ElaZtech™ Outlasts OaheZ-Man® pro Mark Daniels Jr. earns first Bassmaster Elite Series win
One of the truest tests of authentic angling talent unfolds on the fourth day of most Bassmaster Elite Series events. An open mind and the confidence to make essential adjustments inevitably unlocks success. But when the dust settles after a few days of intense fishing pressure, victory inevitably comes to anglers with the skill to make subtle tweaks in presentation.
On Monday, July 2—so called Championship Monday—after which some of Lake Oahe’s best spots had already been raked over the coals, Mark Daniels Jr. walked away with a big win, fulfilling a lifelong dream via 69 pounds of smallmouth bass—his first 1st on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
“Day one at Oahe,” recalls the ever-grinning Daniels, “I was all alone on my spot. It was an underwater point from 13 to 18 feet, with rocks, a little brush and a few key high spots. I threw a Z-Man Ned Rig a lot—a green pumpkin Finesse TRD on a 1/5-ounce Finesse ShroomZ jighead. But I also rotated between the TRD and a dropshot-rigged Z-Man Finesse WormZ, either green pumpkin or mud bug. Goal was to show the fish something different every 30 minutes or so.”. . . Essential adjustment number one.
“On the second day, I shared my spot with some other guys, but still managed to pull good fish on the same ElaZtech baits. In fact, throughout the four-day tournament, every bass I caught ate ElaZtech.”
Despite mounting pressure on his rock- and brush-encrusted point, Daniels managed to sack 20 pounds 4 ounces of South Dakota smallmouths, eclipsing prior leader David Fritts.
Tweak number two: “The Finesse WormZ is an awesome, underrated dropshot bait. But instead of nose-hooking it, I wacky-rigged the bait, running the hook right through the egg sack. You get a ton more action out of the Finesse WormZ this way, and don’t have to shake the rod real hard to activate it. The bait does some pretty cool stuff, almost on its own.Daniels wacky-rigged a Z-Man Finesse WormZ on a dropshot, his primary presentation.
After Daniels lipped 17-06 pounds of bass on day three, his lead expanded to over 6 pounds. Fishing pressure, however, had started taking a toll on his spot. As the remaining smallmouth bass on Daniels’ location grew more and more persnickety, the California native dug deeper into his bag of tricks.
Adjustment number three: “One key move on the final day was to stay off the fish and make longer casts. What worked really well was to give the bait one or two big snaps as it approached the fish zone—rather than simply shaking the dropshot in place.”
Daniels occasionally alternated with the Ned Rig, casting it up onto the point, dragging, gently hopping and occasionally reeling the Finesse TRD fast. A Finesse TRD fished on a Ned Rig accounted for plenty of Daniels’ bites.
“The thing with ElaZtech is, its buoyancy and softness allow it to move in ways you can’t pull off with other baits. For example, when I paused my retrieve and gave slack line, the Finesse WormZ floated up on the dropshot and stayed high in the strike zone. Other baits sink to bottom and sort of die.”
Another factor at Lake Oahe, toothy walleyes shredded plenty of soft plastics, wasting a lot of anglers’ valuable time. “I caught quite a few walleyes during the tournament,” Daniels noted. “But the durability and longevity of the Z-Man baits kept me in the game. I mean, I’ve caught more than 60 bass and other fish on a single ElaZtech bait. It’s that tough.”Daniels rigged 6-, 8- and 10-pound test fluorocarbon to combat Oahe’s clear waters and increasingly shy smallmouths.
Tough indeed. In the face of a dwindling supply of biting bass on his deep rock points, Daniels scratched 13 pounds 3 ounces on the final day to edge second place finisher, Casey Ashley. “Man, what an unbelievable feeling,” he exclaimed during the long drive back to his Alabama home. “I’ve been waiting all my life for this moment!”
Already a successful tournament bass angler, Daniels, who won the Bass Federation National Championship in 2013, continues to rise in the ranks of competitive bass fishing. Here’s hoping we see the talented and congenial Z-Man pro take the big stage again in the very near future.
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