Adrian Avena jumps in the water to land a 4-pound bass in the Knockout Round of Stage One. Photo by Garrick Dixon

Let’s be honest, I don’t think I’m ever going to experience anything close to what I experienced a few days ago on Lake Eufaula. The Stage, what was at stake, and the fish I pulled out all factored into one of the greatest moments of my fishing career. Luckily, it was all captured on camera.

I was trying to make the Top 8 and qualify for the Championship Round of Stage One. I was really struggling and hadn’t caught a scorable bass all day; then the sun came out. I started fishing offshore brush piles in 8 to 15 feet of water with a big 1-ounce spinnerbait with a Berkley Power Swimmer on the back of that.

I started to catch a few really good fish once that sun came out, and I was doing well enough that the production crew decided to put a camera in my boat. It was about midday and I threw my spinnerbait over a brush pile like I had all day, set the hook on one and my rod immediately bowed up. It instantly got stuck in the brush pile underneath, but I knew it was a heavy fish.

I tried to fight the fish and get it free, but I was starting to realize that it was wrapped more than once around a stem of the brush. I pulled up right on top of the brush and was really just poking it from my boat to see how far down it was. I had to make a decision to either break it off or go in for it. I knew it had to be a bigger fish because I was using a big-fish bait.

I told myself that I’ve done crazier things in my life, so I decided it was time to shed some clothes and jump in for it.

I really was peer-pressured from 1,200 miles away by my friends back home in New Jersey. My friends and I do a Polar Plunge every winter when it’s about 30 degrees outside. If I didn’t jump in, I knew they were going to give me crap. I know the type of support I have back home so I know they were all watching and I was going to hear about it if I didn’t get in.

I didn’t realize how cold that water was going to be. As soon as I hit the water, I lost my breath. I was hanging on to the side of the boat, fighting the waves crashing against me, with the line between my toes so I wouldn’t lose it. I was doing that for about three minutes and then all of a sudden I felt my line slack up. I started reeling it in with my hands and out floated this 4-pounder. I went absolutely crazy.

Adrian Avena tries to warm up after jumping in to pull his 4-pounder out of the waters of Lake Eufaula. Photo by Garrick Dixon

That was by far the sickest fish catch I’ve ever had in my career. That fish ended up being the catalyst for gaining momentum and making it into the Championship Round for the first event in 2020.

It definitely wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done, however. You never really know what’s down there until you bring it up above the surface since that was so insanely dirty. It could have been a catfish for all I know. I knew the chances of me jumping in that water, getting the line untangled, pulling out the fish and it actually being a scorable bass were pretty slim. That feeling I got when I saw it was that 4-pounder and the feeling it gave me, I would do the same thing again 10 times over.

What I did, I don’t think a majority of people would do. There aren’t many people who are going to jump into cold, chocolate-milk-colored water in hopes of trying to catch a bass. I guess New Jersey folks are just wired differently. I’m no Mike Iaconelli, don’t get me wrong, but I think he probably would have done the same.

People have told me that this was the “Moment of the Year” and while I appreciate it, I’ve never really been one to crave the spotlight. I do what I do because I love bass fishing. I love to catch fish and Major League Fishing provides me a platform to do that. I’m going to continue to do whatever it takes to try and beat these guys.