Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 12/08/2017

Moore, OK – Each year, The BASS ZONE interviews Elite Series Emcee Dave Mercer on his thoughts about the past season.

With seven years behind the microphone calling the action at the Elite Series weigh-ins, Mercer has been able to refine his approach and has adapted to the changing landscape of how professional tournament bass fishing is covered and consumed by the general public.

Here's what he had to say about this past season:    

BZ: What are your overall impressions of the 2017 season?  
Mercer: I hate to use the term ‘changing of the guard’, but that’s the term that definitely comes to mind when you look at the guys who won tournaments and did well.  I think the most telling thing was at the Angler Of the Year championship when I brought the top Angler Of the Year finishers out on stage and three of the top five were under 30 years old.   There was definitely a group of young guys who dominated this year from Jordan Lee winning the Classic to Brandon Palaniuk winning the Angler Of the Year. 

BZ:  You seem to be able to relate to the younger anglers and rookies on stage.  Do you make a conscious effort to get to know them as soon as they qualify for the Elite Series?  
Mercer:  I generally do.  When there’s a new angler on the Elite Series, I try to get to know them, I do some research on their tournament history, and I try to make them feel welcomed.  The meeting before the first tournament of the year has to be a really nervous time for the rookies.  You see a lot who don’t know many other anglers, and I’ll always go up and introduce myself.  Just through that introduction you grow a bond because you’re one of the first guys that they know on tour.

BZ: You mentioned Jordan Lee winning the Classic earlier.  With the 2017 Classic being held at Minute Maid Park in Houston and Jordan Lee’s come-from-behind victory, do you think this past Classic will always stand out to you?  
Mercer:  I think that it will, for sure.  I think what happened on the final day was unbelievable, and I hate to use that word, but it really was. For a tournament emcee, the way that Jordan won was the dream scenario.  My job gets tougher to do every year because B.A.S.S. and all the other media companies that cover it do such a good job on reporting. As a result, some of the weigh-ins can be anticlimactic.  Jordan really didn’t think that he had enough to win until the very end of the weigh-in, and none of us knew if he did or not.

I don’t think this will be Jordan Lee’s last Classic win, and I don’t know many media people who think it is either.  Sometimes someone will win a Classic and you’ll think, ‘OK, he won his Classic.’  With Jordan, it felt like it was just his first one and that he is going to win more.

BZ: Any crazy behind-the-scenes stories from the Houston Classic?  
Mercer: I don’t know how crazy it is, but there was something pretty peculiar and weird that happened to me on the final day.  I try to elevate the angler’s experience when they win.  I know that I run around the stage and do all kinds of crazy stuff, but when it comes to the winning moment, I try to get out of the shot and really highlight their accomplishment and give them that moment.

When Jordan won, his family bum-rushed the stage before I could get out of the way.  I was standing there announcing that he was the Classic Champion and the family was in a huddle jumping up and down celebrating.  The next thing I know, someone grabbed me and pulled me into the huddle.  I was trying to get out and not be a part of their big moment, but I was right in the middle of it jumping up and down with them.  It was one of the weirdest but coolest moments of my career, because that’s THE moment of an angler’s career. 

BZ: Let’s talk about another angler who has celebrated on the Classic stage before - KVD.  You were the first emcee in over 20 years to inform him that he missed the Classic cut back in 2015, but you’ve also been able to call three Elite Series regular season wins for him in the past two years.  When Kevin won on the St. Lawrence River this past year, did you think that he was going to win his 8th Toyota Angler Of the Year title?  
Mercer:  First of all, I think that a few years ago when Kevin missed the Classic he was more focused on family stuff with his kids going to college.  In all honesty, that’s exactly where his head should have been at the time, so I totally get it.

I think what you saw happen with Kevin at the end of the season (Note: he finished in 79th and 72nd place in the final two regular season Elite Series tournaments of the year), was that he knew he was in contention for the AOY and he tried to make a drive for the title.  He knew what he needed to do and it just didn’t work out.

The fact is that everything gets ratcheted up when it comes to KVD from the media to the fan response.  To see him dominate on the St. Lawrence River was impressive.  I think that Kevin is very driven by the AOY title and I think that he’s far from being done.

BZ:  Any good behind-the-scenes stuff with KVD?  
Mercer: When you’re traveling all over the country covering the Elite Series it’s easy to forget just how crazy the life of a professional bass angler really is.  After Kevin won the tournament on the St. Lawrence,  it just so happened that we were staying at the same place that was right across the bay from the boat launch.

I was out grilling and Kevin was literally in front of the house where I was staying shooting pictures with the media.  After he was done, I invited him over for a beer and he couldn’t.  He had to get in his truck and drive to Champlain to start pre-fishing the following morning.   Here was the most accomplished guy in the history of the game, and he wasn’t able to stop and celebrate for a day.   

When you see Kevin win a tournament and celebrate on stage, you think that he went out and partied that night like guys in every other sport, but that’s just not the case.  I don’t think that the general public gets to see the incredible work ethic that it takes to stay competitive at the top.