By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor


Mark Daniels Jr.'s return to his Northern California home for Mother's Day started out as a pleasure trip. Then he discovered that conditions were ripe for doing some business, and he headed back East this week with a much fatter wallet than he'd arrived with.

Daniels, the 2013 winner of the TBF National Championship who's fishing the FLW Tour this year on the accompanying "Living the Dream" free ride, got into the California Delta Western Rayovac only because he'd had a great day fun-fishing with a couple of buddies a few days beforehand. He had 2 more superb days in the event (along with a mediocre one) en route to notching his first victory at the triple-A level.

California didn't experience the harsh winter that much of the country did (the vast majority of the state never does), but just like bodies of water in other regions, the spawn in the massive, labyrinthine Delta was delayed this year. Daniels doesn't know why, but he was happy to take advantage the situation.

Despite a sluggish day 1, he ended up averaging more than 24 pounds a day, and his 72-07 total left him nearly 7 pounds clear of a field made up of many of the West Coast's top competitors. The win was worth more than $38,000, and it provided a confidence boost as he departed for a pre-practice trip to Kentucky Lake.

Here's how he did it.

Practice

The day after Mother's Day, Daniels got together with former team partner Jamond Andrews and another old pal to fish the Delta just for kicks. They got dozens of bites and Andrews caught a fish that was pushing 12 pounds.

It became obvious that the fish they were catching were still feeding up in preparation for the reproduction process.

"Generally by this time of year, the spawn is over for the most part," he said. "I've been gone all year fishing the Tour and it was clear that a lot of the fish had held back for some reason. The last full moon pulled up a ton of them – and they were biting. We caught about 30 bass between the three of us.

"I knew I had to try to sign up and fish this tournament. I had to scrounge around to find enough tackle (as all of his primary gear was back East with his wrapped Ranger) and a buddy of mine let me borrow his boat."

He spent Tuesday collecting equipment and getting registered for the tournament. Then he put in his one and only real practice day on Wednesday.

"I knew I was going to be primary flipping mats, so I cruised around the Delta and made a lot of flips. I shook a lot of fish off and built up my confidence."

Competition

> Day 1: 5, 17-07
> Day 2: 5, 28-04
> Day 3: 5, 26-12
> Total = 15, 72-07

Day 1 was a bit of a letdown for Daniels as he came in with a sack that was more than 2 1/2 pounds shy of the 20-pound mark.

"I didn't do as good as I wanted to, but fortunately I did enough to hang in there," he said. "I went to some really good areas in the north Delta and caught a ton of fish, but they weren't the right bites.

"I managed to catch one 5-pounder and that saved the day for me."

He made a location change for day 2 that resulted in an improvement of nearly 11 pounds. That bag was headed up by a 10-14 bruiser that was the biggest fish to come to the scale that day. He moved into a tie for 2nd place, just 9 ounces out of the lead.

"Looking at the weights, I knew I had to do something different, so I ran south to the Old River area. It was an amazing day. I had two fish that (combined) to weigh almost 20 pounds – I had another one that was over 8."

He didn't catch any monsters on the final day, as his heaviest specimen weighed about 6 1/4. He had several others nearly as big, though, and his sack left the rest of Top-10 cut survivors far in his wake.

Big Bite Baits
Photo: Big Bite Baits

A Big Bite Baits YoMama in watermelon candy was one of two flipping baits that Daniels employed.

"I thought I'd need at least 20 pounds to have a shot (to win) and I knew I had more than that," he said. "But you're never safe at the Delta; you could catch 30 pounds and somebody else could come in with 35 – I've seen it happen.

"All I knew was that I was very comfortable with what I did have."

Pattern Notes

> His best fish each day bit after 11 o'clock. "The tide was getting an hour later each day, and what I was keying on was the outgoing," he said. "We were getting less and less of that tide as the tournament progressed. On the final day, I caught one of my biggest ones with less than 30 minutes to go."

> The places he fished all featured a combination of water hyacinth and primrose, with emergent grass growing from the bottom. "The fish were hiding in the grass, but the current had to be hitting it right to catch them. Those big fish are so current-oriented and they'll use it to bring them their last meal before they go to spawn."

