Adrian Avena, aka “Jersey Boy”, was born and raised in New Jersey. He pursued his dream starting on the FLW Tour for four years, then competed on the Bassmaster Elite Series for three years (2016-2018). In 2019 and 2020, he competed on the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour. In 2021 he fished the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour and the Pro Circuit tour.
In the offseason, Adrian is passionate about saltwater fishing. He runs a saltwater charter business (Jersey Boy Charters) out of Cape May, New Jersey, and captained his crew to first place in the 2020 White Marlin Open.
What does it mean to be a Jersey Boy?
To me, being a Jersey Boy is all about having access to water, both salt and fresh. It’s about spending summers at shore towns, spending my childhood at the beach, fishing saltwater.
How has being a Jersey Boy shaped you as a fisherman?
That access to water, particularly saltwater, has made me a better tournament bass fisherman. For example, saltwater fishing is the reason I’m successful when it comes to using electronics in fishing. Fifteen years ago, electronics were a bigger player in saltwater fishing than in freshwater, and I got a lot of experience using sonar to find fish in open water.
New Jersey isn’t known for its bass fishing. How did growing up freshwater bass fishing in New Jersey affect the way you fish tournaments?
When I jumped to freshwater fishing in New Jersey, it was tough fishing. The fishing is a grind. I think more than anything, my mental game was shaped by fishing in New Jersey waters.
So many of the ponds, lakes, and rivers are small, many of them are electric motor only. The areas you can fish are limited, and you can circle the entire pond in two hours. The fish are highly pressured. It forced me to become a good strategic finesse fisherman.
I also fished a lot of tidal tributaries in New Jersey where I gained experience that prepared me for fishing the larger tidal rivers where tournaments are held, like the Potomac.
You also fish offshore tournaments for big game species like white marlin and tuna. How different is that type of competitive fishing?
At the end of the day, fishing is fishing. And even though it’s very different, there are some parallels. Someone once told me that 90% of bass are offshore, not tied to shoreline structure. So that’s where the experience of fishing saltwater, offshore, in open water, has influenced the way I fish. It’s not about target fishing; it’s about using my Simrad unit on my saltwater boat or Lowrance unit on my bass boat and looking for bait and fish.
Offshore saltwater fishing has also shaped the way I think about bass fishing. Fishing for migratory species, every day is different. It trains you to read the conditions, and rely on fresh information and instincts, not history. It makes you more adaptive and responsive as an angler.
What’s your favorite way to fish for bass?
It’s definitely offshore, away from shoreline structure, fishing suspended fish, which is atypical for bass fishermen. Using forward-looking sonar has been revolutionary for this type of fishing. I love fishing with vertical presentations and using swimbaits.
What’s your favorite body of water to fish in New Jersey?
In saltwater, it would be fishing out of Cape May and heading to the canyons for tuna, mahi, marlin. You never know what will happen when you’re fishing the canyons.
In freshwater, it would be the Maurice River, a small tidal tributary of Delaware Bay. It’s where I learned how to understand the effects tides have on bass, to be able to predict where fish would be at different stages of the tides. I have to credit the Maurice River for the reason I’ve had success on bigger rivers like the Potomac, when fishing tournaments.
What do you do to keep busy in the offseason?
Late fall into winter, I do some commercial conch fishing. The timing of commercial conch season fits perfectly with my schedule of tournaments and saltwater fishing, and it gives me the chance to be outside, on the ocean. Growing up, I always wanted to make my living, year-round, on the water.
Wintertime conch fishing off the Jersey Shore must be pretty harsh. Does that toughen you up for tournament fishing in bad weather?
Honestly, I hear it all the time—people think that if you grow up in the Northeast, you must be immune to bad weather. The truth is that I hate being cold as much as anyone else. We just learn, from an early age, how to dress for the weather. My dad used to tell me, “You can always take off layers if you get warm, but you can’t add layers if you don’t bring them.” We always left the dock dressed for the elements. It’s why I wear Grundéns whether I’m fishing bass, stripers, or commercial fishing—they make the strongest, most reliable footwear and clothing, it’s the only brand I trust to keep me warm, dry and protected from the elements. You don’t have to be tough to stay out on the water in all kinds of weather—the best way to handle harsh conditions is simply to dress for them.
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