Avena seals the deal on Cayuga Lake with 28-10 - Major League Fishing

Avena seals the deal on Cayuga Lake with 28-10

New Jersey pro claims his first major tour-level win after two-day smallmouth clinic
Image for Avena seals the deal on Cayuga Lake with 28-10
Avena's 6-pounders were the difference-makers in winning Stage Five. Photo by Phoenix Moore. Angler: Adrian Avena.
June 11, 2023 • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour

UNION SPRINGS, N.Y. – Going into the final two days at Favorite Fishing Stage Five Presented ATG by Wrangler on New York’s Cayuga Lake, the question about the lake’s smallmouth fishery was “how much will it take to win this uniquely timed derby?” After two days of Knockout and Championship Round competition, the answer is clearly “a lot.”

New Jersey pro Adrian Avena finished up a two-day big-smallmouth-catching clinic Saturday with 28 pounds 10 ounces, just 24 hours after bagging a massive five-fish limit of 29-6. Avena’s two-day haul of smallmouth rang up to 58-0 – 2 pounds better than Bass Pro Tour rookie Spencer Shuffield and more then enough to secure Avena’s first-ever Bass Pro Tour win.

Avena was all-in on smallmouth

Avena committed to fishing spawning smallmouth all week on Cayuga’s southern end. It was the same tactic that all of the Top 10 committed to in both the Knockout and Championship Rounds – Avena just did it better. The Berkley pro’s biggest difference-maker was a handful of 6-pounders that he weighed the final two days – three in the Knockout Round, two on the final day – while the rest of the field was catching 4s and 5s.

Avena’s last two bags were the best weights each day, and his four-day aggregate was an impressive 105 pounds. With all 10 of the Championship Round pros running the same pattern, Avena searched for less-pressured fish. That translated into fishing deeper water and employing a flogger to see bedding smallmouth that others missed.

“I was fishing a little deeper than everyone else and finding fish the other guys didn’t see,” Avena said. “This $150 ‘traffic cone’ was the difference and won me $100,000.”

Avena used various finesse presentations to catch his fish, but the drop-shot was his primary tool.

“I was using a Berkley Gulp! Minnow in chartreuse shad,” he said. “The chartreuse back was a big player, especially when the water got stirred up so I could see it better. I was fishing it with a short leader, trying to imitate a perch attacking the beds.”

Avena travels with Jacob Wheeler, Dustin Connell, and Mark Daniels Jr., a group that has accounted for more than its fair share of Bass Pro Tour trophies in the five years since the tour started. For Avena to add one of his own was a huge relief. This win also marks Avena’s first tour-level victory in his 11-year professional career.

“I travel with three of the best in the world, and I wouldn’t say I was tired of them winning so much, but it was taking a toll on me,” he admitted. “I didn’t know if it would ever happen for me. You have no idea what this win means to me, but we got it done.”

Avena’s last victory was also his first major event as a professional, a Toyota Series triumph when he was just 20 years old. That was another June event in this part of the country, on Lake Champlain. To win one after a long drought was a great feeling for Avena.

“I haven’t won since then. I’ve been close so many times,” he said. “This lake is chock full of 5- to 7-pounders, so I didn’t think what I caught would be enough. This is so awesome, and I have so many people to thank, because so many people believed in me.”

Notes from Cayuga

The event started with a relatively even mix of largemouth and smallmouth bass making it onto SCORETRACKER®, but smallmouth became the focus more and more as the event wore on. Largemouth were nearly non-existent in the final tally. Although several green fish were landed, only one largemouth bass made the best-five for anyone in the Top 10 during the Championship Round, with David Dudley’s 5-4 being the only one to make the cut.

With his third-place finish this week, Dakota Ebare will move into second place in the Bally Bet Angler of the Year race. He finished 20 spots ahead of Ott DeFoe on Cayuga and is just 28 points behind him unofficially. With two events to go, Ebare appears to be the only one with a realistic shot to overtake DeFoe for the title. With his second straight Top 10, Bass Pro Tour rookie Matt Becker will move into third.

What’s next

The Bass Pro Tour continues the northern swing with General Tire Stage Six Presented by John Deere Utility Vehicles on Michigan’s Lake St. Clair, in less than two weeks on June 24-29. After that, the 80 anglers will have a month-long break before closing the season in Michigan on Saginaw Bay and the Saginaw River on Aug. 1-6.