LAKE ARTHUR, La. — Professional bass fishermen spend a lot of time in front of cameras, but when Bassmaster Elite Series angler Dennis Tietje recently made what was arguably one of the most impactful appearances of his career, the absence of bright lights and vast exposure did nothing to dim the brilliance of its real-life significance.
If anything, the low-key scenario probably amplified just how important this was to the pro from Roanoke, La.
The story began last year when Ivy Woods, sheriff of Jeff Davis Parrish, asked Tietje if he could visit with Bryn Maynard of nearby Lake Arthur the next time he was home. A couple of years ago, the young angler was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare cancer that primarily affects children.
Maynard was a big fan of the hometown hero, so Tietje rounded up a care package of tackle and made what he described as a deeply meaningful visit.
Worth noting: before his trip, Tietje shared the story with Elite Series pal Kevin VanDam, who immediately cut a bait off his line and autographed it for Maynard.
“We do have the ability to touch a lot of people,” Tietje said of the responsibility to balance national exposure with benevolence. “If we can bring a little happiness and awareness, we need to do it whenever we can.”
Sadly, 2014 began with one of those calls that stops life in its tracks. The illness had taken Tietje’s young friend on Jan. 15. Maynard was 12 years old.
The time for visits was over. The days to gather gifts, gone — way too soon, most would agree.
But Tietje was offered one more opportunity to show how much fishing fans mean to him, one incredible chance to say goodbye to a special kid in a special way.
“His family asked me if I would lead the hearse to the cemetery,” Tietje said. “Boy, that’ll make you take a breath.”
The family thought that a trailered bass boat leading the procession from Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church to St. Anthony Cemetery would be a nice way to honor a young angler who loved the sport for as long as he could.
Tietje understood, but he offered a different perspective, one he thought conveyed the right message.
“I ended up just bringing my truck because I didn’t want this to be about me,” he said. “This was about Bryn.
“Everyone in his family was so gracious. Even though I’m not related, we are a small community and we know everybody. If my actions helped bring a little happiness, then that’s what it means to be part of the community.”
Get ready to take another breath.
For the 2014 fishing season, Tietje added Bryn’s name to his bass boat console. It’s right next to a motivational phrase: “Keep your eye on your goals!”
Tietje’s new goal: “I told Bryn’s father, ‘Now, we just need to drive him through the winner’s circle.’”
But maybe, just maybe, he’s already there.