Winning Gear Notes

> Flipping gear – 8' heavy-action Daiwa Steez flipping stick, Daiwa Zillion Type R casting reel (7.3:1 ratio), 55-pound Daiwa Samurai braided line, 1 1/4- or 1 1/2-ounce Picasso tungsten flipping weight, 3/0 Gamakatsu Heavy Cover Flipping hook, Reaction Innovations Kinky Beaver (420 or black neon) or Big Bite Baits YoMama (watermelon candy).

> He has his flipping hooks modified by Hi's Tackle Box owner Dean Yoshizumi. "I absolutely love that hook, but I was having some trouble with the heat-shrink keeper coming off after I'd caught some fish. Dean said he had some fly-tying skills and he could custom-wrap some thread on there so it would never come off."

> He said he pulled 10 to 12 of his weigh-in fish from the mats. He also threw a River2Sea Bully Wa Frog, a black D&M Custom Baits Slow Roller Buzzbait and a Yamamoto Senko.

The Bottom Line

> Main factor in his success – "It was a combination of a few things. It's my home body of water, so I certainly have some knowledge there, but the specific area where I was catching fish I'd never fished before. Me and Jamond have won a lot of tournaments on places that just looked like they were set up right and we randomly pulled up and caught the winning fish. I found that one stretch that had with the right cover and that's where I caught the 11 and the 8 on day 2."

> Performance edge – "I'd say that 8-foot flipping stick because of the way it handles. I've been fishing that rod for 5 or 6 years and there's not a better flipping stick out there for catching big fish. It's really parabolic and it absorbs a lot of their impact."

Much of the tackle referenced above is available at the BassFan Store. To browse the selection, click here..

Final Standings

1. Mark Daniels Jr -- Fairfield, Ca -- 17-07 (5) -- 28-04 (5) -- 45-11 (10) -- 26-12 (5) -- 72-07 (15) -- $38,664

2. Kyle Grover -- Trabuco Canyon, Ca -- 18-10 (5) -- 27-10 (5) -- 46-04 (10) -- 19-05 (5) -- 65-09 (15) -- $14,982

3. Vu Au -- Tucson, Az -- 25-03 (5) -- 20-01 (5) -- 45-04 (10) -- 18-03 (5) -- 63-07 (15) -- $11,599

4. Roy Hawk -- Lake Havasu City, Az -- 29-11 (5) -- 16-00 (5) -- 45-11 (10) -- 13-14 (5) -- 59-09 (15) -- $9,666

5. Stephen Tosh Jr -- Turlock, Ca -- 14-01 (5) -- 23-10 (5) -- 37-11 (10) -- 20-15 (5) -- 58-10 (15) -- $8,699

6. Jerred Jennings -- Stockton, Ca -- 17-04 (5) -- 21-10 (5) -- 38-14 (10) -- 18-13 (5) -- 57-11 (15) -- $7,733

7. Greg Leonard -- Elk Grove, Ca -- 19-00 (5) -- 21-03 (5) -- 40-03 (10) -- 17-04 (5) -- 57-07 (15) -- $6,766

8. Tai Au -- Glendale, Az -- 19-09 (5) -- 17-07 (5) -- 37-00 (10) -- 15-03 (5) -- 52-03 (15) -- $5,800

9. Timothy Venkus -- Wilton, Ca -- 16-10 (5) -- 21-01 (5) -- 37-11 (10) -- 13-14 (5) -- 51-09 (15) -- $4,833

10. Benjamin Byrd -- Moab, Ut -- 18-08 (5) -- 21-15 (5) -- 40-07 (10) -- 10-05 (5) -- 50-12 (15) -- $3,866

The following anglers did not make the cut and did not fish on day 3.

