CLARKSVILLE, Va. — Daniel Gray was heading toward shore to put his boat back on the trailer when something caught his eye.
The Butler resident found a little sandbar with some logs in the water. Fishing around the logs, he caught a 5-pound fish.
Gray filed it away — then used that information to win the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. National Mid-Atlantic Divisional on Buggs Island Reservoir June 27 in Clarksville.
“No one was around that area. There was nothing,” Gray said. “It was only maybe like two miles up the lake.”
He won with a three-day total of 28 pounds, 11 ounces.
Winning earned Gray an invitational to the 2014 B.A.S.S. National Championship Nov. 6-8 on Louisiana's Ouachita River.
Gray earned an invite to national's four times, with the last time being in 2010.
“It's pretty cool. To win this, it's not like a regular tournament I can sign up and go to every year,” Gray said. “You have to qualify. Thousands of guys have been eliminated up to this point.”
During Day 1 of the tournament, Gray hit his limit by 11 a.m. fishing in his primary areas. When other competitors moved to those spots the next day, Gray switched to his new-found spot.
In the tournament, each day competitors are paired with a different partner in the boat. Each fisherman gets control of the boat for half the day.
On a day where the temperature reached 95 degrees, Gray caught two 4 1/2 pound bass using 3 1/2-inch tubes goofy rigged in the last hour of Day 2.
That pushed Gray into first place.
“They were like twins. It was hot that day. The weather was getting to everybody,” Gray said. “That made me see double in a good way.”
Gray sealed his win by catching four more keepers on Day 3 that weighed 10 pounds, 5 ounces.
Now, Gray is focused on prepping for another trip to nationals. In 2010, he finished in 28th place and won $250 fishing the Red River in Shreveport, La.
The winner that year, Brandon Palaniuk, won $60,000.
Finding another hidden spot will be the key for Gray. He said he plans on flying down a few days before the tournament starts.
“I learned that I have to get down there and practice and know how to get back down into these bays,” Gray said. “The water is off-color and the stumps are only a couple inches off the water. You are banging off stumps and it could take you hours to get back into those bays.”
When Gray goes to practice, he does it without focusing on actually fishing. It's about getting the lay of the land and recording the data. Catching fish on the main river at nationals is hard. That's why Gray is always trying to find overlooked spots.
A little detour helped Gray earn a title.
“If you don't have a backup plan, it hurts you,” Gray said.