Mark Daniels Jr. embarks on Elite Series journey – TH Marine “PRO”files

Mark Daniels Jr. has come a long way, both, geographically and metaphorically speaking. From Fairfield, California, Daniels now resides in Tuskegee, Alabama and travels the professional bass tournament circuits which have introduced him to a wide variety of waters.

Daniels met his wife, Taneisha, at Tuskegee University. She is a lifelong resident of Tuskegee.

“We moved to California for 7 years. I worked and fished locally in my hometown. When this whole professional fishing deal came along and it was going to become a full-time gig for me, we relocated back to her hometown which makes it convenient for me when it comes to travelling.”

They have 2 children, a son, 14, and a 9-year-old daughter.

Lake Martin may be the closest water body, but Daniels doesn’t feel particularly rooted to it. “It’s crazy. I travel around so much that I wouldn’t call anything my ‘home lake’.”

Daniels brings 3 years of FLW Tour experience into his rookie season on the Bassmaster Elite Series.

After a couple of seasons on the Bassmaster Opens trails, Daniels qualified for the Elite Series via the Southern Opens last year. The top 5 points-getters earn an invite to join the Elites. “I placed 6th, but Jacob Wheeler double-qualified so I became eligible. I bought him a beer,” chuckled Daniels.

As a youngster, Daniels fished with his dad a lot. “It was one of those anything-that-bites kind of deals. We would catch quite a few ocean perch, flounder and these fish called king fish which were a type of croaker. We’d come home and have a cook out. That sparked my interest in fishing, in general, but we moved inland about 40 minutes to Fairfield and I learned about fishing ponds, these little duck ponds that had bass in them. I started fishing with my soft plastics and little spinnerbaits and I started catching a few fish and you know how it is once you hook a bass – that first bass, man, you’re done.”

Mark Daniels used to take Mark Daniels Jr. fishing, now MDJ returns the favor. He put Pops on some nice Coosa River bass.

As with many of us, the next step in Daniels’ journey as angler was led by a family friend. “My dad had a really good friend named Doug Rogers. He had some prior experience with tournament bass fishing. Nothing big, but he knew about it a little bit and he liked it a lot and he had an old raggedy boat, a Bayliner with an 85-horse power engine on the back. He said ‘If you think you like this tournament thing let me take you out and show you what it’s about.’ I fished my first tournament and I was really done after that. I caught my first bass in a tournament that day flipping a jig. I remember it vividly. I’ve been chasing that high ever since.”

Daniels says the highest point of his career so far has been winning the TBF National tournament in 2013. “That was the turning point in my life where I had the opportunity to compete full time. Also, all the hard work to get there – people see it on TV and they don’t realize it’s a 2-year process to make it to that championship.

“And there’s only going to be 1 guy from each state so I went to Oklahoma representing California and beating out many of the best grassroots anglers so to me, that was a huge accomplishment.”

Looking ahead, Daniels plans to climb higher still. “My number one goal is to make the Bassmaster Classic.”

What gives Daniels an advantage as he embarks on his Elite Series debut? “I try to maintain versatility. That’s been a really big hurdle for me leading up to this point in my career. Becoming versatile is extremely key. I love to flip. I love to punch mats. I love to throw big topwaters. But sometimes, being able to put that stuff down and throw a jerkbait, throw a dropshot . . . you have to be versatile to compete with these guys on this level because you’re not always going to be able to hit them on the head with a jig.

“The biggest challenge is going to be the new fisheries. Out of 9 tournaments, there are 5 new bodies of water that I have never fished before. That’s always a challenge, to some degree, but I also like that. New opportunities. New landscapes. I just like a change sometimes.”

Daniels isn’t worried about getting spun-out, mentally. And given his FLW Tour experience, he should be fine. “At the end of the day, the truth of the matter is, it’s fishing.

“You’re going to have good days. You’re going to have bad days. Try to minimize those bad days, and maximize opportunities that make up good days, and I think I’ll be just fine.”

Daniels plans to maximize some of those good times with a lure that he has tons of confidence in: The Rat-L-Trap. “Bill Lewis Outdoors is my title sponsor. I grew up on a grass fishery, the California Delta where hundreds of giant bass get caught every year on Rat-L-Traps.

“It’s just a bait that I was really familiar with, that I’d used a lot so it was a natural fit when I was able to join forces with them in a title deal. Any time I can throw a trap, I’m doing that. I have one tied on at all times, all year long. It’s one of those baits that’s been around forever and always catches fish.

“I just got back from Massachusetts where I did an hour-long seminar on everything ‘Rat-L-Trap’ and I touched on a lot of the misnomers, like that it is only a cold water bait or a grass-only bait. There are so many different things you can do with a trap and there are so many different types of traps that people never even speak about that are extremely effective.

“I use those all the time as I’m travelling around the country.”

Mark Daniels Jr. holds class on ‘All Things Rat-L-Trap’.

For those reasons, don’t be surprised to see Daniels bust some Lake Cherokee bass with the trap in his 1st Elite Series tourney. Certainly, the lure will play well at Okeechobee.

Then again, considering his versatile mind set and ample skill set, Mark Daniels is set to surprise us in many ways this season. The only thing that may not come as a surprise is if he experiences much success on his first Elite Series campaign.