When 40-year-old Dave Mercer says he's never had a "real job," it's hard to argue with him. Well, it's always difficult to argue with the high-energy, high-volume Mercer. In this case, there's not much to argue about. The facts of his life stand as proof.
Mercer hosts Outdoor Channel's "Facts of Fishing" show and serves as the emcee of Bassmaster Elite Series events, including the Bassmaster Classic.
And for Mercer, that's not work; it's the fulfillment of his childhood dreams.
"I've always had two loves – fishing and entertaining," Mercer said. "I don't feel like I've ever had a real job."
Click image to see photos of Dave Mercer fishing
By all appearances, Mercer could be defined as one of the hardest-working men in the fishing world. He's the Bill Dance of bass fishing in Canada; it seems that everyone who fishes recognizes him there. Increasingly, Mercer has become a standout in the U.S. as well. He recently topped the 100,000 mark in followers of his Facebook page.
The examples of hard work include his physical appearance as well. Mercer once carried 330 pounds on his 6-foot frame; he now weighs 230.
Even as a kid, Mercer never had a "real job." When he was 13 years old, he won a local bass fishing tournament that came with a check for $400. Plus he started working as a fishing guide in the area near his hometown of Port Perry, Ontario, located about 45 miles northeast of Toronto.
"I made more money than everybody else at school that had a summer job," Mercer said. "I thought I was loaded."
When asked in an elementary school class what he wanted to be when he grew up, Mercer quickly answered that fishing was his goal. But the self-described class clown, couldn't define it more specifically than that. Being a big-time bass fishing tournament competitor was never part of his dream. So how do you make a living "fishing"?
"I didn't know what I was going to do exactly," said Mercer, who by the time he was 20 years old knew that tournament fishing was definitely out. "I loved tournament fishing, but I didn't like that lifestyle. I didn't want to live out of the back of my truck. And I didn't think I could beat Kevin VanDam, for example. You really have to have a special drive to do everything involved with tournament competition. That's why I have so much respect for those guys."
Mercer now lives on a lake near Barrie, Ontario, not far from where he grew up. He and his wife, Sarah, have known each other since they were in elementary school together. They have a 9-year-old daughter, Cadance, and a 7-year-old son, Jack.
Mercer, by all appearances, seems to be a lucky man, headlined by a happy family and two dream jobs. Particularly for his career, there were few, if any, role models for becoming the Bassmaster Elite Series emcee and hosting your own TV fishing show. He definitely chose the path less traveled by.
Mercer agrees that he's been lucky. But at the same time he believes in the theory that you make your own luck. Mercer can cite many examples in his life. His television career is the best. He had an idea for doing 60-second "Facts of Fishing" segments. When he was 21 years old, Mercer pitched the idea to public television stations in the Toronto area. One station manager gave Mercer a chance, which began with a "screen test." Mercer had no previous TV experience.
"I had no idea what a screen test was," Mercer said. "Basically, we launched the boat, and this guy says, 'OK, go.' I remember it like it was yesterday. I said, 'What do you mean go?' He said, 'Just tell me how fishing has been this year.' I rattled something off about how great it had been this year, and I was done."
The screen test went well enough for Mercer to get the go-ahead. The one-minute "Facts of Fishing" segments became increasingly popular in Canada. Eight years ago, they were assembled on a DVD that was sold only in Canada's Bass Pro Shops. It became their No. 1-selling DVD store-wide.
The following year – 2006 – "Facts of Fishing" morphed into a half-hour show. This year marks the second season for the show to be aired on Outdoor Channel.
Mercer's 100-pound weight-loss is another example of making your own luck. He'd always been a big guy, but through high school Mercer had always played sports, including football and baseball.
But, like a lot of us, exercise became less and less a part of his daily life as he got older. By the time he was in his early 30s, Mercer was a really big guy – 330 pounds-worth.
"Especially as a guy, it's easy to laugh that off," Mercer said. "I didn't have a moment where I looked at a picture and said, 'Oh, I'm too big.' And I never set a goal of losing 100 pounds. Basically, we all know what it takes to be fit. I just started doing what it takes."
The only goal Mercer set was waking up an hour earlier than usual and going for a walk. Then he started adding in 10-minute segments of jogging. Next he began examining his diet, but he never went on a strict, calorie-based diet.
"I just started cutting out the crap," Mercer said. "I started eating more whole foods."
Twenty-pounds into his eventual 100-pound weight loss, Mercer went into his local Subway Restaurant for lunch one day and an employee noticed that he'd dropped a few pounds. Mercer was asked if he'd like to participate in a weight-loss marketing campaign. As a result that chance-encounter, Subway became a major sponsor of his television show. It's a business arrangement that's now in its eighth year.
You decide: Is that luck, or making your own luck?
"It sounds like a cliché, but I love my life," Mercer said. "I have two dream jobs – hosting my own fishing show and emceeing the Bassmaster Elite Series, which to me is like being a comedian and dreaming of hosting The Tonight Show."
"Facts of Fishing" show page