New Elite: Mark Daniels is on the move

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Seigo Saito

Mark Daniels will compete on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour for the first time in 2017, having qualified via the Bassmaster Southern Opens in 2016. Add his name to the list of West Coast pros who have migrated to Alabama.

Daniels is a Jr. His 13-year-old son is Mark Daniels III. Daniels also has a 9-year-old daughter, Morgan. Both of his children love to go fishing with their father, just as Daniels loved to go fishing with his father while growing up in California.

“I was fishing with my dad, literally, as soon as I could walk,” Daniels said. “The only way he was going to go fishing was to figure out how to take me with him.”

The Daniels lived in Richmond, Calif., and their initial fishing forays were to nearby San Francisco Bay for ocean perch and “anything that would bite.”

When Daniels was about 11 years old, an important bass fishing mentor named Doug Rogers came into his life. Rogers was a family friend who owned a 16-foot bass boat. He often took Daniels and his father bass fishing on the California Delta.

Rogers was also a jig flippin’ fanatic. He taught Daniels how to master the long rod, which gave the youngster a solid base from which to expand his bass fishing skills.

Another major event happened at about this time. Daniels and his father joined a bass club, the Bass Anglers of Northern California. The younger Daniels was allowed to fish with club members as a “back-seater.” This exposed him to a wide variety of fishing techniques.

“I fished in that club all through high school and after college,” Daniels said. “The members are like family to me. I still fish with them to this day when I’m in California.”

When Daniels was 13 his family moved inland about 35 miles from the coast. It was here that Daniels discovered pond fishing. Several ponds were within walking distance of the Daniels’ home.

“My dad let me fish any of the ponds in the area,” Daniels said.

The following year Daniels’ father bought the family’s first bass boat, a Stratos 201 with a 200 hp Johnson on its transom. Over the next several years, the Daniels often fished the California Delta and a variety of local team tournament circuits.

One outing to the Delta stands out in Daniels’ mind. The bass weren’t cooperating that day. To make matters worse, Daniels forgot to strap down his rods and lost four of them when the boat bounced over a wake. It was a devastating loss for a 14-year-old.

“I was heartbroken,” Daniels said. “I only had two rods left and one was my spinnerbait rod. Low and behold, I caught my first big bass on that rod, an 8-pounder. It was awesome!”

At age 16 Daniels began fishing B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments as a non-boater. That same year he had a chance opportunity to fish as a boater for the first time at Lake Sonoma in northern California. Daniels and his father had practiced the day prior to the tournament. At the partner meeting, they learned that one of the boaters who had entered the tournament was a no-show. Daniels convinced his father to let him use the family’s boat and to compete as a boater.

“I finished in third place,” Daniels said. “That was a huge confidence boost for me.”

Daniels fished B.A.S.S. Nation tournaments until he left home to attend Alabama’s Tuskegee University. He graduated in 2006 with a B.S. in Environmental Science. During his college years Daniels was so strapped for money that he was unable to fish the many Alabama reservoirs in the region

“It was frustrating to see all that great bass water and not be able to go fishing,” Daniels said.

When Daniels returned to California with his degree, he got a job as an agricultural biologistand renewed his passion for tournament fishing. A few years later he paired up with another young angler named Jamond Andrews to fish team tournaments.

Over the next several years Daniels and Andrews traveled together to fish countless tournaments. Some were team events while others were the pro angler/co-angler format. At the latter tournaments, Daniels would fish as a boater, while Andrews fished as a co-angler.

The launching pad for Daniels’ pro angler debut happened in 2013 when he won the TBF National Championship and received the “Living the Dream” prize package. It consisted of $5,000 cash, paid entry fees to the FLW Tour, a Ranger Boat and travel expense stipends for each event.

Daniels knew that an opportunity such as this might never come again. However, his employer would not allow the time off needed to fish the FLW Tour.

“That’s when I had to make a decision on what to do with the rest of my life,” Daniels said. “I quit my job and moved to Alabama.”

After fishing the FLW Tour in 2014Daniels failed to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup. He had won $24,000, but that wasn’t enough to continue on the FLW Tour. He flew to California for Mother’s day, unsure of what to do.

While in California, Daniels signed on to fish a Costa tournament on the California Delta. He won the tournament, which awarded him $40,000 cash and a boat, which he sold. His winning’s financed his sophomore season on the FLW Tour. This time around Daniels fared better, finishing 26th in the year end point standings and qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup.

While competing on the FLW Tour, Daniels still had his eye on the Bassmaster Elite Series. He attempted to qualify for the Elites for the first time in 2014 when he competed in the Bassmaster Northern Opens.

“I finished 22 in points, which was not where I needed to be,” Daniels said. “I opted not to fish the Opens in 2015 so I could focus on the FLW Tour.”

In 2016 Daniels qualified for the Elite Series, via the Bassmaster Southern Opens. He plans to fish the Elites in 2017 and possibly one of the Bassmaster Open divisions.

“As a pro angler, it’s all about making the Bassmaster Classic,” Daniels said. “I’m going to work my tail off to get there and market myself.”

Daniels’ title sponsor is Bill Lewis Lures. His other sponsors include Cabela’s, Garmin, Ranger Boats, Missile Baits, Power-Pole, Seaguar, Costa Del Mar, Mercury Marine, Snag Proof, Kistler Rods, Bob’s Machine Shop (jack plates) and Airport Marine in Alabaster, Ala.