relation to this issue so every day to me is not taken for granted. I could not imagine life with out my children. I started late in life as Iím 44 and my kids are seven, five and two. I canít nail down one thing as most all of my life revolves around them. Just knowing that you are the one, the one that they rely on for everything is pretty awesome.

I do everything with my kids. I appreciate the day to day stuff with them. One of the hardest things for me about fishing trips is being away from home. Iím happy that I waited until later in life to have children as I am much more available to my kids than I ever could have been earlier in life.

Joe typing his "20 Questions" with his three helpers.

9. When did you get into fishing and what is your most memorable fishing experience?
I started fishing at an early age like many CTFers. I grew up in Norwich and was literally a stones throw from the Thames River. My father had seven brothers and they all were avid outdoorsmen. There wasnít anything that they werenít into.

If it wasnít fishing season it was hunting season. From pouring jigs (uppermans) to bow hunting, target shooting, scuba diving etc, etc. They primarily targeted stripers and trout. They did some offshore fishing seasonally as well. If I wasnít fishing with them I was tagging along with my older brother Frank. Or should I say trying to anyway.

We lived close enough to the river so that I would fish with my friends even at an early age. Things were different in the early 70ís. I had to be home for lunch and when the street lights came on. Other than that I was at the river. We fished for catfish and carp.

If you want to learn to fight a fish, try carp fishing w/ push buttons from the 70s. A can of corn was also necessary or boiled potatoes if fishing for carp. We used small gear and lost a lot of fish. We also learned valuable lessons about fighting fish as well. Even as a kid we let most go. We of course had some knuckle head moments and did some stupid things but for the most part I enjoyed watching them swim off.

During the early 70ís there was an active group in Norwich, (The Norwich Striper Club). A group of old timers that were passionate about fishing and I felt lucky that they let me hang out with them and watch. The legal size back then was 16Ē and every now and again they would let me reel one in that was small enough for a 7 or 8 y/o kid to handle. I think I got one once that went about 12 lbs or so and it was one of my best days ever. I think about those guys often and have good memories from the old days. They would yell at me like I was one of the boys. I remember one guy would always say, "If you're not losing jigs then your not fishing them right." I thought "idiot," but it didnít take long to figure out what he meant.

During the months of April and May the guys from the striper club and others would fish the river hard with blue-black herring, buckies as the locals called them. I would go down after school on any given day and find dead buckies everywhere. To me it was bullhead bait. From there it was a piece of broken glass to cut the bait into chunks and a small can of hooks from the local universal store. Remember the cans of hooks? They had like six good ones and about 200 long shank number 8ís. Maybe a stretch but it was something like that anyway. I had a Zebco 202, then a 404 and then graduated to a Daiwa that had no bail but to me it was the best thing since sliced bread. Eventually I was able to afford my own gear through mowing lawns and raking leaves.

Penn and Mitchell had the market cornered back then. I eventually had a Mitchell 308 for bass and a Penn 720 for trout. I had two Penn 704s for stripers that I still have to this day, along with a bunch of bail springs as these reels were known to pop the springs often. I did manage to purchase a Quick reel that was very nice but lost it in a hairy river excursion one spring. I worked long and hard to save for that reel and had it for two or three weeks before it went in the drink.

Eventually I evolved into fly fishing and was obsessed. My brother and I spent countless hours learning to tie flies and understand the rivers and streams. We fished rivers a lot and had our share of fun stories from wading the white waters with the fly rods. The last fly rod I purchased was a Thomas & Thomas (T&T). I believe out of New Hampshire, maybe Vermont, Itís been nearly 25 years. The store rep at the time conveyed to us that Ronald Reagan had just purchased a new fly rod from them. An indicator of how long itís been since I made a purchase.

As I grew older I spent more time with my uncles and fished a lot with one particular uncle who could catch anything, anywhere. I remember him saying those exact words about his uncle Joe. My uncle Bill (Billy G) was sharp and if he did something he did it with passion and intellect. He was 63 when he passed from lung cancer, that same year I quit smoking. Itís been 14 years now and I think of him every day.

He motivated all of his brothers, they did everything together. When he died they pretty much stopped fishing all together. He was a great angler. He started fishing for holdovers in the Thames many years ago. Iím not exactly sure of the time frames but my first trips with him were when I was 17ish so that would be around 1981. There werenít many fishing the winters at that time.

One of my last outings with him was a blue shell crabbing trip. I was 30 and he was 63. I vividly remember feeling bad because I just couldnít keep up with him. He was rugged and active, more so than most guys I knew my age. He was an amazing fisherman and a better man.

