Mark Daniels Jr. finished the 2020 Bass Pro Tour in strong fashion with a second-place finish at the last Stage of the season in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. His goal is to always improve and learn from his past experiences, but with the shortened season for the Bass Pro Tour – five events instead of eight – he had to make the most out of the opportunities given.
Plus, he almost single-handedly put the Merthiolate-colored floating worm back on the tournament fishing map.
“I had a great year,” Daniels said. “Well, as good as you can have in a season that included the coronavirus, which, of course, sucks. But I had a hell of a year. I improved from finishing 28th in the Points Race last year to ninth this year. If I keep improving and learning, I know I’ll be successful. I think I missed one check this year. I for sure had a solid year.”
Daniels’ assessment of the fisheries that made the 2020 schedule: “The locations we fished, and where we had scheduled, were some of the finest bass fisheries in the country, with a lot of big bass.”
“I mean, I did get to throw a Merthiolate-colored floating worm in a section of Lake Fork that was the size of someone’s backyard pond this year and catch big bass for multiple days doing that,” Daniels said. “It was awesome. We really did fish big-bass bodies of water this year. I can’t wait to see where we fish next year.”
With the wind from the 2020 season at his back (so to speak), Daniels is counting on the current momentum he has on the Bass Pro Tour to carry him into the 2021 season.
“Because of the season I had, I’ve qualified for REDCREST at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees next year and Heavy Hitters,” Daniels said. “I’m hopeful to carry this momentum from my 2020 season going forward. Both events offer really big money. Heavy Hitters was a cool deal and I’m glad we’re having it again. Big-time money, and an opportunity to win over $200,000. This year, I watched Jordan Lee do it. Next year, I’d like to do it.”
After two seasons fishing the Bass Pro Tour, and one season with the 2-pound minimum for scorable bass rule, Daniels definitely has opinions on both and how his fishing has changed.
“The 2-pound rule is very good,” he said. “I believe it helped the tour a lot. Setting the bar at a 2-pound minimum holds us to a high standard, and it’s very difficult. Now, one thing the new size rule didn’t change was the need for MLF pros to still catch them. It doesn’t matter where we compete, we have to catch quality fish and a lot of them if we want to be competitive and have a chance to win.”
Daniels’ learning curve over the first two seasons of the Bass Pro tour has been steady, and he expects it to continue as he and the rest of the field help develop the MLF format.
“As far as the format of our tournaments in general, I’m all in,” he said. “I’ve learned to find larger groups of fish and do what it takes to catch them, no matter what the technique is. Just looking for a few individual fish doesn’t work in this format, like fishing just laydowns on a bank. You generally catch a fish here and there, it’s an individual fish thing. You’d need a load of laydowns to stay in the game, and that’s pretty tough. But, if you locate a large group of fish in an area, you can do really well. It’s really intense and exciting all day.”
Now that the abbreviated Bass Pro Tour season is done for 2020, Daniels plans to slow down a bit and enjoy some time away from the competitive scene. Well, sort of.
“During the off-season, I do enjoy relaxing, but first, it’s the last two FLW Super Tournaments, and a couple of others,” he said. “When the season is all done, I love to go duck hunting. It’s a lot of fun and very relaxing. Then, over the holidays, my wife and I will travel to California and spend time with family. The California Delta region, that’s where I was born and raised. Towed a boat out there last year, but generally I don’t fish when I’m visiting.”