Press-Republican

June 26, 2011

Avena sweeps to victory on Lake Champlain

DAVID A. BROWN
FLW Outdoors

PLATTSBURGH — Stubborn commitment to a spot often straddles the border of foolishness and brilliance.

On a lake straddling the border of New York and Vermont, Adrian Avena displayed a brilliant plan as he swept the EverStart Northern Division bass tournament on Lake Champlain.

Grabbing the lead on Day 1, Avena held off all challengers and entered the final round with a pound advantage. Saturday, he pushed his total to an even 58 pounds and secured the victory by a margin of 3 pounds, 12 ounces.

Aaron Wessels made a big move into second place, and Glenn Babineau finished third. Myron Worona won the co-angler division, with Chris Kinney-Hermes of Champlain placing eighth.

Each day, Avena, a Vineland, N.J. native, joined several of his competitors in the 70-plus-mile run to Ticonderoga at the lake's south end. There, he focused most of his efforts on a small drain running out of a creek. A natural travel lane with submerged wood and lots of grass created an ideal postspawn feeding zone that frequently replenished.

"Every day was different for me," he said. "There was a lot of fish in my key area, and I just had to mix up my presentations and make them eat."

On days one and two, Avena used an assortment of baits, including swimbaits, buzzbaits, Senkos and flipping baits. Day three saw him do most of his damage with a Storm Wiggle Wart.

"I started off with the Wiggle Wart today and I just went to town," Avena said. "I just wore them out. At one point, I caught two 2-pounders at one time on that crankbait. I probably caught 30 fish on that in the morning and then I had to switch it up to something else."

Avena said he had a solid limit of about 19 pounds by 8:30. A last-minute decision to try one more spot before heading back led to him catching one of his biggest fish, which enabled him to cull up and gain more than a pound.

He opened his campaign with a Day 1 weight of 21 pounds, 3 ounces and kept his lead with a Day 2 limit that weighed 16-10. With his third-round limit of 20-3, Avena became the event's only angler to break 20 twice.

"When you're in the zone, you're in the zone and Days 1 and 3, I felt like I was in the zone," he said. "I made all the right decisions. Day 2, I slacked a little bit, but I was fortunate to get the bites I did and I'm blessed."

A 20-year-old Chestnut Hill College Junior and FLW National Guard College Fishing Series standout, Avena said he was overjoyed at securing a victory at his age.

"My goal was to try and win one of these events before I turned 21," he said. "FLW has great tournaments and I'm excited to be fishing them."

Wessels, who's from Watervliet, jumped from 56th place to 10th on Day 2. Saturday, he climbed eight spots to finish second with 54-4.

Wessels caught most of his fish on a on a Strike King KVD HC 2.5 crankbait in the orange belly craw color. He fished his crankbait on 10-pound Berkley Trilene Big Game line.

"I went light on the line because I needed to get a little deeper to reach the grass I was fishing in about five feet," Wessels said. "The key to the presentation was that the bait had to get into the grass. I had to get it into the top of the grass and pop it out. The fish would eat it as it would pop through the top of the grass. If it didn't hit the grass — no bites."

Wessels said his tactics yielded tremendous results. "In three days of fishing, I'd have to say that I caught 150-160 fish. And just to let you know how durable those baits are, I got through all three days with one bait. It's beaten up and there's very little paint left on it, but it was one bait all three days."

Essential to his performance, Wessels noted, was maintaining the right distance from and angle to his fish. He accomplished this by employing a Minn Kota Talon shallow water anchor.

Mechanicville pro Babineau, started the day in third place and when the dust settled, that's where he remained. He added a solid limit of 17-4 to tally 53-14.

All three days, Babineau ran south to Ticonderoga, but the exceptionally rough water of Day 2 left him with a broken boat. A stressful evening of juggling his own boat repairs and coordinating a loaner concluded with him comfortably squared away — thanks, he said, to the exceptional response of Ranger representatives.

Joe Lucarelli of Center Harbor, N.H., who also suffered day-two boat issues, slipped two spots to fourth on Saturday with a 53-9 tournament total. Thomas Lavictoire of West Rutland, Vt. was fifth with 50-14.

Worona caught 13-14 Saturday to take the co-angler crown with a total of 44-12. Williston, Vt. native Emily Mcleod, the Day 2 leader, finished second at 44-1. Kinney-Hermes was also one of 10 co-anglers to make it to Day 3, and he ended up eighth with a haul of 34-7.