Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 12/11/2017

Palaniuk photo courtesy of B.A.S.S. Communications

This is part two of an interview with Bassmaster Elite Series emcee, Dave Mercer.  In part one, which ran on Friday, December 8th (CLICK HERE), Mercer talked about getting to know the rookie class, Jordan Lee’s improbable Classic win, and KVD.    

BZ:  You seem to be pretty good friends with Brandon Palaniuk.  What are your thoughts on his Toyota Angler Of the Year victory this past season?  
Mercer:  It was incredible. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Brandon and I started (with B.A.S.S.) at the same time, and his first Classic (2011) was the first Classic that I emceed.  For whatever reason, we’ve always had a great bond and hung out together personally as friends.

This year, he really showed how talented he is with the way that he fished.  When we went to Lake St. Clair, he had the Angler Of the Year lead and I think that a lot of other guys would have fished to protect that lead, but not Brandon.   It’s amazing the amount of confidence that he has in himself to fish as aggressively as he did in the second half of the season.  I think that he tested himself this year and I think that he’ll be even a lot better in the future.  

I feel like this every year when it comes to the second place angler in the Angler Of the Year race, but I also hated to see Jason Christie lose.  It was a battle that went right down to the wire and that’s all you can ask for as a fan.   

One more thing on Palaniuk – When he won Toyota Texas Fest on Sam Rayburn, he was in contention going into the final day.  We had an off-day, and instead of staying in and working on tackle during the off-day, he decided to take high school kids fishing.  I know that I get slammed for being a Palaniuk fanboy, but he’s a special kid.   

BZ: Over the past several years, you’ve become more and more involved with the on-location aspect of Bassmaster LIVE.  How has the live element and programming grown?
Mercer:  It’s always evolving and that’s the exciting thing about being a part of Bassmaster LIVE.  If you look at the progression from that first fish catch at the Hartwell Classic (2015) and compare it to what you see on the screen now, it looks totally different.

We are always trying to get better at Bassmaster LIVE, but we got really lucky this year with a lot of good storylines emerging.  At the same time, it seemed like for some reason the guy we wanted to cover was fishing in an area with horrible cell coverage.   Adding Davy Hite to the mix really made it better this year, and the goal is always to continue to improve.  

BZ: What was your favorite Bassmaster LIVE moment this year?  
Mercer: One of the coolest moments all year on Bassmaster LIVE was Dustin Connell on the final day at Ross Barnett.  He was idling in after the day and he had no idea that he was going to win the tournament and was questioning if he had enough weight.  It was the first time that he really had an opportunity all week to stop and breathe and think about the fact that he might have beaten Kevin VanDam.

When you see bass anglers cry on stage, most people think they’re crying because they just won a tournament.  They are to some extent, but a lot of that emotion comes from the fact that you have to invest so much of your time and soul into this sport and the moments of victory are so rare that it’s overwhelming.  I think that raw emotion Dustin displayed during that interview while he was idling in was one of the most riveting pieces of Bassmaster LIVE footage all season.  The funny thing is that it had nothing to do with a fish catch, but watching it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.  

BZ: You mentioned the good storylines that emerged this year on the Elite Series, but were there any good storylines or accomplishments that flew under the radar in your opinion?  
Mercer:  Tim Horton’s victory (Lake Okeechobee) was really awesome, because he thought he had lost on the final day when he only had 11-pounds. He’s had a few tough years, so to see that raw emotion when he threw his hat into the crowd and knelt down after he won was awesome.

Another cool story this past season was John Murray’s win on Toledo Bend. Every couple years, an angler will win a tournament and his fellow competitors will stick around just to watch and congratulate him.  It happened a couple years ago when Rick Clunn won in Florida, and it happened this past year with John Murray. I remember emceeing that final day and seeing all the other anglers kneeling down in front of the stage because they wanted to be part of that moment and watch John lift the trophy.  

BZ: There’s a new season of Facts Of Fishing coming up, any new stuff coming up that fans can look forward to?  
Mercer:  We did the Northwest Territories and shot three shows up there this year.  One of the coolest was fishing the Tree River for arctic char, because that’s basically the Mt. Everest of arctic char fishing.   We also fished Great Bear Lake, which is the Mt. Everest of lake trout fishing.  

We were literally in the Arctic Circle, so I’m super excited about those shows.  There’s also some cool Lake Erie stuff and different bass episodes, but I can’t wait for those Northwest Territory shows to air because the underwater footage is going to be incredible. There was over 50-feet of visibility in some areas – it’s just wild.