Avena grabs top spot with 26-pound bag on Kissimmee Chain - Major League Fishing
Avena grabs top spot with 26-pound bag on Kissimmee Chain
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Avena grabs top spot with 26-pound bag on Kissimmee Chain

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Adrian Avena had a slow start that turned into a hot streak midday. Angler: Adrian Avena.
February 14, 2023 • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – As has been the case on both days of  B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One Presented by Grundéns on the Kissimmee Chain, the best bite took a little time to develop on Tuesday. But as the morning approached the noon hour, New Jersey pro Adrian Avena took control. 

Avena – who caught only one fish for 1 pound, 4 ounces in the first period – caught fire just before noon, catching a 6-1, 4-10, 5-9, 5-5, and 4-12 in a span of just over one hour. That surge catapulted Avena to the top of SCORETRACKER®, where he would eventually finish with a five-fish limit of 26-5.

Avena’s big bag gives him a 2-7 advantage over Randy Howell (23-14) in Group B heading into the second qualifying day on Thursday.

Avena finds success in cleaner water

Florida bass are notoriously fond of clear water and Avena said it was essential to his success Tuesday. The final day of practice produced strong winds that stirred up all the lakes on the chain and made clear water harder to come by, but Avena located one area that he’s banking on to carry him deep into the tournament.

“Finding clean water was the biggest thing today and since a lot of the lake got blown out during practice, there aren’t as many areas like it,” Avena said. “I pulled into the area where I had some bites in practice, caught 22 pounds, and left. Then I went to a similar area, upgraded a couple of times, and started shaking fish off to try to save them. That one area is juice and if I have it to myself and the pattern holds up, I feel really good about it.”

While reluctant to share all the details, Avena disclosed that he’s targeting spawning areas and expects more fish are on their way.

“These fish want to spawn in clean water and with warmer days coming, I feel that a wave of fish will want to make that push,” he said. “I was targeting typical spawning stuff like Kissimmee grass and some pads.”

Avena’s day was possible thanks to five solid fish in the 4- to 6-pound range, and he’s thankful for getting on those better-than-average bites.

“Florida is all about getting quality bites to separate yourself,” he said. “I’m not sure if I can duplicate it again, but it’s nice to get a good start to the tournament.”

Howell punches his way to second

Tuesday didn’t start as planned for Howell, as his primary area from practice was void of any bass activity. But a midday audible changed the course for him.

“It was a rough start to my morning and the key areas I had found in practice weren’t there,” he said. “I had found them when we had the windy day in practice and thought they were spawning fish because they were so shallow. Today, it was super calm and I never even saw a bass in there; and tried too long to relocate them and to make them bite different baits.”

Howell finally pulled the plug on that plan and started punching around midday. 

“I started running some grass and catching some keepers and then ‘boom, boom, boom,’ I caught three big ones right as the second period ended,” he said. “It was like those little flips of the switch that happen in Florida and everyone around me off in the distance seemed to be catching fish and weighing them at the same time that I was.”

Those three fish weighed 6-13, 4-6, and 5-12 and helped anchor his five-fish limit.

Howell shared that he was fishing thick grass and punching matted vegetation, and that the depth of those mats was critical.

“The key was finding places that were a little bit deeper, around 5 to 6 feet deep,” he said. “There’s not a lot of those places here, but I’m excited to go back to those areas. We have a warming trend coming, and I’m not going to waste time doing anything else and will start punching a lot earlier in the day when we come back out here because the fish are better quality.”

Fishing was a bit better on Day 2 than it was on Day 1 of the BPT opener on the Kissimmee Chain.

By the numbers

Aside from Avena’s weight being higher than yesterday’s Group A leader, Fletcher Shryock, the weights were fairly similar across the board between the two groups (both days produced two bags over 20 pounds).

Further down SCORETRACKER®, David Dudley occupied the 20th spot with 11-14 on Day 1. Day 2 was Brent Ehrler with 12-8. The results are similar but show a slight uptick overall, which could be attributed to the warming trend that will continue as the daily highs in the Kissimmee area are expected to increase each of the next three days. This bodes well for the anglers, as more fish will likely flood the shallows to spawn.

What’s next for Stage One

The tournament continues Wednesday morning as Group A returns to the Kissimmee Chain. Coverage begins at 7:45 a.m. ET at MajorLeagueFishing.com and lines go in at 8 a.m. ET. The group is led by Shryock, followed by Jeff Sprague, Jeremy Lawyer, Shin Fukae, and Mark Rose to round out the top five.