11. Wade Curtiss -- Meadow Vista, Ca -- 19-07 (5) -- 17-04 (5) -- 36-11 (10) -- $3,625

12. Nick Nourot -- Benicia, Ca -- 21-14 (5) -- 14-09 (4) -- 36-07 (9) -- $3,383

13. Chad Martin -- Nicolaus, Ca -- 22-07 (5) -- 13-15 (5) -- 36-06 (10) -- $2,900

14. Greg Gutierrez -- Red Bluff, Ca -- 19-11 (5) -- 16-09 (5) -- 36-04 (10) -- $2,900

15. Aaron Britt -- Yuba City, Ca -- 18-01 (5) -- 17-15 (5) -- 36-00 (10) -- $2,900

16. Mike Cato -- Lockford, Ca -- 19-06 (5) -- 16-09 (5) -- 35-15 (10) -- $2,900

17. Paul Tilton -- Oroville, Ca -- 19-02 (5) -- 16-13 (5) -- 35-15 (10) -- $2,900

18. Jamond Andrews -- Brentwood, Ca -- 17-00 (5) -- 17-14 (5) -- 34-14 (10) -- $2,900

19. John Billheimer Jr -- Discovery Bay, Ca -- 18-05 (5) -- 16-08 (5) -- 34-13 (10) -- $2,900

20. Ken Phillips -- Antioch, Ca -- 15-05 (5) -- 18-07 (5) -- 33-12 (10) -- $2,900

21. Richard Dobyns -- Yuba City, Ca -- 25-07 (5) -- 8-02 (5) -- 33-09 (10) -- $2,658

22. Michael Wright -- Grass Valley, Ca -- 15-10 (5) -- 17-15 (5) -- 33-09 (10) -- $2,658

23. Steven Latino -- Hemet, Ca -- 17-05 (5) -- 16-03 (5) -- 33-08 (10) -- $2,658

24. Cody Spetz -- Menifee, Ca -- 15-04 (5) -- 17-15 (5) -- 33-03 (10) -- $2,658

25. Brett Leber -- Dixon, Ca -- 10-12 (5) -- 21-03 (5) -- 31-15 (10) -- $2,658

26. Melvin Williams -- Chula Vista, Ca -- 14-06 (5) -- 17-04 (5) -- 31-10 (10) -- $2,416

27. Charley Almassey -- Oakley, Ca -- 10-02 (5) -- 21-02 (5) -- 31-04 (10) -- $2,416

28. Joe Raftery -- Las Vegas, Nv -- 23-05 (5) -- 7-12 (5) -- 31-01 (10) -- $2,416

29. Jiggs Benn -- Myrtle Creek, Or -- 19-08 (5) -- 11-09 (5) -- 31-01 (10) -- $2,416

30. Joe Uribe Jr. -- Surprise, Az -- 18-07 (5) -- 12-09 (5) -- 31-00 (10) -- $2,416

31. Brian Carnahan -- Flagstaff, Az -- 13-07 (5) -- 17-09 (5) -- 31-00 (10) -- $1,933

32. Jason Milligan -- Shasta Lake, Ca -- 11-11 (5) -- 18-13 (5) -- 30-08 (10) -- $1,933

33. Beau Palley -- El Dorado Hills, Ca -- 11-14 (5) -- 18-10 (5) -- 30-08 (10) -- $1,933

34. Ken Mah -- Elk Grove, Ca -- 12-02 (5) -- 18-05 (5) -- 30-07 (10) -- $1,933

35. Lorenzo Rossetti -- Stockton, Ca -- 16-02 (5) -- 14-05 (5) -- 30-07 (10) -- $1,933

36. Jimmy Reese -- Witter Springs, Ca -- 9-06 (5) -- 20-15 (5) -- 30-05 (10) -- $1,933

37. Toshitada Suzuki -- Tokyo, 125-0061 Japan -- 11-08 (5) -- 18-13 (5) -- 30-05 (10) -- $1,933

38. Jon Strelic -- El Cajon, Ca -- 17-00 (5) -- 12-15 (5) -- 29-15 (10) -- $1,933

39. Rob Riehl -- Tracy, Ca -- 12-02 (5) -- 17-10 (5) -- 29-12 (10)

40. Cody Remick -- Royal Ooaks, Ca -- 14-13 (5) -- 14-04 (5) -- 29-01 (10)

41. John Vano -- Redwood City, Ca -- 15-02 (5) -- 13-11 (5) -- 28-13 (10)

