MERCER UNMIKED: PART 2
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Mark Jeffreys and Dave Rush
Moore, OK – This is part two of a feature with Bassmaster Elite Series emcee, Dave Mercer. On Monday, Mercer talked about his role as the Elite Series emcee, Denny Brauer’s retirement, Brent Chapman’s incredible year, the biggest surprises in 2012, and Gerald Swindle's hat. To view part one, CLICK HERE.
In today’s feature, Mercer gives his thoughts on the 2012 Elite Series rookie class, the best moments of the 2012 season, interacting with the fans, and the upcoming 2013 Grand Lake Classic. He also talks about some behind the scenes moments from the Chris Lane’s 2012 Classic win and confesses to his most embarrassing moment on stage during the past year.
The BZ: What are your thoughts on the 2012 rookie class?
Mercer: This year will be remembered for the calm, cool, and collected rookie class. The crazy thing is that the Rookie Of the Year, Brandon Card, lives just down the road from last year’s Rookie Of the Year, Ott DeFoe, and they’re both pretty laid back guys.
The rookies were fun to work with this year, and I think that there are quite a few of them who will have great futures. Chris Zaldain is one of the most polished rookies that I’ve ever seen in my life with his stage presence and the way that he talks to the media. I think that we saw some great moments from him, but I don’t think that he had the kind of season that we all thought he would have. That being said, I think that he’ll be around for quite a bit of time.
The BZ: What was your favorite Elite Series tournament during the entire season?
Mercer: Okeechobee was crazy as far as the weights. Ish Monroe’s 34.5 pound limit was unbelievable. I’ve busted his chops telling him that he ruined the tournament because he was literally the first person to weigh-in that day. Thank goodness for Chris Lane’s day thee charge or else there wouldn’t have been any excitement.
If I had to pick one tournament though, the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin was awesome. The crowds were insane and the fishing was phenomenal.
Throughout each tournament, I get to watch a lot of the footage in the production trailer as it comes in from the water. I swear to you, when some of that raw frog fishing footage was coming in to the truck, the truck was literally shaking with Zona and me in there high-fiving and jumping up and down. Seeing a bass smash a frog has to be the most exciting type of fishing.
Watching that footage in the production trailer reminded me of an old Bassmaster tape that I used to watch over and over again where Dusty Pine won a Bassmaster tournament on 1000 Islands way back. He was throwing a frog and it was crazy.
The BZ: Anything stand out about the crowds this year at the Elite Series tournaments?
Mercer: Toledo Bend is always fun and the people come out big time. La Crosse was great as well, but the most bizarre crowd was definitely the New York State Fair crowd at Oneida Lake.
The one thing that’s cool about my job and working for B.A.S.S. is that the Elite Series draws a crowd even when we go to venues that have lots of big tournaments. When you take guys like Skeet Reese, Kevin VanDam, Mike Iaconelli, and Ott DeFoe and put them under the Elite Series banner, they draw a crowd like no other event.
One thing that blows me away is that week after week we go places where I’m like, ‘Are we going to get a crowd here?’ and we always do. At the All-Star event in Decatur, I really didn’t think that many people were going to show up. When I first saw the venue and the size of the space that was in front of the stage, I really thought that it was wishful thinking and that there was no way we were going to fill it with fans. We ended up overfilling the space and the crowds were insane.
The BZ: You have to be excited about the Grand Lake Classic coming up in February.
Mercer: I can only go on everyone else’s speculation, but I hear that it’s going to be awesome. I generally don’t sleep much during the Classic, and I generally don’t sleep much leading up to it. It’s not nerves; it’s just excitement.
Kevin VanDam said it best to me the year before I started working for B.A.S.S. He had just won the Classic, which seems to be tradition for him, and I was at his championship toast. I said something to him along the lines of, “Dude, you must be really tired right now. I bet tomorrow morning you’re just going to be zonked.”
He looked at me and was like, “No way, this is the Classic. Anybody who gets tired at the Classic is out of their mind.” The Classic is the one thing in the sport that drives every angler and person involved. I can’t wait.
The BZ: Where do you see the Elite Series headed in the next few years?
Mercer: The one thing that really inspires me about the Elite Series and excites me is the ownership of B.A.S.S. I’ve had the unique opportunity to spend a lot of time with those guys, and I’m not just saying this because they’re my bosses, but they’re driving this thing from the right direction.
It’s easy for people to sit back and say, ‘I was expecting to see this,’ or ‘I was expecting to see that.’ Everything that’s good takes time. When you think of the people who own this, they own it because they care about the sport of bass fishing and they want to grow it to the best of their abilities.
I really am very confident that there’s some big stuff that’s going to come down the line here. It seems to grow every year, but I know that there are people who want it to grow quicker. It takes time, but I really see it going in the right direction. As far as where we go physically for tournaments, I’d love to go out west again. I’ve never been there as my tenure as an emcee, so I’d really look forward to that.
The BZ: What was your favorite “behind the scenes” moment in 2012?
Mercer: It had to be right after Kevin VanDam handed off the Classic trophy to Chris Lane back in February.
To watch how genuinely excited Bobby Lane was when his brother Chris won the Classic, it kind of reminded me of one of those crazy pageant moms when their kid wins the title of Little Miss Daisy. Bobby was so excited, and that showed the true love and respect that those brothers have for each other.
I had just introduced Chris as the Classic champ, and I was standing at the side of the stage with Kevin VanDam and Bobby Lane as Chris was lifting the trophy over his head.
All of the sudden, we all kind of panicked because we could see that Chris got a speed wobble and had a little trouble lifting the trophy because he was shaking so bad. As I’m standing there watching this all happen, Kevin starts explaining to Bobby and me that the Classic trophy is a lot heavier than people think and explains how to lift it properly.
It was one of those experiences that was really cool to be a part of. I was standing there with a guy who has lifted the Classic trophy four times and another guy who was vibrating so much because his brother just won the Classic.
It was something that you wouldn’t ever think of, but there are a lot of those little moments that happen throughout the year.
The BZ: What was your most embarrassing moment this year?
Mercer: Sometimes in live production, things get changed without anyone knowing. For a big event like the Classic, we get a schedule. Well, at one point at this year’s Classic, there was an eight minute video break where I was supposed to throw it over to Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona during the weigh-in.
I thought that I had plenty of time, so I went back stage and started talking to people in the hallway. I accidentally knocked my earpiece out of my ear, so that meant that I couldn’t hear the production truck talking to me.
Kevin VanDam was back there, and he was like, “Dude, don’t you need to be on stage?” I told him that I was on an eight minute break and had plenty of time. Like two minutes later, I was in the restroom and I suddenly heard in my earpiece, which was hanging around my neck, Davy Hite being introduced on stage.
I remember thinking to myself, ‘Hmmm, if Davy Hite is on stage then that means that I’m supposed to be on stage also.’ I was literally pulling up my pants as I burst onto the Classic stage. I tried to play it off like nothing was happening and just tucked in my shirt. The most confused guy in the building was Davy Hite because he had no idea what was going on.
The next day, I talked to Davy Hite and he thought that I was making fun of him because I was tucking in my shirt on stage and he had his shirt tucked in also. I explained to him what had happened and we had a good laugh.