MERCER UNMIKED: PART 1
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac
Moore, OK – With the 2012 Elite Series season in the books, The BZ caught up with Elite Series emcee, Dave Mercer, to chat about his second full year behind the microphone. In today’s feature, Mercer talks about his role as Elite Series emcee, the retirement of Denny Brauer, Brent Chapman’s Angler Of the Year campaign, and the many sides of Gerald Swindle.
In Wednesday’s feature, Mercer talks about Chris Lane’s Classic, the 2012 class of rookies, the direction of the Elite Series, the most exciting moments of the past Elite Series season, and dishes on some behind-the-scenes action.
The BZ: How did your role as the Elite Series emcee evolve in your second full year on the job?
Mercer: I’ve always felt fairly comfortable on stage, but it’s only natural that you get more comfortable with experience. I already knew a lot of the anglers when I started last year, but there were also a lot of the anglers who I didn’t know quite as well.
One of the coolest things for me is the feedback that I get from the anglers. It could be as simple as someone coming up and saying, ‘Hey, thanks for your introduction at the morning launch. It really pumped me up for the day.’ When you hear stuff like that, you get more comfortable to push things a little further and have more fun with the anglers.
I would like to think that my comfort level will increase every year, and that goes for any job from emceeing the Classic to fixing a leaky faucet. You always want to be constantly improving.
The BZ: You had the opportunity to give Denny Brauer his last Elite Series introduction on stage at Oneida Lake before he announced his retirement. Did you have any idea that it would be the last time you’d get to introduce him?
Mercer: I really wish that I would have known he was going to retire when I introduced him for that last time at Oneida.
Growing up, Denny was always one of my favorites and one of the guys that I was a huge fan of. My entire time at B.A.S.S., Denny has always been one of the coolest and most fun guys to work with. I’ve always had a great time with him and shared a lot of laughs with him. He will be truly missed.
One of the coolest things that happened the entire year, and I think that a lot of people forget about it because it happened at the Classic and not on the Elite Series, was the opportunity for Kevin Wirth to say goodbye to everyone to a standing ovation at the Classic. We knew that he was retiring, so I had the ability to set up the crowd and tell a quick story and get everyone invested in the story – it was a really neat experience.
I know that Denny didn’t want a bon voyage tour, and that’s cool, but I would have loved to do something a little bit extra for him.
Probably one of the best memories that I have with Denny is when he won the Elite Series on the Arkansas River last year. It was great to see him win again. Announcing Denny Brauer as a champion is definitely something that was on my bucket list. It’s going to be weird not having him there next year.
The BZ: In your opinion, who was the most impressive angler in 2012?
Mercer: Without a doubt it was Brent Chapman. That’s a simple and easy answer because he was the Angler Of the Year. Chapman isn’t super flamboyant or loud - he does his talking on the scales, and that’s just the person that he is.
I think that people are understating just how awesome his year was, and not just on the Elite Series. He caught fish wherever he went. He started off with a win in the Opens and then won on the Elite Series and got close to winning a couple others.
Year after year, you’ll see that happen. Different guys will get off to a quick start and you start to wonder how long they can keep it going. Regardless of where we went, you could just see that by the time we got to Oneida, it was meant to be for Brent.
The other guy that blows me away is Ott DeFoe. After a great rookie season on the Elite Series, very rarely do you see guys back it up with an even better second year. That being said, this year definitely belonged to Chapman.
The BZ: What was the biggest surprise for you on the Elite Series this year?
Mercer: That’s a tough one, but I don’t remember ever seeing back-to-back 2nd place finishers. Britt Myers did it two tournaments in a row and then Cliff Pace did it again with back-to-back 2nd place finishes. That was actually pretty shocking.
The hardest part of my job is the fact that I get to see the highest highs and I also get to see guys during their lowest lows. You get to announce the champion, but you’re also looking directly in the eyes of a guy who wants it so bad and just fell short.
With both Britt and Cliff, it was tough to tell them that they finished 2nd. Another tough one for me was when Randy Howell fell one fish short of a limit on the final day at Oneida and finished in 2nd place.
I don’t know if it’s for me or for them, but I always try to catch up with the 2nd place finisher following every tournament whether it’s behind stage of through a phone call. That’s one of the first things that I try to do. It sucks. Five years from now, everyone would be happy with the 2nd place finish and the payday that comes with it, but it really sucks in the moment.
The BZ: What’s one thing that you learned this year?
Mercer: I learned that when Gerald Swindle walks on stage I need to just stand back, hand over the microphone, and take a drink of water. That is one of the most pleasurable times at the weigh-ins for me. When Swindle comes up, it’s always nice because he just rattles on with his stories.
Gerald Swindle is one of the most complex individuals that you’ll ever meet. There are many different Gerald Swindles – if you were to just take a compellation of his weigh-ins, there are a ton of different “Swindles” that cross the stage. When he’s catching them, he’s a straight-up pro angler who is serious. His head is down and you can just tell that he’s on them.
When he’s not catching them or has had a bad day, he generally gives you a much better interview that is way more entertaining. One thing that I learned about Gerald Swindle is that the way he is wearing his hat on stage dictates what type of interview I’m going to get from him.
The hat is very important, and he wears two different styles of hats. If he has the flat-billed hat on, then you know that he’s straight up 50 Cent and Boyz N Da Hood. If he has the bill of his hat curled, then you’re going to get Larry the Cable Guy on stage. Before you even talk to him, you have to realize what character you’re talking to.