Behind the scenes

Seigo Saito
Dave Mercer, Bernie Schultz and Mark Zona prepare for an episode of "Hooked Up" from Lake Okeechobee.

About the author

Bernie Schultz

Bernie Schultz

Bernie Schultz is an eight-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier, illustrator, writer and antique tackle collector. Follow his career on the Bassmaster Elite Series and get advice from this longtime pro here on Pro-spective.

During this year's Elite Series Power-Pole Slam on Lake Okeechobee, I was invited by B.A.S.S. to serve as guest commentator in several behind-the-scenes productions. The invitation came after I failed to make the cut to the weekend finals.

Normally, following a poor performance, most competitors want to go straight home. Attitudes run pretty sour after being eliminated from the field, and that was the case for me at this event. In spite of it, I accepted the invitation. And boy, am I glad I did. Before I knew it, I was working side by side with some of the best production people in the business.

JM Associates and B.A.S.S. media personnel are responsible for the entire production effort at each Elite Series event — from electronic to print media, they do it all. And as I soon learned, they do it quite well.

They had a full schedule mapped out for me — it included a morning stint in the War Room, an afternoon session of "Ask The Experts," and a pre weigh-in production of "Hooked Up." Although I wouldn't be fishing in the final, I knew these opportunities would still allow me to gain valuable exposure for my sponsors.

The War Room

Around 9:00 a.m., I met with Dave Mercer backstage at the B.A.S.S. Media Center, where he briefed me on the production objectives. Before I knew it I was mic'd up and we were broadcasting live to thousands of internet viewers.

We began inside JM's production facility — a huge, mobile studio outfitted with everything imaginable in digital AV equipment. The actual control room is much like a self-contained sound studio with a large, lighted panel full of switches and dials. It's soundproof, too. JM's production coordinator works from there, peering through a thick window to a wall of TV monitors. Below those is another control panel manned by production assistants.

Each TV monitor provides a live feed of the tournament leaders as they compete on the water. While observing the anglers, Mercer quizzed me about the lake — its features, habitat and history. Having fished Okeechobee for decades, I felt comfortable relating what I knew so viewers could gain additional insight on what the anglers were up against.

From there we moved to the B.A.S.S. media center, where production people work side by side with the B.A.S.S. editorial staff. Inside is a computer monitor showing a satellite image of the lake. Utilizing BASSTrakk technology, we could see precisely where each of the top 12 anglers was fishing. Learning their locations was enlightening, but at the same time, dejecting — it made me realize what I had missed out on the water.

Ask The Experts

After a couple of hours of commentary, we broke for lunch. Soon after, B.A.S.S. editor Ken Duke briefed me on his "Ask The Experts" program, which would take place on stage prior to weigh-in. When the time came, I was paired with Dean Rojas in a Q&A session before a crowd of spectators. That went pretty well, then it was time for "Hooked Up" with Mark Zona and Dave Mercer, where we provided a last-minute analysis of the day's events.

Working alongside those two is fun. They're so relaxed in front of the camera it makes everyone around them feel comfortable. Soon, that was complete and my obligations were fulfilled. It was time to head home.

Although my performance on the water was lacking, I did salvage some sense of accomplishment after appearing in the various productions. And as it turned out, thousands of online viewers watched, so the additional exposure was good for my sponsors as well.

My experience wasn't unique. Numerous other pros have been asked to provide color commentary. And until you witness, firsthand, the magnitude of what happens behind the scenes, there's really no way to appreciate what is involved. There are so many different aspects to it: on-the-water camera crews capturing the action, editors reviewing that footage before it airs, sound people blending the audio, writers reporting the stories as they unfold — the list goes on and on.

There's a lot more to it than simply weighing fish.

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