Standing 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighing in at nearly 300 pounds, Mark Davis is a big man … a really big man! But for those who really know him, he's not just big in stature, he's big at heart, too.
His life could be summarized by three important aspects — faith, family and fishing — in just that order.
With a career spanning nearly three decades, Davis has realized tremendous success, including three Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles, a Bassmaster Classic victory and nearly $2 million in winnings. However, as the record will also show, those titles came earlier in his career. And like many of the sport's best, after realizing so much success, things began to taper off.
For some, complacency sets in. But for Davis, he claims it was nothing more than simple, foolish pride. Though he remained competitive, he wasn't performing at the level he once enjoyed.
Not until recently, that is.
Since the start of the 2014 Bassmaster Elite Series, Davis has been on fire. He's recorded three straight Top 12 finishes and has become the dominant frontrunner in this year's AOY race.
What's changed? According to Davis, it stems from a burning desire to realign himself and his career with the Lord and to show his three young sons that through Him, anything is possible.
Printed on the collar of his tournament jersey is "Proverbs 3, Verses 5 and 6" — a passage from the Bible which basically conveys a message to "Trust in the Lord."
Davis was always a man of strong faith, which he demonstrated throughout his career. Whenever he garnered any type of tournament success, he was quick to credit his savior for the achievement.
Late in his career, however, Davis claims he strayed to some degree — stating that over time and after so much success, he began to believe he could do things on his own — without God's help. He believes that foolish pride and separation from the Lord is what caused his struggles. And he claims it came to a head during the recent Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville.
Mark entered that event with tremendous confidence, believing there was no way he could fail. But as the competition unfolded, he quickly realized he was in trouble and incapable of making the necessary adjustments. As a result, he finished a disappointing 43rd. He now claims that experience helped to open his eyes.
Since the Classic, Davis has rededicated himself and his efforts so that he can better serve God's will. And who can argue with the results? With a runner-up and two third-place finishes to his credit, he's the hottest angler on tour!
Mark and I began our careers at about the same time, and though I really didn't know him then, I was impressed by his consistency — not only in competition, but how he carried himself off the water, as well.
Sometime later, I drew Mark in a B.A.S.S. event on Lake Texoma, and that's when I realized, firsthand, the true sportsman he really is.
Rather than battle each other over whose boat or whose water, we decided to work together. And before we ever got in the boat, he told me what to bring and what I could expect from his half of the day. He also said he would do anything he could to help us both catch fish.
True to his word, the day unfolded just as he described. And it was a good day, too. We both caught plenty of fish, and it was fun. From that point on, I felt like I had made a friend … someone I could trust and perhaps turn to if I ever needed a favor.
Years later, my hometown friend, Gary Simpson, qualified for the All-American Bass Championship, and the event was to be held on Lake Hamilton in Arkansas. Gary asked me if I knew anything about the lake. I didn't, but told him I knew someone who might. That's when I called on Mark for help.
You see, up until that time, Gary Simpson had been battling cancer. Just two years prior he was diagnosed with brain tumors, and after months of intensive chemo and radiation treatments, he was finally in remission.
Through it all, the prognosis for his survival wasn’t very promising. But Gary was tough, and he fought hard. He claims fishing helped, too.
Gary's one of the best anglers I know, and he's a close friend. That's why I asked Mark to lend a hand. After explaining Gary's situation, Mark immediately agreed to help.
Sometime later they met on Lake Hamilton, and Mark recommended a few places to try along with some techniques he felt should work at that time of year. Combining Mark's insights with his own intuition, Gary went on to finish fourth in the event. In fact, he was in second place going into the final day of competition. It was a proud moment for a guy who, months earlier, wasn't sure what the future might bring.
Even better than finishing high in the tournament, Gary was recognized with a special achievement award: the 2000 All-American Leadership Award, which is "Awarded to the tournament angler who best exemplifies the spirit and character of America's outdoorsmen."
The added recognition caught Gary off guard, and it became a defining moment in his career. He now believes, though, that the inscription best describes Mark Davis.
I'm told that I have an innate ability to bring people together — people that should, but otherwise might not, meet. And perhaps in this case it's true. I feel like it is, anyway.
One thing is certain; God definitely works in mysterious ways!