We talked and worked with Mark Daniels Jr. of Tuskegee, Alabama, on Feb. 19, 20, 21, and 22 about his maiden tournament outing with a Z-Man Fishing Products' Finesse TRD. It occurred at the Bassmaster Elite event at Lake Martin, Alabama, on Feb. 8, 9, and 10.
Ultimately, we created a log that detailed those three days, and it is similar to the Finesse News Network logs that are published in the monthly guides to Midwest finesse fishing.
Here is Daniels' tournament log:
The Weather Underground reported on Feb. 8 that it was 39 degrees at 6:56 a.m. and 58 degrees at 3:56 p.m. The sky was mostly clear, but there were short spells when it was mostly cloudy and partly cloudy. The wind angled out of the north by northwest, north, northeast, and north by northeast at 3 to 9 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.35 at 12:11 a.m., 30.41 at 5:56 a.m., 30.46 at 11:56 a.m., and 30.39 at 2:56 p.m.
The Weather Underground reported on Feb. 9 that it was 41 degrees at 4:56 a.m. and 64 degrees at 12:56 p.m. The sky fluctuated from being clear to mostly cloudy to overcast, and it drizzled and rained lightly. The wind was calm for a spell, and then it angled out of the north by northeast, northeast, east by northeast, east, east by southeast, southeast, and south by southeast at 3 to 9 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.35 at 12:56 a.m., 30.33 at 5:56 a.m., 30.30 at 11:56 a.m., 30.33 at 5:56 a.m., and 30.20 at 3:05 p.m.
The Weather Underground reported on Feb. 10 that it was 53 degrees at 6:46 a.m. and 67 degrees at 2:56 p.m. At times, the sky was overcast and scattered with clouds, and it was also misty, and occasionally it drizzled and rained lightly. The wind angled out of the east by southeast, east, southeast, south, and south by southeast at 4 to 10 mph. The barometric pressure was 30.19 at 12:26 a.m., 30.14 at 5:56 a.m., 30.06 at 11:56 a.m., and 29.99 at 2:56 p.m.
In-Fisherman's solunar calendar noted that the best fishing would occur on Feb. 8 from 4:10 a.m. to 6:10 a.m., 4:33 p.m. to 6:33 p.m., and 10:22 a.m. to 12:22 p.m. It would occur from 4:54 a.m. to 6:54 a.m., 5:17 p.m. to 7:17 p.m., and 11:05 p.m. to 1:05 a.m. on Feb. 9. It would occur from 5:36 a.m. to 7:36 a.m., 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and 11:25 a.m. to 1:25 p.m. on Feb. 10. Mark Daniels was afloat from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Feb. 8, 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Feb. 9, and 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Feb. 10.
The water level was 484.6 feet above sea level on Feb. 8, 484.7 on Feb. 9, and 484.6 on Feb. 10. Its normal wintertime level is 484. Its full-pool level is 491, which occurs in late May to early September. At the areas the Daniels fished, the surface temperature ranged from 49 to 50.5 degrees on Feb. 8, 49 to 50.5 degrees on Feb. 9, and 49 to 51 degrees on Feb. 10. The water exhibited three to four feet of visibility.
Lake Martin is a 44,000-acre highland reservoir. It is an Alabama Power Company's reservoir that was impounded in 1926. Since Daniels moved to Tuskegee in January of 2014 from Fairfield, California, Lake Martin has become his home lake. It lies about 31 miles from his home.
Daniels spent three tournament days in the reservoir's Blue Creek arm, which is situated along the southeast side of the lower portions of the reservoir. He spent the bulk of the 20 1/2 hours that he was afloat wielding a Z-Man's green-pumpkin-goby Finesse TRD.
The green-pumpkin-goby Finesse TRD is one of the primary tools for Midwest finesse anglers. They usually rig it onto either a chartreuse or a red mushroom-style jig, such as a 1/20- or 1/15-ounce Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ jig. And they cast it into relatively shallow water and retrieve it by employing one of the six standard Midwest finesse retrieves or subtle variations of those retrieves.
