Mark Daniels Sr. on his son Jr.

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Jim Sexton

Mark Daniels Jr. was born to fish. Of course you might say the same thing about any Bassmaster Elite Series angler. But there’s a special story behind why that statement is particularly true about the angler known as MDJ.

Today I had the good fortune of meeting MDS, or Mark Daniels Sr. He’s a 63 year-old native of the San Francisco Bay area, manager of a WORLDPAC auto parts warehouse there, and father of four. Daniels Jr. is the baby of the family, with three older sisters.  

I’ll let Daniels Sr. tell the story of why MDJ is a natural fisherman.

“I met Mark’s mom in 1978. She was a very attractive woman. I didn’t want to take her to clubs or parties where she’d meet other guys, so we went fishing. We started going up to the California Delta to camp and fish. I believe Mark was conceived on one of those trips. During the time she was pregnant with him we did a lot of camping and fishing there. Before he was even born Mark was hearing sounds of the outdoors—fish being caught, boats bumping up against rocks, rain hitting on the tent. I believe, and scientists believe, that kind of thing during a pregnancy affects how a kid turns out. He was literally born to fish.”

After Daniels Jr. arrived it didn’t take dad long to get him on the water.  

“Mark started walking very early, at eight months. That’s when I first took him fishing. From then on he went with me every time I fished with friends.”

Daniels Sr. grew up fishing too.

“I started fishing very young. It saved my life, kept me out of trouble. That’s why I was so bent on getting Mark fishing. But I didn’t really have to work at it. From when Mark first learned to talk, all he’d talk about was fishing. Every day he’d say, ‘daddy can we go fishing?’ I started using it against him, telling him we’ll only go fishing after he got his homework done. And he’d get it done, no problem.

“I knew very early on he would work in the fishing industry. I didn’t know how or what he’d do. Maybe he’d be a commercial fisherman, or work for an engine company. But at age 12 it became clear to him. He’d be a competitive angler.”

Daniels Sr. wasn’t like many parents who thought it crazy for a child to dream of fishing professionally.

“I pushed him to follow his heart. His mom wanted him to go to college.”

Daniels Jr. did both. He got a degree in agricultural biology from Tuskegee University in Alabama and then worked for the State of California in an agricultural field office. He fished tournaments every chance he got. That is until Daniels Jr. won The Bass Federation National Championship in 2013, which included $5,000 and a new Ranger Boat. 

Daniels Jr. quit his state job and embarked on a professional fishing career. This is his second year on the Elite Series.

Daniels Sr. hopes to attend at least two Elite tournaments this year—the Toyota TexasFest at Lake Travis, and the St. Lawrence River tournament in New York.  And he may get to do a little fishing there himself.

“I want to catch some of those big smallies up there,” he said.

After one day of the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, Daniels Jr. sits in eighth place with 15 pounds, 14 ounces, and he had the biggest bass of the day, a 6-11 giant (he eventually finished the Classic in 15th place, with 40 pounds 10 ounces).

That’s no surprise to his dad. “I’m his number one fan,” Daniels Sr. said. “Second to none.”