42. Vincent Bernal -- Los Banos, Ca -- 19-00 (5) -- 9-12 (5) -- 28-12 (10)

43. Miles Howe -- San Clemente, Ca -- 17-00 (5) -- 11-05 (5) -- 28-05 (10)

44. Mark Lassagne -- San Ramon, Ca -- 12-03 (5) -- 15-15 (5) -- 28-02 (10)

45. Bryant Smith -- Castro Valley, Ca -- 11-00 (5) -- 16-12 (5) -- 27-12 (10)

46. Joel Leiser -- Antioch, Ca -- 14-07 (5) -- 12-15 (5) -- 27-06 (10)

47. Zack Thompson -- Alameda, Ca -- 15-12 (5) -- 11-06 (5) -- 27-02 (10)

48. Phil Tilbury -- Stockton, Ca -- 13-12 (5) -- 13-06 (5) -- 27-02 (10)

49. Kevin Stewart -- Elk Grove, Ca -- 14-12 (5) -- 12-05 (5) -- 27-01 (10)

50. Quincy Washington -- Elk Grove, Ca -- 16-04 (5) -- 10-12 (5) -- 27-00 (10)

51. Robert Tillman -- Sacramento, Ca -- 14-01 (5) -- 12-10 (5) -- 26-11 (10)

52. Billy Hines -- Vacaville, Ca -- 6-10 (5) -- 20-00 (5) -- 26-10 (10)

53. Randy Mcabee Jr -- Bakersfield, Ca -- 10-08 (5) -- 15-14 (5) -- 26-06 (10)

54. John Fuqua -- Oxnard, Ca -- 16-05 (5) -- 10-00 (5) -- 26-05 (10)

55. Sean Minderman -- Spokane, Wa -- 15-15 (5) -- 10-06 (5) -- 26-05 (10)

56. David Valdivia -- Norwalk, Ca -- 12-03 (5) -- 14-01 (5) -- 26-04 (10)

57. Maurice Miller II -- Cerritos, Ca -- 12-04 (5) -- 13-08 (5) -- 25-12 (10)

58. Brian Carpenter -- Bethel Island, Ca -- 16-01 (5) -- 9-10 (5) -- 25-11 (10)

59. Ken Howden -- Mesa, Az -- 14-04 (4) -- 11-02 (5) -- 25-06 (9)

60. Juan Acosta -- Tracy, Ca -- 10-08 (5) -- 14-11 (5) -- 25-03 (10)

61. Chris Franks -- Petaluma, Ca -- 13-04 (5) -- 11-12 (5) -- 25-00 (10)

62. Marco Valdez -- Gilbert, Az -- 18-09 (5) -- 6-05 (5) -- 24-14 (10)

63. Gary Dobyns -- Live Oak, Ca -- 15-10 (5) -- 9-04 (5) -- 24-14 (10)

64. Todd Holverson -- El Cajon, Ca -- 10-14 (5) -- 14-00 (5) -- 24-14 (10)

65. Hunter Schlander -- Modesto, Ca -- 12-00 (5) -- 12-14 (5) -- 24-14 (10)

66. Dee Thomas -- Brentwood, Ca -- 12-04 (5) -- 12-09 (5) -- 24-13 (10)

67. Josh Kaneko -- Berkeley, Ca -- 11-15 (5) -- 12-13 (5) -- 24-12 (10)

68. Michael Moreno -- Salida, Ca -- 10-09 (5) -- 14-02 (5) -- 24-11 (10)

69. Travis Huckaby -- Modesto, Ca -- 14-02 (5) -- 10-07 (5) -- 24-09 (10)

70. Isaac Budesilich -- Oakley, Ca -- 10-01 (5) -- 14-07 (5) -- 24-08 (10)

71. Mike Folkestad -- Villa Park, Ca -- 12-00 (5) -- 12-06 (5) -- 24-06 (10)

72. Gary Pinholster -- Lake Havasu, Az -- 15-01 (5) -- 9-04 (5) -- 24-05 (10)

73. Robert Lee -- Angels Camp, Ca -- 9-08 (5) -- 14-13 (5) -- 24-05 (10)

74. Ed Arledge -- Valley Center, Ca -- 11-07 (5) -- 12-14 (5) -- 24-05 (10)

75. Tuan Nguyen -- Woodland, Ca -- 15-13 (5) -- 8-07 (4) -- 24-04 (9)

76. Mitch Kistner -- Gilbert, Az -- 15-03 (5) -- 9-00 (5) -- 24-03 (10)

