I am the aunt of a professional bass fisherman.
When my nephew Destin DeMarion was a child, I would take him to a local creek, pond, river or lake to fish. Life was easy -- stop at a bait shop, buy some worms, bait his hook, clap and cheer when he caught a fish, take a photo, take the fish off the hook and throw it back in the water.
As he got older, he baited his own hook and took the fish off the hook, but I still clapped, cheered and took a photo. Once he was old enough to drive, he did not need his mom or me to take him fishing. Our days as a chauffeur, sherpa, cheerleader and photographer were over. Or so we thought.
Two years ago, after college graduation, Destin decided to make bass fishing his career. This meant entering bass tournaments around the country from a base in Western Pennsylvania.
Now I had a new "aunt job." His mom, his girlfriend and I take turns helping with the driving to the long-distance events in Alabama, Louisiana or Oklahoma. My days as a chauffeur, sherpa, cheerleader and photographer are back!
Life is much more complicated on the professional angler side, however, than it ever was for us before. We don't buy worms anymore, and our conversations are about sponsors, marketing plans, attorneys, intellectual property, branding and social media, in addition to discussing the challenges of fishing and the anglers who are standouts in the sport.
During our long-distance drives, I cannot see his face. Between us are a dozen fishing poles that stretch from the rear-view mirror to the back window of the Jeep. He has more equipment than I thought possible.
I'm now conversant on weigh-ins, flights, big bags, lunkers, live wells, boaters, co-anglers and spinner bait. Destin taught me about pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn fishing. I learned that fish are not always hungry, and sometimes you just have to get them to react.
He taught me that even the best angler knows that you have to respect and utilize the knowledge of the local fishermen. Respect the fish; respect the river or lake. Know the hazards. Seek the opportunities. Arm yourself with knowledge.
The travel is interesting. When I made my first trip to Logan Martin Lake in Alabama last year, Destin did not tell me the routine, and I never asked.
Who knew that you took a dozen fishing rods and millions of lures, bait and other necessities? Who knew that you had to take everything into the hotel room at night? Who knew that he went to bed at 7:30 p.m. and woke up at 4:30 a.m., and that I would spend most of my evenings in the hotel lobby with my Amazon Kindle?
I watched every angler in the hotel carry out the same routine. You bring in everything you own at night and carry it back out in the morning. Sometimes it's due to outside temperature fluctuations that can affect sensitive equipment. More importantly, the angler has to organize, pack and reorganize. Preparation is one of the keys to success in this sport.
On fishing trips, I spend my days in the hotel and meet up with him at weigh-ins. That's where the fun comes in for me: the tension of watching the leader board change as each of the anglers and co-anglers weighs in. Seeing my nephew on stage being interviewed is always a proud moment.
And then there's the excitement of qualifying to fish on the final day. That does not happen at every event, but when it does, that is the reward for me as well as for him.
Destin just bought a new truck and new boat. My days as a chauffeur and sherpa could be over... unless, as a good aunt, I learn to drive a truck and trailer a boat. Otherwise, I'll miss out on my turn for fun on the bass fishing tournament circuit.
Kathy Slencak of Canonsburg, a communications manager, can be reached at Kmslenpitt@gmail.com