Determined. Passionate. Caring. Humble. Wise.
Those are just a few of the praising words used to describe Wesley Aaron Rollo, who squeezed a lifetime of experience into the 19 years, five months and 17 days he spent on Earth. He died on May 5 as a result of injuries sustained in a single-vehicle crash two days earlier.
Rollo was a member of the Northwestern State University bass fishing team in Natchitoches, La., and a promising young angler with a future in competitive fishing on his mind. He was one of 12 young men in the U.S. to be named a Bassmaster High School All-American in 2019 while at Natchitoches Central High, and he was half of the team that finished fourth in the 2018 Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors on Kentucky Lake.
Editor's note: See Rollo photos.
His fishing partner that year was Hunter Owens, who was killed in another tragic car accident 14 months prior to Rollo’s fatal crash this month.
Rollo impressed in local and national tournaments, but the respect he earned really came from outside of his Triton bass boat.
It came from the bed at St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital where he valiantly fought, and beat, childhood leukemia during a 31-month stretch prior to high school. It came from Rollo’s trips back to Memphis, Tenn., and to the Ronald McDonald House where he made “Cajun Christmas” visits to other kids battling cancer. It came when he reached out to many of his influential friends in the fishing industry to create the Wesley Aaron Rollo (W.A.R.) Foundation whose sole purpose was to give seriously ill children a chance to fish.
Rollo had a maturity that belied his age, one that could only be learned from facing death, eluding it and in the process, realizing the absolute fragility of every human life.
“Wes had a lot going on for a 19-year-old,” said his father, Jeff. “He had so many offers to help him get the W.A.R. Foundation going. We ran into a lot of people on this journey and they offered to pay his way to fish in tournaments. But Wes never wanted that. He wanted to earn his way. He wasn’t afraid to work.”
Friends for life
Johnny Ledet saw the work ethic firsthand when he was a member of the Northwestern State fishing team and Wes was an eager high schooler who needed a boat captain for an upcoming local tournament. Young Wes won that event, and Jeff joked that Ledet was his son’s good luck charm, and that he’d have to be in the Triton with him for every future tournament.
That began a fantastic friendship between the two, and Ledet became the big brother Wes never had. He captained Rollo’s boat in tournaments across the U.S. from that point, including the two Bassmaster High School National Championships he fished.
“We hit it off right away,” Ledet said. “He was always calling me about fishing and picking my brain. I wondered how someone could love fishing so much. After a tournament, I can’t tell you how many times Wes would beg me to go back out, whether he caught fish or not. I’d tell him, ‘Wes, you must not have fished that hard if you’re not tired after all that.’
“We all wish we had half the energy and the passion Wes had.”