77. Sean Kimble -- San Ramon, Ca -- 9-12 (5) -- 14-04 (5) -- 24-00 (10)

78. Clayton Meyer -- Henderson, Nv -- 12-02 (5) -- 11-12 (5) -- 23-14 (10)

79. Kazuki Kodama -- Torrance, Ca -- 12-01 (5) -- 11-12 (5) -- 23-13 (10)

80. Beau Joudrey -- Oakley, Ca -- 12-13 (5) -- 10-11 (5) -- 23-08 (10)

81. Jason Borofka -- Salinas, Ca -- 8-09 (5) -- 14-11 (5) -- 23-04 (10)

82. Bobby Barrack -- Oakley, Ca -- 11-08 (5) -- 11-12 (5) -- 23-04 (10)

83. Scott Hellesen -- Whittier, Ca -- 14-09 (5) -- 8-05 (5) -- 22-14 (10)

84. John Stewart Jr -- Peoria, Az -- 14-14 (4) -- 7-14 (5) -- 22-12 (9)

85. Garrett Dixon -- Durham, Ca -- 5-13 (5) -- 16-08 (5) -- 22-05 (10)

86. Nicholas Cloutier -- Knightsen, Ca -- 9-15 (5) -- 12-06 (5) -- 22-05 (10)

87. Kevin Hugo -- Chino, Ca -- 5-11 (4) -- 15-07 (5) -- 21-02 (9)

88. Eric Lippincott -- Daniel, Wy -- 11-02 (5) -- 9-15 (5) -- 21-01 (10)

89. Rusty Salewske -- Alpine, Ca -- 12-01 (5) -- 8-15 (5) -- 21-00 (10)

90. Robert Thorton -- Auburn, Ca -- 14-12 (5) -- 6-03 (5) -- 20-15 (10)

91. Mark Walker -- Cave Creek, Az -- 8-12 (5) -- 12-03 (5) -- 20-15 (10)

92. Jeff Rutt -- Winchester, Ca -- 8-01 (5) -- 12-12 (5) -- 20-13 (10)

93. Salvador Herrera -- Discovery Bay, Ca -- 6-09 (5) -- 14-03 (5) -- 20-12 (10)

94. Jacob Russell -- Tucson, Az -- 9-06 (4) -- 11-04 (5) -- 20-10 (9)

95. Zachary Elrite -- San Jose, Ca -- 14-07 (5) -- 6-02 (5) -- 20-09 (10)

96. Jim Lyon -- Reno, Nv -- 13-13 (5) -- 6-10 (4) -- 20-07 (9)

97. Edward J Schneider Jr -- Stockton, Ca -- 11-07 (5) -- 9-00 (5) -- 20-07 (10)

98. Chris Costello -- Gilroy, Ca -- 10-08 (5) -- 9-13 (5) -- 20-05 (10)

99. Jon Griffith -- Mesa, Az -- 10-08 (5) -- 9-08 (5) -- 20-00 (10)

100. David Kromm -- Kennewick, Wa -- 6-07 (3) -- 13-07 (4) -- 19-14 (7)

101. Chris Parks -- Eugene, Or -- 9-02 (5) -- 10-10 (5) -- 19-12 (10)

102. James Shaw -- Coolidge, Az -- 8-05 (5) -- 11-06 (4) -- 19-11 (9)

103. Jeff Michels -- Lakehead, Ca -- 12-00 (5) -- 7-10 (5) -- 19-10 (10)

104. Todd Woods -- San Dimas, Ca -- 11-04 (5) -- 8-02 (5) -- 19-06 (10)

105. Ryan German -- Fairfield, Ca -- 15-05 (5) -- 3-15 (3) -- 19-04 (8)

106. Howard Hughes -- Redding, Ca -- 6-10 (5) -- 12-01 (5) -- 18-11 (10)

107. Marty Lawrence -- Mesa, Az -- 6-05 (5) -- 12-05 (5) -- 18-10 (10)

108. Chad Hulbert -- Gilroy, Ca -- 11-14 (5) -- 6-10 (5) -- 18-08 (10)

109. Ador Lopez -- Sacramento, Ca -- 9-02 (5) -- 9-03 (5) -- 18-05 (10)

110. Robert Wysong -- Hauser Lake, Id -- 7-05 (5) -- 10-15 (5) -- 18-04 (10)

111. Phillip Dutra -- Antioch, Ca -- 10-11 (5) -- 7-07 (3) -- 18-02 (8)

