Don Day once descended onto the arena floor of a Bassmaster Classic weigh-in show in a model rocket ship. Another time, he zip-lined from a seven-story celling, landing in a bass boat in what were both scripted antics at bass fishing’s world championship.
Day’s crowd-rousing charisma and unmistakable booming broadcast announcer voice created the perfect fit for his ringmaster role of warming up the audience as the opening act to the weigh-in. He then handed the microphone over to B.A.S.S. founder and Classic emcee Ray Scott, who added his own unique showmanship to kick off the main event. Between the fanfare emceed by Day and then Scott, the crowd would be worked into a frenzy when the first bass landed on the weigh-in scales, and the electrifying atmosphere carried through till the end.
Day, a veteran radio broadcaster, has been the unofficial voice of the Classic since 1988, when B.A.S.S. added the circus-like flair as added entertainment value to the weigh-in experience. Final curtain call for those shows was in 1998, when Day assumed the role of public address announcer for every angler entering the arena at Classics through 2023. Day recently announced his retirement from the role he’s played for the past 35 years.
“Literally, hundreds of thousands of fans heard the ‘voice of the Classic’ Don Day,” said Trip Weldon, recently retired from B.A.S.S. after serving for 30 years, including 19 as tournament director. “There’s no other fan experience like the Classic, and Don was ringleader of the opening act for all the excitement to come.”
Day’s longstanding relationship with B.A.S.S. began long before his Classic stint. In 1978, he landed a gig as the morning drive-time personality on WLWI-FM, a new country-format radio station in Montgomery, the birthplace and hometown of B.A.S.S. Scott made a guest interview appearance and a friendship between the two began.
Mutual differences between station management and Day led to his departure in 1980, Scott hired Day to work at B.A.S.S. and then Day returned to WLWI in 1981. For the next several years, Day was a press angler at the Classic for the radio station.
In 1988, B.A.S.S. added the 30-minute show prior to the final day weigh-in. The budget was impressive as was the patriotic parade of characters, performers and bands, all performing amid laser lights displayed in the darkened arena. B.A.S.S. hired Day as the emcee, and he embraced the role above and beyond his primary role. Wearing a space suit and riding in the model rocket ship tethered to a cable was among the call of duty. So was a stunt requiring Day to zip-line from the arena ceiling, break through a suspended B.A.S.S. paper banner and land on the deck of the bass boat used as the weigh-in stage.
“The idea was for me to emcee all that fanfare, get the crowd excited and hand it off to Ray,” Day recalled. “Some of the antics they had me take on took a lot of bravery on my part.”
There were somber moments. Just months after becoming the first B.A.S.S. club amateur to win the Classic in 1994, Bryan Kerchal, 23, was killed in a plane crash. Instead of defending his title, the 1995 Classic preshow was dedicated to Kerchal in an emotional tribute. The arena lights dimmed, and a spotlight followed a bass boat towed around the arena carrying Kerchal’s trophy with an American flag, all followed by a drum corp.
“It was tough seeing that spotlight on the boat, the American flag, the trophy; not a dry eye in the arena,” Day recalled. “Narrating it was really tough, and it got to me.”
Day served in the U.S. Navy from 1967 to 1971 during the Vietnam War. As a prideful veteran, his patriotism permeates through his patriotic personality. Day called a highlight of his stint with B.A.S.S. as meeting two Medal of Honor recipients, namely Dakota Meyer and Kyle Carpenter.
“Meeting them meant more to me than all of the celebrities I interviewed through broadcasting, and all the crazy stints I did at the Classic,” said Day. “They are true American heroes and fellow veterans I’m proud to have met.”
In 2004, Day went on a week-long barnstorming tour of Iraq put together by Scott, the idea being to personally thank the front lines military for serving the country. The trip began in the Oval Office, where Day accompanied Scott to meet President George W. Bush.
The tour required armed military escort by helicopter to forward operating bases throughout the country, where the group made two stops each day. Day emceed the entertainment, introducing Scott to make his speeches of thanks and appreciation.
“We made 14 stops and by all accounts, the patriotism and words of encouragement were greatly appreciated,” said Day. “Being a Navy veteran, it meant a lot to me to be in country with my fellow service members and veterans.”
In retirement, Day is continuing his patriotic duty as a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, known as a national organization whose volunteer members escort funeral processions to cemeteries and provide family support to fallen military heroes, first responders and honorably discharged veterans.
“My heart has always been with the military, and I love the outdoors so much,” Day said. “I plan to continue serving the Patriot Guard while enjoying all the outdoors has to offer in my home around central Alabama.”