Being on or near a body of water puts Mark Daniels Jr. in a good mood, and those positive vibes explode when he has a rod in hand. But, there was no straight path from his childhood in the California Bay Area to his current position in the Bass Pro Tour. Getting here took decades of dedication, plus the support of his family and friends.
Daniels chatted with MLF about how his enthusiasm for competition helps him stay on top of his game. Here’s what he had to say:
MD: Yeah, it was an awesome fishery. I went down there with Dustin Connell and just hung out for a couple of days and hooked up with a guide named Flint Davis. I had heard about shoal bass, and it was a bucket list fish for me as one of the few bass I had yet to catch. I just wanted to catch a keeper to say I caught one and it was just phenomenal. I caught several quality fish over 4 pounds.
MD: Not necessarily, but some of the things I learned in school like identifying aquatic vegetation are easy for me, and I have learned which ones bass prefer; but I’m not really using it. I was doing a lot of inspecting and certifications for commodities to travel, so a lot of that doesn’t apply to fishing.
MD: He needs to put some fish carcass around the root system. That’s old-school like the natives did it, and I do it to my personal garden all the time. When I’m out fishing, I don’t throw the carcasses back; I put them in my garden and it thrives. I got all kind of stuff growing – tomatoes, zucchinis, okra, collard greens and all sorts of peppers, blackberries, and blueberries.
MD: I think everyone knows me, Jacob Wheeler, Dustin Connell and Adrian Avena travel together, and we do all kinds of stuff. We play a lot of golf and recently got into playing poker. That’s another thing, I’m not a gambler but I am competitive. We’ll play corn hole and basketball too. Those that follow us on YouTube, they’ll see it. There’s always some sort of competition going on during off days, I guarantee it. It never stops, we’re always doing something. We bet on cut weights, what’s going to win the round, all kinds of stuff – keeping it interesting and having fun.
MD: It feels great, you couldn’t have told me nine years ago when I started doing this that I would make $1 million dollars by fishing. It was surreal, but when I saw guys reach it, that became a goal for me, and our last tournament was the one. That was really cool and a feather in my cap. I’m not big on celebrating things like that necessarily, but it definitely was a morale boost and now I’m looking at $2 million and want to keep going.
MD: I grew up in the Bay Area in California and my dad would take me out on the bay after work. I’d get home from school, and he’d get off work and we would go to the bay and fish for literally whatever bit. One of my earliest fishing memories is of fishing for crappie at Clear Lake when I was about 3 or 4 years old. We were using little crappie jigs and I hooked a bass and landed it, and I was like ‘this can’t be a crappie.’ The excitement of hooking that bass had me hooked immediately.
MD: I’m always having a good time and try to stay positive. I thoroughly enjoy being on the water – saltwater, fresh water, river, lake, stream, pond or whatever. I have a connection with the water. As long as I’m on or around the water, I’m in a good mental setting – unless I’m losing 5-pounders in a tournament, of course. That’s a different story, haha.
MD: When things aren’t going your way it’s hard to maintain a calm demeanor, but when you’re bent out of shape it derails what you’re doing. If you focus on the negative, and you’re hung up on what happened an hour ago, you could miss a new opportunity because you were still dwelling over that. I try to stay levelheaded so I don’t take myself out of the game, which you can easily do.
MD: We went down to Florida for some offshore fishing and caught a big grouper. Aside from that, I’ve just been relaxing and spending time with the family. We’re always on the road and it’s go go go, but you need to sit back and enjoy some family time.
MD: I want two Top 10 finishes in the last two events, that would be ideal for me and that’s what I’m hoping happens. So, I am considering going up to Mille Lacs for some scouting after ICAST. I’ve been there one time before, but we don’t get up there much so I definitely want to do anything I can to improve my arsenal. I was there one time for the Elite Series in 2017 or 2018. I definitely need to brush up on my game, but it’s so far – an 18-hour drive, but it could mean the difference winning or not.
MD: I feel like the older I get, the younger the sport gets. You have to stay on it; these younger college kids are tough and coming up. They’re not messing around, so I have to stay on top of my game and the electronics since that’s a huge part of what we do now.
MD: My victory on Lake Oahe (2018 Elite Series). Making the pro ranks is difficult; and in the back of your mind you’re always questioning if you can compete with these legendary guys like Kevin (VanDam) and Skeet (Reese), the guys I grew up watching. So, to get that victory just answers all those questions you have and it’s a boost of confidence. Now I fish as a legitimate competitor to win – I am here to win.
MD: The biggest struggle for me was always money. Getting sponsorships and learning to promote myself was hard. I didn’t have any experience on how to be a salesperson, someone who could sell products and speak about the products and maintain knowledge of those products. Sponsorships are hard to come by when you start talking about monetary supplements. It’s different when companies pay you, and I struggled with that in the beginning, but in time we learn and here we are. Fishing is more than just being a good fisherman like it was in years past, you’d do some articles here and there or be in magazines; but with social media it’s a different game and you need to be well-rounded and good on all fronts. My wife (Taneisha) was into social media before I was, and said she said I needed to get in on it – and five years later it was like dang, she was so right.
MD: Before I was doing this, I was working in Ag. I’m passionate about it, but I don’t love it like I do bass fishing. This is my passion and what I love to do. Working in Ag with the farmers and growers was a cool gig.
MD: It was right after winning the TBF National Championship on Grand Lake on April 17, 2013. I knew I was going to fish fulltime and it was the opportunity I had waited for my whole life. Everyone was super supportive; I’ve always had a lot of support when it came to that. My mom, dad, and wife, they’ve all been in my corner. Having people pulling for you which makes it so much easier to focus on the water.
MD: Keeping on racking up the accolades, it’s all about winning. It’s so dang hard to win these, but my motivation is the competition.
MD: I have ICAST and then our next one for the Bass Pro Tour is on Cayuga Lake in August.
MD: It’s hard to be away from my kids and my wife. I’ve gotten accustomed to it, but you miss a lot of events like their basketball games and track meets. You never get that back and that’s very difficult, but it’s the sacrifice we all made in order to do well in this career choice. My daughter, Morgan, is 14 years old and my son, Mark Daniels III, is 19. They’re kinda grown, but it’s still difficult to be away from them.
MD: Keep going no matter what anyone else tells you.
MD: Ping pong, I’m pretty good at ping pong. Adrian Avena is better than me at it, but he also used to play college tennis.