Team Toyota’s Mark Daniels Jr. fell in love with fishing as a kid with his dad, while growing up a short cast from San Francisco Bay. In fact, the first 10 years or so of his angling lifestyle had almost nothing to do with largemouth, and everything to do with saltwater.
So, the recent opportunity to finally partake in a “long range” saltwater trip aboard an 86-foot long boat for a solid week with his close friend Josh and two dozen of Josh’s electrician buddies, is an experience the now Alabama resident is still celebrating.
“Josh has been inviting me on this annual late summer trip for at least five years, but my tournament schedule always had a conflict. This year it finally worked out, and I’m already calling it the trip of a lifetime,” Daniels said.
The long-distance trip was a total of seven days, the first two of which were spent running 80 miles to the magical location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Once there, all heck broke loose as a school of 30- to 60-pound yellowfin tuna tore apart the party’s offering of sardines on weightless lines to the point of tangling a few, before Daniels eventually landed a 59-pounder, the biggest one of the trip.
That fish earned him a treasured keepsake in the form of a belt buckle trophy created to honor and remember a gentleman named Kyle who was once a part of the trip, prior to a tragic ATV accident that claimed his life. His parents not only chose to remember Kyle’s love of the trip through the commemorative “jackpot fish” buckle, but actually joined the group as two of the 24 anglers on board.
“Kyle’s parents are obviously pretty special people, and our crew even had photos of him displayed on the boat throughout the trip,” Daniels said. “We definitely felt his presence.”
By the trip’s end, MDJ had landed more than 600 total pounds of fish, which is all being processed and shipped to his south Alabama home. Although, because he adheres to a plant-based diet, he will gladly share most of the formerly finned protein with friends.
“It was 100% a trip filled with lessons in fellowship, and the greater meaning of life. Especially with Kyle’s parents on board. Plus, learning how to live at sea for a week with nearly two dozen people I had never met,” he said.
“But the part of the trip that also keeps resonating on me was not having any cell phone service. Social media is a monster that constantly needs to be fed. So, I’m not gonna lie, being able to totally disconnect from it for seven days was something I absolutely treasured too,” Daniels said.
What an incredible week for the lifetime angler. Seven days at sea. Six hundred pounds of fish. A commemorative belt buckle. And an immeasurable amount of soulful peace that precipitated from a week of separation from a digital device most of us think we can’t live without.