I had fished some small tourneys while my uncle was still alive and we actually started jig fishing together five or so years before he became sick. After he became Ill I focused everything on bass and the story pretty much ends and starts there. Iím a bass fanatic.

A Mexico 9-pounder alongside a 4-pounder.

10. We have two custom plastic bait makers on CTF -- Jighead & FindBass. What would you say to an angler who hasn't tried one of their baits?
Simply put, I would say take a look at them and put them in your hands. If thereís anything that youíre interested in talk to them and start the creative process. I think thatís the thing Iíve liked the most about knowing both of them is that I have an opportunity to be creative and maybe be a part of a design. Its pretty exciting stuff when you start thinking about making a bait. Not that I have either the brains or the talent that they do, but I try to lean or push my way in.

11. Do you have any fish-that-got-away stories that still haunt you?
There is nothing that comes to mind. Iíve lost my share of fish but the story ends the same way every time, "and then I lost it." I did however hook into a big fish once a few years back while live lining hickory shad for stripers in October. I had lost two fish previously and re-spooled w/ 65-lb. braid. I had bluefish chopping me in half occasionally as well and was contemplating leaving when it happened. All of a sudden my baitcaster started to let out line.

At first slowly then it picked up. It wasnít with blazing speed but fast enough to get my blood pumping. I set the hook and the fight was on. I had been fishing this long flat that historically holds big stripers late in the year, so I was psyched. This fish was strong. I was using a nine-foot Loomis rod with a 650 Shimano bait runner and I couldnít stop it. I actually had to start my big motor. I followed the fish and tried to steer my boat making every attempt to pump him in and catch up on some lost line. We went out deep into the channel then back onto this shallow flat somewhere around four-feet deep.

My line suddenly stopped and it just didnít move. I could feel the vibration still, some sort of energy but no movement. The water is four to five feet so Iím thinking I can get a look but as I make a last ditch effort to pull it closer this head pops up and makes this god awful sound.

I freaked of course and for a split second didnít know what to make of this thing. Then I saw clearly that I had hooked a good sized seal and the realization set in that I was pretty much screwed. Iím alone in shallow water with a hundred lb seal hooked. The words WTF came to mind. Before I could do anything the hook popped out and that was that. I was visibly shaking and couldnít wait to tell the story.

12. Do you do any saltwater fishing?
As I stated in some previous questions my first 20 years of fishing included some intense striper fishing. I continue to fish for them but with far less energy. Mostly at night in the winter and I try to get some top water action in mid to late May.

A partially submerged Virgin Mary statue in Mexico.

13. Do you have a dream fishing trip you'd like to go on?
I would like to try fishing for Peacock Bass but Iím not too thrilled about getting there.

At this stage in life I prefer quality company while fishing rather than an anything goes type of trip. Iíd much rather have a bunch of guys go to Maine and have fun and catch fish then go to Mexico alone. I do want to catch a giant tarpon and a big shark. Iím also somewhat impulsive so if I get the bug I may up and go somewhere crazy at the drop of a dime.

I want to start spending time on Lake Champlain. Iíve read enough of Rich Zís reports to think that I must be stupid not to get up to this killer fishing spot that is really only about three and a half hours from me.

Lake Baccarac, Mexico.

14. Let's talk music. What are some of your favorite bands?
I have always been an old rock guy. Iím very much into music and have decent sound systems in every car and boat. I am versatile in what I listen too and depending on my mood it could vary from Judas Priest to Carol King. Led Zeppelin has always been a steady for me. Iíve always been a Zep head and am still hopeful for this reunion to happen. If it does you can trust that I will be there.

Van Halen, Bad Company, Cream, and Aerosmith (70s) Early Sabbath, Rainbow, The Beatles. A big Dio fan. The list could go on and on and I continue to look for bands with that sound but I find that itís hard to come by. I had a great year for concerts that included Roger Waters doing the Dark Side of the Moon and the Wall tunes. I was 3rd row center at the meadows thanks to Chris.

I also saw Van Halen twice. Once at the Sun and the other was front row center at the Garden in Boston. Iíve been lucky to have a ticket connection that Iíve finally taken advantage of. Maybe a mid life crisis but the concert thing has been a lot of fun. EVH sat down two feet from me to do a solo. I had to step back to get him in full view in the camera.

Roger Waters in concert.

