Editor's note: Adrian Avena finished this year's Bass Pro Shop's Northern Opens with 561 points and took first place in the 2015 Northern Opens standings. Avena landed in the Top 20 of all three Northern Opens this year including a third place finish in the Northern Open #1, and he had more than $20,000 in total winnings.
Adrian “Jersey Boy” Avena grew up saltwater fishing near home in southern New Jersey. It wasn’t until the summer preceding his college freshman year that he tried fishing without live bait.
One day that summer Avena was trolling crankbaits at a small lake from a 14-foot johnboat powered by an electric motor.
“I knew nothing about bass fishing then,” Avena said.
One of Avena’s neighbors, an avid bass angler named Dominico Simone, happened to be fishing the same lake that day. Simone recognized Avena and waved him over. Then Simone pulled a 6-pound bass from his livewell.
“I had never seen a fish that big from freshwater,” Avena said.
That bass changed the course of Avena’s life. Today, at age 25, Avena is a professional tournament fisherman with over $300,000 in winnings.
Avena pocketed most of that cash by fishing FLW tournaments. He also competes in the Bassmaster Northern Opens with an eye on the Elite Series. With only Lake Erie left on the 2015 Northern Open schedule, Avena is fourth in the AOY standings, only seven points behind leader Dave Lefebre.
Slender and athletic, Avena attended Chestnut Hill Collegeon a tennis scholarship in the fall of 2009. The sight of Simone’s 6-pound bass prompted Avena to join with some of his classmates and form the Chestnut Hill College Fishing Team. The club allowed them to participate in FLW College Series bass tournaments.
Avena competed in collegiate bass tournaments during his freshman and sophomore years, as well as many local events near home. His fishing skill and knowledge grew exponentially over this time.
In his junior year at college, Avena found himself at a crossroads. He had played tennis for his college team in his freshman and sophomore years.
“I was a Division II collegiate tennis player,” Avena said. “I knew I didn’t have the skill level to compete professionally in that sport.”
Avena decided to drop tennis and focus on a professional bass fishing career. His coach and professors didn’t know there was such a thing as a professional bass angler. They questioned his sanity.
Despite the naysayers, Avena added the Rayovac series to his tournament schedule. He won the first of these events at Lake Champlain and finished the year second in the AOY standings.
“I decided to take the money I won and invest it in a tournament fishing career,” Avena said. “I’ve been at it ever since.”
Although Avena dropped out of tennis, he continued his education and graduated with a B.A. in Business Administration. His coach and professors now realize that tournament bass fishing is a true profession and respect what he is doing.
Avena’s old tennis coach recently sent a text to him requesting a “Jersey Boy” T-shirt.
Avena’s “Jersey Boy” T-shirts are printed by NuThreadz, one of his sponsors. His primary sponsor is Rigid Industries. Other sponsors include A.R.E. truck caps, Halo fishing rods, Reaction Innovations lures, Zorro Bait Company and Bass Cat Boats.