Mark Daniels Jr., of Fairfield, Calif., saw his life’s work as well as his life’s passion validated as he took home the title of 2013 Federation National Champion. Bolstered by a total catch of 62 pounds, 4 ounces, including 19 pounds, 4 ounces during Saturday’s final day of competition, Daniels walked away with the tournament title as well as the coveted $100,000 “Living the Dream” prize package.
“I’m just so excited right now; I can’t even really think,” Daniels said. “After catching that huge bag on day two I knew I had a shot to win this thing.”
Daniels caught 18 pounds, 6 ounces on day one and a 24-pound, 10-ounce bag on day two to grab the top qualifying spot heading into the final round. Today, Daniels was able to finally seal the deal.
“My travel partner Tom Shimabukuro and I found fish A-rigging in practice that I thought could potentially be winning fish,” Daniels’s said. “Then, the final day of practice, me and Ben went out and we kind of solidified that.”
“We found a bunch of areas that looked similar and I went in and pulled a fish off of each one of those spots,” Daniels said. “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,” he said. “I did that and 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’s continued. “I probably hit 25 different spots on that creek, hitting them 10 to 25 minutes at the most and then picking up and moving on to another spot.”
Amazingly enough, this was Daniels' first trip to the national championship.
“I’ve been fishing all my life – bass fishing since I was 11 and 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,” Daniels said. “My gift is fishing; this is what I do. It was just my time.”
For a complete list of boater results, click here.
Wright scores national championship title in Co-angler Division
Federation National Champion co-angler Ben Wright of Peru, N.Y., parlayed a final-day catch of 15 pounds 9 ounces into a three-day total weight of 50 pounds, 13 ounces. His overall effort was good enough to secure the prestigious national championship title as well as earn a berth in the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup. However, Wright earned something else as well – netting TBF’s new “Living the Dream” co-angler package.
“In fishing there’s a lot of luck – there’s a lot of skill and there’s a lot of luck; and this week I had it,” Wright said. “I knew I was only 11 ounces behind (coming into today). I knew I was in a position to win it.”
But the road to the championship title was hardly a cakewalk. Wright struggled, catching two keepers in his first two days of practice until day three when he got paired with Daniels, the eventual boater champion.
“We just started to work some things out, put some things together,” he said.
Wright caught all his fish on an A-rig equipped with a 5-inch, white, curly-tailed grub.
“I seemed to get bit better than my other two boaters just following them in for the second pass on things. They were great fishermen, but I think maybe the fish were keying in on the white. I don’t know, but I got the fish to prove it.”
Wright said he owes Daniels a debt of gratitude as well.
“I give a lot of credit to Mark, a lot of credit,” Wright said. “If nothing else, what it did is get my head right. I was struggling in practice and it’s tough to go into a big tournament like this struggling. It put my head in a position where I said, ‘Okay, things can work. I’m going to catch fish.’ I just had to go out and execute.”
For a complete list of co-angler results, click here.
In addition to their respective tournament titles and cash prizes, both national champion anglers earned coveted spots in the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup and the 2013 BFL All-American. Daniels, the national champion boater, will receive the $100,000 "Living the Dream" package. He will literally “live his dream” fishing as an FLW Tour pro for a year with use of a wrapped Ranger boat and Chevrolet truck. He will also receive travel expenses, sponsor merchandise and prizes. For his efforts, Daniels also won the Ranger Cup contingency award – a new Ranger Z518 boat and trailer. Robert Rikard of Lexington, S.C., the top Ranger Cup qualifier in the Co-angler Division, won $5,000 cash. For more information, visit bassfederation.com.