NEW ORLEANS Inside the locker at his Toronto high school, Dave Mercer didn't have a picture of Michael Jordan, Joe Montana or Fred McGriff.
No, Mercer had a photo of Hank Parker hanging on the door, eliciting some ribbing from his friends.
"As weird as it is, in grade 9 or 10, I had in my locker a picture of Hank Parker with the 1989 Classic trophy above his head," the new B.A.S.S. emcee said. "I wish I had a picture of that now."
An image that certainly shows where his alliances lie. Mercer, who has won about a dozen fishing tournaments in Canada and the northern U.S., said as a youth he had two dreams: The first to win the Classic, the next to host it. He's living the latter.
"It sounds cliché, but honestly this is my dream job," he said. "Originally, I wanted to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. I decided in my early 20s to continue my fishing but focus on the TV end of things. It allowed me to scratch both itches.
"With the exception of winning the Classic, if someone said to me, 'You want to be a tour pro and make the Classic?' I'd rather emcee it."
He learned of the possibility of landing the job when the ownership of B.A.S.S. changed hands, and he jumped at the chance when Jerry McKinnis asked him.
"I've compared it to hosting the tonight show. You could be the best comic in the world, but the opportunity, the timing just has to be right," he said. "That whole JM crew, they recreated how fishing television looks and how tournaments should be covered. Nobody holds a candle to what they've done.
"That's exciting, the people who have gotten involved. The new ownership is going to interject a level of excitement to every level."
Mercer might be feeling a little pressure to live up to it, but hosting his own show, "Facts of Fishing," has him prepared for the Classic. He said it is actually how he did a bunch of research.
"Knowing stuff about the guys has never been a worry, but this is the first thing in my life I have ever studied for," he said. "I brushed up and actually really enjoyed it."
He said he found some amazing facts, like that Kevin VanDam has more victories than second-place finishes. There's only one other angler who can say the same.
"That's a pretty crazy stat," Mercer said. "When he's in the red zone, he scores. That is scary."
He hopes to impart more insight on the stage.
"I haven't planned anything. I'm naturally a pretty fun, gregarious guy, so I'm going to have fun up there," he said. "But, one thing, there's a time to be serious in this. Someone is going to become world champion. This is serious. I'm going to be a part of someone's life changing."
So, beginning this afternoon when the 50 competitors come off the Louisiana Delta, Dave Mercer will be hosting what he hopes is the first of many Classics.
"I don't want to be that James Bond that only got one movie," he said. "I don't want to be that guy. And even if I am that guy, at least I got to do one Classic."