112. Edwin Shaver -- Lake Havasu City, Az -- 11-01 (5) -- 6-13 (5) -- 17-14 (10)

113. Clay Lippincott -- Goodear, Az -- 8-15 (4) -- 8-15 (5) -- 17-14 (9)

114. Matt Shura -- Gilbert, Az -- 11-03 (5) -- 6-04 (4) -- 17-07 (9)

115. Russ Barger -- Boise, Id -- 7-04 (4) -- 10-03 (5) -- 17-07 (9)

116. Manas Malikian -- Huntington Beach, Ca -- 6-08 (5) -- 10-14 (5) -- 17-06 (10)

117. Obedie Williams -- Discovery Bay, Ca -- 14-15 (5) -- 2-06 (5) -- 17-05 (10)

118. Jim Moulton -- Merced, Ca -- 7-06 (5) -- 9-14 (5) -- 17-04 (10)

119. Jim Hawkes -- Apache Junction, Az -- 10-04 (5) -- 6-08 (4) -- 16-12 (9)

120. Ronald Hammett -- La Mesa, Ca -- 6-12 (5) -- 9-15 (5) -- 16-11 (10)

121. Roy Jones -- Henderson, Nv -- 9-15 (5) -- 6-04 (4) -- 16-03 (9)

122. Steve Adams -- Discovery Bay, Ca -- 8-08 (5) -- 7-09 (4) -- 16-01 (9)

123. Brian Trusso -- Covina, Ca -- 8-05 (5) -- 7-01 (5) -- 15-06 (10)

124. Brent Becker -- Henderson, Nv -- 2-15 (3) -- 12-02 (5) -- 15-01 (8)

125. Tim Dotson -- Waddell, Az -- 2-15 (3) -- 10-13 (5) -- 13-12 (8)

126. Mo Hassen -- Alameda, Ca -- 5-07 (3) -- 8-03 (5) -- 13-10 (8)

127. Hideki Maeda -- Osaka, 590-0133 Japan, Jp -- 13-06 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 13-06 (5)

128. Cliff Gregory -- Quartz Hill, Ca -- 3-14 (2) -- 9-07 (5) -- 13-05 (7)

129. Keith Kitchen -- Bend, Or -- 3-15 (2) -- 8-15 (5) -- 12-14 (7)

130. Patrick Spencer -- Penn Valley, Ca -- 7-07 (2) -- 5-06 (3) -- 12-13 (5)

131. Max Bauer -- La Mesa, Ca -- 0-00 (0) -- 12-12 (5) -- 12-12 (5)

132. Brent James -- Saint George, Ut -- 7-04 (5) -- 5-03 (4) -- 12-07 (9)

133. Kevin Gray -- Hermiston, Or -- 12-04 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 12-04 (5)

134. Steve Conselvi -- Eureka, Ca -- 12-01 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 12-01 (5)

135. Kent Brown -- Roseville, Ca -- 3-14 (2) -- 8-01 (5) -- 11-15 (7)

136. Jay Wright -- Seal Beach, Ca -- 11-10 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 11-10 (5)

137. Matt Newman -- Agoura Hills, Ca -- 9-07 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 9-07 (5)

138. Michael Rigney -- Janesville, Ca -- 3-09 (3) -- 5-10 (3) -- 9-03 (6)

139. Tyler Rempe -- Sierra Vista, Az -- 8-15 (2) -- 0-00 (0) -- 8-15 (2)

140. Gregory Halliman -- Littlerock, Ca -- 3-11 (2) -- 4-05 (2) -- 8-00 (4)

141. Vincent Alvarado -- Modesto, Ca -- 6-13 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 6-13 (5)

142. Justin Kerr -- Simi Valley, Ca -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Big Bass

Day 1: Marco Valdez -- 11-07 -- $284
Day 2: Mark Daniels Jr. -- 10-14 -- $284