My First Fishing Tournament | Mark Davis

The product recommendations on our site are independently chosen by our editors. When you click through our links, we may earn a commission. 

“Feeling my way through the darkness…

Dateline: Back When…

Life got away from me, young.

Spent to much time workin’, not enough time dreamin’.

Dreamin’ didn’t live on my block.  Paycheck to paycheck Blvd.

Not even sure dreams were allowed in my house, maybe, maybe not, we were taught to be practical.

Practical trumps dreams.

Practical kills dreams.

I’ve always felt that practical is math class for grown ups.

Practical is the back dreams stand on.

If any of my friends had dreams, they were quiet about it, most lived in homes that subscribed to Look or Life magazines, reality on the covers, not dreams.

One kid I knew took out National Geographic magazine from the library, not just to look at the topless ladies of the Congo, I saw he took out the magazine whether it had topless photos in it or not.

His name is, Dave.  He may have been the only dreamer I knew.

Hope he still does.


I’m happy that I turned into a writer, that’s the ride I was meant to take, just wished the person steering the ride turned down a couple more streets.

I wanted to be a paleontologist, didn’t turn down that street, the ride.

I wanted to own a local shot & beer joint Gin Mill in my hometown of Buffalo, NY, didn’t turn down that street, the ride.

I wanted to live on the water, 3 rms WF/BCH/View, didn’t turn down that street either, the ride.

Dreams, are the Universe’s way of showing you how things could be, some live it.

Others don’t.

If there is one thing I’m learning from writing these stories of My First Tournaments it is simply this,

dream if you got em,


go get em.

Just like B.A.S.S. Elite angler, Mark Davis did.

“I pretty much dreamed as a kid of being a tournament angler.”

And the ride Mark is on, turned down that street.

“What story do you want to hear db, either the story of my very first tournament or the story of my first B.A.S.S. tournament.”


“Well alrighty then.”

“…guided by a beating heart…”

“I grew up in the Hot Springs area, I was 12 fishing with friends, me and my buddy would go out in a Johnny Boat with a 6hp motor and a paddle, each of us only owned one rod one reel, we would pick up old broken worms and glue them back together.”

At 13, “…in 1976 I started hanging out at this old local tackle store, met this older boy, he was 16, he started talking about fishing tournaments, he could drive, but didn’t have a partner, I could fish but couldn’t drive…”

Funny how things work out that way.

The Ride.

“I had never fished a tournament before, never was in a bass boat before, so our first tournament together we didn’t do very well.”

But, “…our second tournament, that was almost right in my backyard on Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs, we won that tournament, actually won the thing, a 13 year old and a 16 year old.”

“You ever see the guy anymore after all these years.”

“Oh yeah db, he sponsors me.”

“What, what do you mean.”

“That 16 year old, his name was/is Allan Ranson”¦he’s the C.O.O. of Strike King now, my sponsor.”

And now, both can drive to tournaments.


“…I can’t tell where the journey will end…”

Fast forward to October, 1986, “I sign up for my first B.A.S.S. tournament the 1986 New York Invitational on the Hudson River.”

“Dude, had you ever been to New York.”

“Nope db, hadn’t ever been none past Memphis to the east and Missouri up to the north.”

Dreams don’t pay much attention to state boundaries.

“And the thing was I had this brand new 19 ft Bass Cat boat but I was pulling it with a 1968 4-door Chevy Impala, green with a white top car I bought for $1,000, that car was done worn out.”

Wore out Chevy Impalas, yeah, dreams pay attention to that.

“So I traded the Chevy Impala tow car in, I was 21 now, swapped it for a new plain jane ½ ton Chevy, so now I had boat payments AND car payments.”

And a map.

“Got me some cash that I had left, and I started heading north, I just drove and drove, drove so far it felt like I was driving to Egypt or something, just kept heading north finally found my way to the Catskills”¦drove right past my hotel”¦drove straight to the boat ramp.”

And had one of those, “Welcome To The NFL” moments.

“So I get out of my truck and walk down the ramp and the very first thing I see is this freighter ship coming up the river and that freighter ship looked as big as the town I was living in and then when it passed, when it passed db, I see the river, and the river, the river is so big I can’t even see across it.  To say I was intimidated would be a vast understatement.”

But Mark Davis, intimidated or not”¦launched.

“It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, I had never fished a river like that before, never fished tidal waters before, and those freighters, I would be fishing some back pocket and suddenly all the water would be gone, sucked out right from under me, I would be sitting just on mud, one of those freighters would come by and just suck out all the water and then suddenly after they passed all the water would come rushing back in, sort of freaked me out.”

In his first professional tournament Mark finished in 74th place, with 20.11 pounds and, “no money, drove all that way, spent all that money and didn’t make a dime, but, but db, you know you can’t let one tournament bother you, there is always the next one, the next tourney, the next bass to catch.”

For the record David Fenton won the event followed by Basil Bacon, Larry Nixon and Claude Fishburne.

It took Mark Davis 9 years and 89 tournaments before he would win his first tournament.

And that first win was,

the 1995.

Bassmaster Classic.

“…but I know where it starts…”

“Tell you what was sweet db…”


“…it was in December of 1988 I had fished some 17 tournaments, I was broke, had made some money, I had just gotten married to Tilly, but we were broke, so broke, but we scrapped together all the money we had and entered the 1988 Florida Top 100 Bassmaster event on Lake Okeechobee.”

I write this quote down, “Took every bit of money we had db, every bit.”

“And then in practice I get one bite. ONE BITE in two days.”

“What are you thinking then…”

“…I’m thinking I’m done as a professional tournament angler.”

But when the tournament rolled around, I caught 50 pounds worth of fish, came in 3rd place, your roommate Paul Elias won the tournament but I won $27,000, it was a huge windfall, that tournament, that $27,00 led to everything else I have ever done in the sport, db it KEPT me in the sport, couldn’t have won the Classic without that 3rd place, I would have been OUT OF THE SPORT WITHOUT IT.”

And then, db you have to chase your dreams, I did, even back when all I had, was a dream.

“…they say I’m caught up in a dream…”

It is the chase, of dreams, that keep us going.

The driving to Egypt, when others would have stopped, these are the stories we must pass on to the young behind us.

Not stories of furloughs.

Not stories of violence.

Not stories of hopelessness.

I tell my children we live in a land built by dreamers.

That we, are the dreams, of the founding fathers.

That we, are the dreams of our fathers.

And that in truth, my dream has come true,

with two healthy, happy children,

a loving wife of 40 years,

and National Geographic,

in the mailbox.

“…so wake me up when it’s all over.

Wake Me Up


Next My First Tournament: Zell Rowland, so until then,