B ass university instruction Mark Daniels Jr., a veteran of the FLW Tour and now a rookie on the Bassmaster Elite Series, learned to fish on the California Delta.
Although some Texans may quibble about whose fisheries are better, there’s no doubt that the left coast pumps out lots of big bass that would make any Texan proud. What might surprise you is that when Daniels competes in the Lone Star State, he usually has a bunch of finesse gear in his rod locker or on the deck of his bass boat.
“Fisheries like the Delta and Sam Rayburn get absolutely pummeled by recreational pressure, tournament anglers and big bass hunters,” he said. “That popularity means that you often have to downscale your equipment to get large fish to bite. I live in Alabama now, but whenever I go home to California it seems like it’s just that much harder to catch a big one.
“I generally start off with power tackle, because I want the maximum opportunity to land those fish,” he continued. “The reality is that with spinning gear you’re going to lose a few, so if I can get away with a flipping stick, 65-pound braid and a big jig I’ll do it, but in that same day I may switch to finesse tackle. If you resist it, you’re really missing out on a good opportunity.”
Sometimes his co-anglers and observers give him a sideways glance or even make a sarcastic comment when he pulls out the light line on a trophy factory, but they change their minds when it helps him make a move up the leaderboard.
That’s what happened at Lake Chickamauga in 2015 when he caught a seven pounder on a Neko Rig “on eight-pound line, way underneath a dock,” and jumped far up the leaderboard.
One of the biggest bass he’s landed, more than 11 ½ pounds, came on the Delta on a dropshot. “I’ve caught countless fish over seven or eight pounds on light line,” he said.
His number one finesse rig in big fish territory is the dropshot. With it he generally fishes a six-inch, straight-tailed Roboworm “in a pinkish/purplish hue” in and around heavy cover.
“It’s good around any cover but it really shines around wood, both standing timber and laydowns,” he said. He threads the worm onto a Roboworm Rebarb hook, usually a 2/0. They come in light, medium, and heavy gauge wire. Even when chasing big fish, he prefers the lightest one.
Daniels fishes his dropshot on a Kistler Helium 3, 7-foot medium action rod paired with a Cabela’s Verano 2500 spinning reel. “I’m a firm believer that the drag system in a reel is key,” he explained. “It has to be smooth and well-balanced and not stick.” He spools the reel with15-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid, to which he attaches a leader of eight-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon by means of a Modified Albright knot.
One overlooked finesse rig is the old-fashioned “Texas Rig” with a 1/32 to 1/8-ounce weight, which he calls “tried and true.” His go-to plastic in this instance is a Missile Baits Fuse 4.4, a small craw worm. He fishes it on the same rod, reel and line as the dropshot.
He also likes the Fuse on a Neko Rig, which unlike the Texas Rig has only gained popularity in recent years. He inserts a weight in one end of the bait and then runs the hook parallel to the length of the worm or craw and then exposes it some distance away from the weight, heading the other direction. This allows him to drop the lure in place, then add action to taunt the fish without moving it forward or sideways. When he wants something bigger than the Fuse, he’ll utilize a Zoom Trick Worm.
“It’s more effective around docks and rocks,” he said. “It doesn’t fish as well around wood. It’s simply an awesome tool for getting lots of bites.” Once again, he uses the same rod, reel and line setup.
Some co-anglers and Marshals look at the transplanted Alabama resident with a strange glance when he pulls out the spinning gear in big bass territory. He admitted that “you’re in that fish’s world, and the 50/50 odds are part of the game. I’ll throw that light line in a tree as if I had 20-pound test fluorocarbon on my reel.”
“As I said, sometimes my partners look at me funny, but when I start catching big fish it’s hard to argue,” he said. “You are going to lose some, but if you never get that bite, you don’t have the opportunity to catch that fish.”
If you want to learn more about Mark’s key tips for light line fishing where giants roam, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.
Email Pete Robbins at [email protected]