The 4th day of practice Daniels gets to use a Ranger Z520c and he runs further south of the launch ramp where he finds the area that he would eventually win the tournament. “I didn’t let the negatives ruin my day,” Daniels said. “I had to think about how far I had come and I just blocked out all of the bad events of the first two days of practice.” Daniels stuck to his game plan of fishing the south end of the lake, which led to him fishing around a place named Drowning Creek. “When I ran into Drowning Creek, I realize that I am extremely unfamiliar with the lake and I didn’t know what to expect,” Daniels said. “The weather in Oklahoma is unlike any other place I have ever been.”
Daniels is referring to the drastic weather change during practice. The first day water temperatures were in the mid sixties, however, during the second day of practice, the TBF anglers were greeted by a frontal system that brought air temperatures down into the low 40s. This caused water temperatures to plummet to 15 degrees. “On day one, I caught a couple fish off beds,” says Daniels. “I thought it would be a shallow water deal but when the temperature dropped I knew that those females would pull off the beds and commit to the nearest deep water.” Daniels adjusted his game plan by targeting areas that had deep water nearby. He started looking for what he referred to as transition zones. These were areas that had steep transitional banks that led to shallow flats where bass would most likely spawn.
According to Daniels, “I ran a pattern with a Krazy Eight Alabama Rig (A-rig) made by Hi’s Tackle Box in San Francisco.” The Krazy Eight produced several 5 pound bass in practice. Once he figured out a pattern, Daniels spent the remainder of practice driving around the southern part of Grand Lake looking for areas similar to the ones where he caught the 5 pounders. According to Daniels, “I didn’t fish anymore. I committed to a mental milk run in areas that I knew had the right looking stuff and that is exactly what I did.”
The rest is history. Daniels drove over 1500 miles and out-fished the other 46 anglers who qualified for the TBF National Championship. Daniels weighed 18.06 on day one. He sacked 24.10 pounds of Grand Lake bass on day two, which allowed Daniels to take over the lead going into the final day. Daniels sacked an additional 19.04 pounds on the last day of the tournament and ran away with the victory. While Mark admitted to catching some fish on jigs and rip baits, most of his bass were caught on the Krazy Eight A-rig. The victory netted Daniels the $100,000 “Living the Dream Package” which consists of $5,000 cash, paid entry fees on the 2014 FLW Tour as a pro, travel expense stipends for each event, and use of a “Living the Dream” wrapped Chevy truck and Ranger Z520c boat for the year, as well as other sponsor merchandise. Daniels also won a Ranger Z518 and trailer for being the highest finishing angler in the Ranger Cup program. Additionally, Daniels received an invitation to fish the 2013 BFL All-American and the 2013 Forest Wood Cup. Winning the TBF National Championship appears to be the only opportunity for the average weekend angler to chase after the dream of fishing for a living. Thanks to the TBF and its sponsors, Mark Daniels Jr. won the
opportunity to chase his dreams of being a fulltime professional bass angler.
For now, Daniels is soaking-up the opportunity to pursue his dream, realizing that he has to develop a gameplan to request a leave of absence from his job, increase his sponsorship portfolio, and figure out a way to take care of his family while he is away on the FLW Tour. All of us here at Bass West USA wish Mark the best in the coming year! BWU
Photo by The Bass Federation