Vineland college student catches $29,000 fishing

Vineland resident Adrian Avena shows his two biggest catches Saturday at a professional bass fishing tournament on Lake Champlain in New York.

FLW Outdoors photo by Dave E. Brown

Adrian Avena entered the EverStart Series Northern Division tournament on Lake Champlain, N.Y., on Thursday against 114 other professional bass fishers.

Avena, 20, led the competition after each of the three days and left as the champion and with $29,153 in prize money.

"It just feels amazing," Avena, of Vineland, said in a telephone interview Sunday.

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The event, which ended Sunday, was held on the New York lake. Avena and his competition were judged by the total weight of their catches. After the first day, Avena was atop the leaderboard with 21 pounds, 3 ounces - the only fisherman who reeled in more than 20 pounds.

On Friday, Avena slipped to 16-10 but still hung onto the overall lead. On Saturday, his catch was 20-3, giving him an even 58 pounds for the tournament.

His three-day total was 3-12 ounces ahead of runner-up Aaron Wessels, of Watervilet, N.Y., who earned $9,995.

Avena, a 2008 Sacred Heart High School graduate who will be a junior at Chesnut Hill College in Philadelphia, said he was grateful to have won.

"I'm friendly with a lot of professional bass fishermen," Avena said. "And a lot of guys go a whole career without winning one. They said that's really hard to do."

Avena's strategy during the event was much the same each day. He made his way to the lake's south end and focused his efforts on a small drain running out of a creek.

The drain featured a lot of grass and submerged wood that provided a feeding zone for fish.

He found instant success in this spot with his first-day bag, including a 6-12 catch that won the award for the day's biggest catch.

Rain and wind on Friday might have contributed to his lesser total, but Avena said that he was in the "zone" Saturday when he finished strong to earn the win.

"Because I'm 20 and I won one, it's almost like a life opportunity that you normally don't get," Avena said. "I'm just fortunate that I did win one, especially so early."

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