15. How has CTF changed your fishing?
Iíve benefited a lot from CTF. The opportunity to connect with people from all over the state is very cool to me. I can be a chatty kind of person and like people so I fit in pretty well. Iíve made some good friends and fished with a lot of new people. The outings and small tourneys we have are second to none. I donít think most know how good it really is to have no (to little) BS involved in relation to the tourneys we have.

To be able to get together have some quality competition and party like we do is hard to come by. When I say party I mean eat. If everyone could see the buffet style feed at some of these events you would really get a kick out of it. It certainly is the real deal. Thereís so much more than I can say about this place as far as what I take from it.

To have the opportunity to read posts from guys like Rich Z and follow the recent FLW salt tourney is amazing to me. The talent that is here is priceless. I canít for the life of me think why anyone wouldnít pay for the site, even if it is reluctantly.

Van Halen in concert.

16. Outside of fishing, what other hobbies/interests do you enjoy?
Iím with family most of my time. We are fortunate to have a big extended family and everyone sees each other regularly. We gather at my house often to cookout swim and simply spend time together. We literally meet at least twice a week and just hang out together. Whatever we do is secondary.

With three young children and a business I donít have a lot of time for much. I like gadgets. Anything electronic Iím interested in. I also collect sunglasses. I think I have about 25 pair now.

As Iíve previously stated I go to concerts and enjoy a good comedian. I recently started playing the guitar. I played a very long time ago and only for a short period so I pretty much suck but love to spend time practicing. I like to cook and do most of the cooking in my house. I am a long time (37 years) Red Sox fan and go to some games during the year.

Then there are the Bills. The Buffalo Bills, Iím a freak fan and have been since I was eight. I am a member of two chat sites and frequently discuss my misery w/ my fellow buffalonians.

17. What is the biggest hardship you have had to overcome in your life?
I donít mind sharing intimate details with people. Most people are concerned with appropriate boundaries and privacy issues. I operate a major health care company that spews boundaries, professional ethics, confidentiality, hippa etc. I sometimes tire of the strictness of it all.

When asked, I always take the time to share a story to remind people of mine and their own vulnerability. I see it daily and appreciate the health and ability that I have every day. I try not to take anything for granted. It can be taken from you in one second.

My wife and I were just married and happy. We both worked full time jobs but had been planning different businesses since we met. We were sure that we would be successful. After weeding out some alternatives we started Recovery Resources and life started to look really good, all was going according to plan. Everything was just working right, for once in my life.

My wife then became pregnant and of course it got even better. With my extended family the news traveled fast and everyone was excited. I think it was around the three or four month check up that we found out that we were to have identical twin boys. It just kept getting better and I was in awe of how my life went from punching a clock to starting a business, working for my self and now having twin boys with a great woman.

I donít remember the exact time frame, but I think it was about at five and half months my wife came home crying from a routine exam. My twins were dieing and my wife was in jeopardy if she went full term. It was a bad scene and it ended pretty tough. We lost them both. It was after the time frames for aborting so a delivery was necessary.

Anyway, we spiraled downward, she more than me. I think a typical response from a mother. It was devastating and changed me forever. I had to a latch on to faith at that point and keep the business going. We nearly didnít make it together but to shorten the story we lived and moved on. We have three beautiful kids today and a business that employs over 150 people.

Joe and his lovely wife, Gina.

18. Besides a rod, reel or boat, what is the most important piece of fishing gear you have bought in the last 10 years?
Side view Imaging by Hummingbird. No-brainer.

A look at the fish-finder in Mexico.

19. If you were put in charge of the DEP, would you make any changes to current regulations?
I knew this question was coming and I still donít know how to answer it. I think one important lesson Iíve learned by operating a business is letting people that have expertise in an area do their job and donít let power or ego get in the way. You can have a genius level IQ but if youíre not equipped with good ego strength you turn out to be your own worst enemy.

I think the only real thing I would do is to advocate for more funding to help enforce the laws that we have in place now. I would like to see bodies of water treated individually. Each lake presents with its own set of problems as Iím sure does bays, rivers and coastlines.

20. Do you have any specific fishing goals for 2008?
My main goal is to spend more time on the water and try not to be uptight about anything, life is too short. I am on my third or fourth year of using crank baits and I put in a lot of time with them. Iíve started to gain good confidence in them and have placed in tourneys with them.

I want to enhance that skill more and utilize smaller swim baits. I want to drop shot more as well. I would like to make more quality posts as I once did here. It was hard the last few years as I didnít have much to report.

Joe outside of Cheers on the day of the Red Sox World Series parade and Van Halen concert.