Weather was unpredictable, practice was hectic, but this week Grand Lake dealt three solid tournament days as 94 anglers from across the US and Canada met for the 2013 Federation National Championship. Each day anglers came across the stage smashing their tournament bests and big fish records, winning or losing by ounces and consistently bagging 20lbs of Grand Lake bass.
Mark Daniels Jr. from Fairfield, Calif., saw his life’s work, his life’s passion validated as he became this year’s Federation National Champion boater and TBF’s “Living the Dream” angler. “I’m just so excited right now; I can’t even really think,” Daniels’s said. “After catching that huge bag on day two I knew I had a shot to win this thing.” Daniels caught 18lbs 6ounces on day one and a 24lb 10ounce bag on day two to sail him into first and the final round. Today, he caught 19lbs 4ounces to make his tournament total 62lbs 4ounces.MARK-DANIELS-JR1-199×300
“My travel partner, Tom Shimabukuro and I found fish A-Riggin’ in practice that I thought could potentially be winning fish,” Daniels said. “Then, the final day of practice me and Ben went out and we kind of solidified that.” Daniels was paired with Ben Wright from Peru, New York who would go on to be the national champion co-angler. “We found a bunch of areas that looked similar and I went in and pulled a fish off of each one of those spots. I patterned the entire week off that.”
Daniels fished Drowning Creek down on the south end of the lake near the dam the whole week. “I pulled off on practice because I knew I would just come and hit all of those spots during the tournament days. I did that & just capitalized on all those bites; I didn’t lose many fish this week.
Once I mentally understood what I thought the bigger fish were holding on, I just created my own milk run during the day,” Daniels continued. “I probably hit 25 different spots on that creek hitting them 10-25 minutes at the most and then picking up and moving on to another spot.”
This is Daniels’s first time to make it to the national championship. “I’ve been fishing all my life, bass fishing since I was 11 & it’s literally a dream come true,” Daniels said. “To come here and win it, win the living the dream package, a new ranger boat; it’s going to take a week for it to hit me.”
His journey this week seemed to fit like pieces of a puzzle. “I truly believe I have a gift from God to fish, not just me those that compete on the tour and other circuits too. My gift is fishing, this is what I do. It was just my time.”