Mark Daniels Jr.’s return to his Northern California home for Mother’s Day started out as a pleasure trip. Then he discovered that conditions were ripe for doing some business, and he headed back East this week with a much fatter wallet than he’d arrived with.
Daniels, the 2013 winner of the TBF National Championship who’s fishing the FLW Tour this year on the accompanying “Living the Dream” free ride, got into the California Delta Western Rayovac only because he’d had a great day fun-fishing with a couple of buddies a few days beforehand. He had 2 more superb days in the event (along with a mediocre one) en route to notching his first victory at the triple-A level.
California didn’t experience the harsh winter that much of the country did (the vast majority of the state never does), but just like bodies of water in other regions, the spawn in the massive, labyrinthine Delta was delayed this year. Daniels doesn’t know why, but he was happy to take advantage the situation.
Despite a sluggish day 1, he ended up averaging more than 24 pounds a day, and his 72-07 total left him nearly 7 pounds clear of a field made up of many of the West Coast’s top competitors. The win was worth more than $38,000, and it provided a confidence boost as he departed for a pre-practice trip to Kentucky Lake.
Here’s how he did it.
The day after Mother’s Day, Daniels got together with former team partner Jamond Andrews and another old pal to fish the Delta just for kicks. They got dozens of bites and Andrews caught a fish that was pushing 12 pounds.
It became obvious that the fish they were catching were still feeding up in preparation for the reproduction process.
“Generally by this time of year, the spawn is over for the most part,” he said. “I’ve been gone all year fishing the Tour and it was clear that a lot of the fish had held back for some reason. The last full moon pulled up a ton of them – and they were biting. We caught about 30 bass between the three of us.
“I knew I had to try to sign up and fish this tournament. I had to scrounge around to find enough tackle (as all of his primary gear was back East with his wrapped Ranger) and a buddy of mine let me borrow his boat.”
He spent Tuesday collecting equipment and getting registered for the tournament. Then he put in his one and only real practice day on Wednesday.
“I knew I was going to be primary flipping mats, so I cruised around the Delta and made a lot of flips. I shook a lot of fish off and built up my confidence.”