As a Canadian, Bassmaster Elite Series emcee Dave Mercer was giddy when the Stanley Cup arrived for a shoot of his Facts of Fishing show on Outdoor Channel. Mercer took Bryan Bickell, a forward for the NHL champion Chicago Blackhawks, fishing for smallmouth in Canada.
“To actually bring the Stanley Cup fishing, being a Canadian, was a dream basically,” Mercer said. One of the “keepers of the cup” watching over it (it had to wear a flotation device out on the water) kind of challenged Mercer to come up with something that hasn’t been done with the famed trophy.
“There’s nothing you can do with the cup that hasn’t been done,” Mercer said he was told.
Lord Stanley’s mug, the Holy Grail of the sport, has seen some odd things in its travels – a Kentucky Derby winning horse has eaten from it, and a baby was baptized in it. For something unique, Mercer just went with what he does … catch fish.
“We made it a Cupwell – filled it with water and put a little fish in it,” he said.
The small bass Mercer landed swam inside the cup, but the nice smallmouth Bickell caught soon after was just too big. Trying to flip a hooked fish into the foot-wide cup proved difficult as well.
“We pumped a 4- and 5-pounder into the cup,” Mercer said. “I actually missed the cup the first time. I hit the post. That was fun.”
Mercer’s trophy run continued with Bassmaster Elite Series angler Brandon Palaniuk. He was booked to fish with Mercer (for two months) on the Monday after the St. Lawrence River event.
“Lo and behold, he wins the tournament,” Mercer said. “I asked that night if he wanted to push it back. ‘No, no. I’ll show up,’ he said. He showed up at 8 a.m. and had his trophy in the passenger seat.
“I told him this is the only way a trophy is going to go in my boat -- somebody else bringing it, because I’ll never win one. I capitalized on other people’s success,” he said, smiling.
After Palaniuk caught one fish, he held it up in comparison to the bass atop the trophy. It was all in fun, and Mercer, emcee for the Bassmaster Elite events and the Classic, said he had a fun season.
He said one of the things he’s proud about was learning from fans that he didn’t necessarily have to have a whackfest to create an interesting show. Trying to show what really happens on a trip was easy with plenty of good catches in his first five shows, but then he ran one where the best of his six fish was a 14-incher.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this might be a bad mistake.’ But we got better feedback from that,” he said.
Mercer also isn’t afraid to try new things, like being filmed for a show on his maiden paddleboard voyage.
“It could have been easy to go and learn how to do it,” Mercer said. “I did not do that. I got on it for the first time and went frog fishing in lily pads.
“Actually, it was not near as bad as you would have thought. It was stable, a little wobbly. You have to get used to it, but a big change from fishing out of a big Skeeter.”
Mercer said it was cool to set the hook and winch yourself in as you reeled in a 5-pound fish. His crew was a bit disappointed that he didn’t flop in the water as much as the fish.
“I only fell in once,” he said. “I had a couple of speed wobbles and had to go down on all fours. My crew was actually upset -- ‘We really figured you’d fall in.’”
The shoot was done and the cameramen had put down their cameras when Mercer finally did lose his balance. He worked his way back into a little channel, navigating over a log.
“We’ve got four full-time camera people there; they had just told me they’re bummed I hadn’t fallen in,” he said. “They’re not even shooting any more. I’m paddling out, the master of the universe, the keel hit that log and I went right in the water.”
The cameramen were more disappointed they missed shooting that, but alas, “There was a GoPro strapped on the board, and that’s the only shot we got."