Adrian Avena joins the Bassmaster Elite Series as a rookie with an already impressive resume for an angler his age. At 25, his previous three years of tour experience are impressive for someone who picked up bass fishing only seven years ago.
What the New Jersey pro credits the most for his elite status isn’t what you might expect.
Avena made it to bass fishing’s elite level by first mastering his skills as a saltwater angler. Today, he operates Jersey Boy Charters, a successful charter boat company in Cape May, N.J., that includes a 43-foot offshore cabin cruiser, center console boats and plenty of satisfied clients.
“Mentally, my saltwater experience helped tremendously because of the wide range of movements those species make in the open water,” said Avena, who specializes in guiding for Atlantic striped bass during the off-season.
“What I quickly learned was that bass stay on the move too, and understanding how they relate to cover was my biggest challenge.”
He conquered that challenge with his already keen understanding of using electronics to locate far-ranging saltwater gamefish. The learning curve got straightened even more with the side-scan technology common on fishfinders used in bass fishing.
Tracing movements of bass in tidal fisheries became familiar. Patterns came together and made more sense. The open-mindedness kicked in, and soon he was on his way to success in both angling worlds.
Avena discovered bass fishing as a student athlete at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. He was already on the tennis team when he joined the bass fishing team to compete in both sports.
“As a youth, I was always involved in sports, and it progressed to being more goal-driven to win,” he said. “I enjoyed it, too, but there had to be a balance.”
Bass fishing became an obsession. He picked up a tennis racket less and the fishing rod more. Bass fishing won the competition of his time and interest. Avena graduated with a degree in business administration and took up fishing full-time.
Avena fished the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens and the FLW Tour. He qualified for two Forrest Wood Cups through the FLW Tour, which he’s leaving after three successful seasons to fish exclusively with B.A.S.S.
Avena won the 2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Opens presented by Allstate points title using the ghosts of his fishing past. He started the season with a third-place finish on the tidal James River, then finished 19th at Oneida Lake and 20th at the finale on Lake Erie. The prevailing strong winds from nearby Lake Ontario kept the bass on the move during the Oneida Open. The same scenario panned out at Erie. Saltwater similarities proved beneficial.
“I did well at both tournaments by avoiding getting locked into a daily pattern,” he said. “The wind-driven current at both lakes factored in a lot like it does in the ocean.”
Avena’s strong competitive discipline should benefit him in the Elite Series. So will his work ethic.
“I learned on the FLW Tour that everyone does the homework,” said Avena. “The guys who perform with an edge are mentally sharp, but they work at it from daylight to dark.”
He will have lots of company on the Elite Series where everyone indeed does the homework. His competitive edge will come on tidal fisheries and any large impoundments where bass movements are difficult to track.
Those variables cover much of the 2016 schedule, giving Avena more chances to prove his saltwater background is more than coincidence at bass fishing’s most elite level.