The people I work with here in the office at B.A.S.S. have heard me talk a lot about a good friend named Beau Partee.
He sounds a little like an imaginary friend. But he’s an actual person, whose name really is a distorted version of the word “party” — and believe me, he lives up to the name.
He’s the life of the party, the center of attention — and when you show up wherever he is, he makes you the center of attention. He says things to the crowd like, “Oh my God, you’re not gonna believe who’s here; it’s Bryan.”
Nobody usually cares I’m there.
But for the few moments I get to share Beau’s spotlight, it sure feels like they do.
For the first 41 years of my life, I had never known anyone else with such a gift for making others feel important.
Then I met Bassmaster Elite Series tournament emcee Dave Mercer.
Mercer is Beau Partee with a microphone, a big stage and a bunch of people whose importance needs to be relayed to the masses.
Nobody’s better at that than Mercer, and it seems to come so natural to him.
An average trip to the stage for an Elite Series angler lasts about three minutes, and for those three minutes, they are the center of the professional bass fishing universe. Even if they came in one bass short of a limit, they get the most out of their moment in the spotlight.
Thanks to Mercer.
The anglers automatically respect Mercer because he speaks their language. He’s not just a guy who talks about anglers, he’s an angler himself — and if you’ve seen his show, Dave Mercer’s Facts of Fishing, you know he carries a pretty big stick.
He has an incredible knack for knowing just what to say and when to say it. He dreams up crazy nicknames for anglers that stick like Gorilla Glue for the rest of their careers. He provides the soundtrack for the sport’s most iconic moments by screaming things like “Rick Clunn gets it done” and “The Bassmaster Classic once again has a Cherry on top.”
I’ve attended some huge sporting events through the years.
But I’ve never had a more spine-tingling moment than when Mercer was announcing the Top 10 for Championship Sunday of the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series event on the St. Johns River with then-74-year-old Clunn in contention.
Mercer was the most excited I’ve ever seen him — in rare form as he stood nose to nose with a true fishing legend to announce him to the gigantic Saturday crowd.
Knowing Rick, only Mercer could have gotten away with that without being punched.
Truthfully, Mercer gets away with a lot that no one else could — just because he brings so much to the table.
But as I said from the start, what he does best is make every angler who strolls across that Elite Series stage feel for three minutes like they’re the most important person on earth.
Through the years when I’ve talked to rookies who were afraid they’d be nervous standing on that stage looking out at a sea of people, my advice has always been simple:
Lean on Mercer. Follow his lead at every turn, and you’ll walk off that stage feeling like a better entertainer than you ever thought you could be.
Dave’s not just a colleague now, he’s a friend.
Since we’re both fathers of autistic children, we’ve talked often about the struggles — and more often about the joys — of that journey. We’re both dedicated boxing fans, and it’s nothing unusual for me to get a text from him just as a fight is starting to get a prediction he’ll likely disagree with.
Mercer is the only person I’ve ever accepted a call from just before kickoff of the Alabama-Tennessee football game.
Most of the time, I let those calls go to voicemail.
But when someone’s calling that you know is gonna leave you feeling better about yourself, you don’t waste that one on voicemail. You answer, knowing those opportunities are few and far between in life.
I used to only get those calls from one person.
Now I get them from two.