PORT PERRY, Ontario — Dave Mercer is well-known in Canada as the host of TV show Facts of Fishing, but he's extremely popular among the Ontario B.A.S.S. Federation Nation because of his annual donation of $1,000 to the chapter's youth division.
"I grew up obsessed with fishing, and the No. 1 question I get from kids is, 'How do I get your job?'" said Mercer. "Unfortunately, there's no easy way to do it, but they have to start somewhere."
Mercer travels extensively, giving fishing seminars and producing his TV show, which covers fishing venues throughout Canada. Because he can't dedicate much time to hands-on youth work but believes strongly in the merit of youth fishing programs, he teamed with the Ontario chapter to provide much-needed funding.
"The Federation Nation is such a unique opportunity for children," Mercer said. "It's like a minor league for fishing."
Gerry Heels, Ontario's youth director, said the money pays for launch fees and travel costs associated with youth events.
"We've got a lot of travel costs [because of the size of Ontario], and it also pays for the flights to the Junior Bassmaster divisionals," Heels said.
Mercer said he hopes his contributions allow young anglers to spend their time refining their skills. "They don't have to do as much fundraising," he explained. "They can concentrate on fishing."
And that focus, he believes, will reap benefits down the road.
"You always hear stories about how [Bassmaster Elite Series pro] Michael Iaconelli started in the Federation Nation," Mercer said. "I believe at some point someone will win the Bassmaster Classic and we'll be able to say, 'Hey, you know what? He won the Junior World Championship.'"
Heels said Mercer's generosity is vital to the success of the program.
"It's very difficult to get cash donations," Heels said. "I can get products, but it's cash donations that make the program run. If I didn't have that donation, I would have a hard time making the program work."