MLF Anglers Break from Bass for Some Saltwater Fishing
By Aly Akers
December 20, 2018
In the offseason, many of the Major League Fishing pros head into the woods to hang out in a deer stand or duck blind. Others head straight towards the coast to do their hunting on the ocean, miles from the shore. That’s where MLF pros Adrian Avena, Jeff Kriet, and Ish Monroe reel in saltwater monsters.
Major League Fishing pro Adrian Avena with his parents
Aboard the "Jersey Boy"
Avena grew up near the coast of southern New Jersey in a family that loves to saltwater fish.
“Saltwater fishing has always been first-nature to me,” Avena said. “It wasn’t until college that I got into bass fishing.”
Avena became a pro bass angler in 2012. Once he established himself in the bass fishing world, he decided it was time to get his captain's license and start running some charters in between tournaments and during the offseason. Now he's running his own business, Jersey Boy Charters.
“I’ve had my Six-Pack Master Captain’s 50-ton license for six years,” Avena said. “During the fall, I usually run my charter trips out of southern New Jersey.”
As you can imagine, the Northeast is pretty cold this time of year. But Avena doesn’t mind, because when temperatures drop, the striped bass in the Atlantic migrate north and it makes for some of the best fishing.
“One time we had one of the best trips the entire year but we had 4 inches of snow on the boat,” Avena said. “Fishing in the Northeast can get kind of extreme, but it is some phenomenal fishing.”
Major League Fishing pro Jeff Kriet
Kriet's Saltwater Tournaments
While Avena is saltwater fishing in a snowsuit, Kriet is fishing in flipflops in the Gulf of Mexico.
Like Avena, Kriet has also been saltwater fishing since he was a kid. Kriet says he enjoys competing in saltwater tournaments because it's a different atmosphere than bass fishing tournaments. Instead of fishing solo, he's working as part of a team.
“I’ll run a three- to six-man crew in a tournament that are all really good buddies of mine, so you share the victories and the defeats,” Kriet said.
Even though saltwater fishing may be a different atmosphere, Kriet says it helps him prepare for the upcoming bass fishing season.
“Fishing is fishing,” Kriet said. “It also makes you very patient because some days you can go two days without a bite out there. They’re also both very mental. I feel like I get so much more out of being on the water than in a tree stand. Don’t get me wrong, I still like to deer hunt, but I’d way rather be on the water.”
Kriet says he loves fishing for blue marlin, but he never knows what he'll encounter on the ocean.
“I’ve been out there and I’ve seen 50 whales or I’ve been out there and caught an 800-pound tiger shark. It intrigues me,” Kriet explained. “You just never know what you might see.”
Monroe the "Big (Sea) Bass Specialist"
Monroe enjoys saltwater fishing as a hobby, and believes saltwater fishing makes him a better angler. Whether it be a drop-off, some type of structure, or the quality of the water, bass and saltwater fishing have a lot of parallels.
“From the way the fish relate to structure to a lot of the baits that they eat,” Monroe explained. “Any predatory fish pretty much acts the same whether it’s in fresh or saltwater.”
Monroe has learned some techniques and tricks that he now applies to bass fishing, which helps make him the “Big Bass Specialist.”
“When you’re dealing with an extremely large fish, you’re dealing with heavier lines and you learn to tie different knots and find out knot strengths,” Monroe said.
Monroe says bass fishing was a hobby that became his career. When he went looking for a new hobby, he found saltwater fishing. And that's why he doesn't compete in saltwater fishing tournaments.
“It would be taking my new hobby and turning it into another job,” Monroe said.
Looking ahead to the MLF Bass Pro Tour
Even though Avena, Kriet, and Monroe are fishing in different parts of the country during the offseason, they'll all be at the inaugural MLF Bass Pro Tour event in Kissimmee, Florida in late January.
This will be Avena’s first time fishing the MLF format, but he thinks that saltwater fishing has helped prepare him for the Bass Pro Tour. He says every day is different in saltwater fishing, the fish are constantly moving, and you have to make decisions on the fly.
“I consider myself a versatile angler and I feel this format, in particular, kind of suits my style of the whole crazy, New Jersey, Iaconelli-type thing,” Avena laughed.