But at the Lake Martin tourney, Daniels used it differently than the way Midwest finesse anglers use it. He affixed it to a green-pumpkin 1/6-ounce Z-Man's Finesse ShroomZ jig and employed it with a vertical presentation in 30 to 60 feet of water. He also dragged it, which is one of the Midwest finesse retrieves, but he dragged it in deep water.
He worked with it on a medium-light spinning rod, 15-pound-test Seaguar Smackdown Tournament Braided Line, and an eight-foot leader made from eight-pound-test Seaguar Tatsu Fluorocarbon Line. He used an Albright knot to attach the leader to the braided line.
Daniels used a Garmin GPSMAP 7610xsv Chartplotter Sounder to locate the spotted bass that were abiding about a quarter of a mile from the mouth of Blue Creek and along the submerged creek channel. They were residing in 30 to 60 feet of water.
For three days, he focused on two locales along a submerged creek channel. One area was about 20 yards long, and it was the most fruitful location. The second one was about 100 yards long. He shared some of these yards with two other Bassmaster Elite anglers. By the third day, his catch rate declined significantly, and he surmised these locales had been overfished.
As he methodically searched these two locales with the Garmin, he made 15- to -20 yard casts with the Finesse TRD rig and dragged it along the bottom. When he spotted what looked like a suspended spotted bass or a small aggregation of suspended spotted bass, he would stop dragging the TRD rig and reel it to the surface. Once it was at the surface, he would drop it and allow it to quickly plummet about five feet below the spotted bass. When it was five feet below the spotted bass, he would slowly reel it up until it was two to three feet above them, and then he would shake it.
When he crossed paths with a single spotted bass, he discovered that it was usually what he called "a looker or a follower." So, instead of engulfing the Finesse TRD rig, it would merely swim up to it and look at it and follow it. When he was confronted with a looker and follower, he would not spend more than a minute trying to coax it into striking the Finesse TRD rig. After he failed to elicit a strike from a looker and follower, Daniels commenced his search-and-drag routine again.
When he crossed paths with an aggregation of spotted bass, he executed the same procedure that he employed with a single spotted bass. And he could -- with some regularity — allure one of the spotted bass in that aggregation to engulf the Finesse TRD rig.
On Feb. 8, he caught 23 spotted bass, and all of them were caught on his Finesse TRD rig.
He caught 22 spotted bass on Feb. 9, and 19 of them were caught on the Finesse TRD rig, and three were caught on a vertical presentation with a 3.75-inch Z-Man's Smokey Shad StreakZ affixed to an unpainted and round 3/8-ounce jig.
On Feb. 10, he caught 11 spotted bass. Nine of them were caught on the Finesse TRD rig. During the final 30 minutes of his Feb. 10 endeavors, Daniels changed locales and wielded a pearl-chartreuse MegaBass Vision 110, which is a jerkbait, and he caught two spotted bass in seven feet of water along flat points that are endowed with scattered rocks.
Five of the 58 spotted bass that he caught were caught when he was searching with the Garmin and employing a cast-and-drag presentation with his Finesse TRD rig.
Thirteen of the 15 spotted bass that he took to the tournament's scale were caught on the Finesse TRD, and two were caught on the MegaBass jerkbait.
The five spotted bass that he brought to the tournament's scale on Feb. 8 weighed 12 pounds, eight ounces, which put him in 17th place. The five that he brought to the scale on Feb. 9 weighed 10 pounds, 15 ounces, which put him in 22nd place. The five that he weighed on Feb. 10 weighed 10 pounds, 12 ounces. In sum, his 15 spotted bass weighed 34 pounds and three ounces, which garnered him 24th place and $10,000. It was a nip-and-tuck event, and if he had managed to catch 20 more ounces of spotted bass, he would have been in 13th place.
(1) For some biographical information about Mark Daniels Jr., here is a link to his website: https://markdanielsjrfishing.com/bio/.
(2) It needs to be noted that many Midwest finesse anglers are reluctant to pursue black bass that abide in deep-water environments. The reason for that stems from the fact that barotrauma can render a dastardly effect on a black bass when it is reeled to the surface. It causes damage to the eyes and internal organs of a black bass, and sometimes it can be deadly. Of course, some anglers contend that our worries about the effects of barotrauma are hair-brained, saying that we cannot definitively prove our assertions. It seems to be a debate that will rage forevermore.