DEL RIO, Texas — They say bad things come in threes. For Kevin Langill, every bit of the week leading up to Friday the 13th has lived up to that adage.
On Wednesday afternoon, his stepfather, Jerry Grindstaff, passed away while Langill was 22 hours away in the middle of his final day of practice for the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series opener on Lake Amistad.
He died from complications from cancer. Doctors gave him five to six months to live — just two weeks ago.
"Not only did my dad die, but my mom's dog died the same day," Langill said. "It's just crazy the way everything happened and you don't expect any of it."
Grindstaff was the parent who took Langill fishing as a kid. The pro admitted his fishing suffered, understandably, but his misery was compounded on Day Two when he hooked a good fish, estimated to be around 5 pounds, but it pulled Langill into a tree and broke off.
Langill finished the tournament just outside the cut, in 67th place with 23 pounds, 14 ounces. The fish that got away likely would have pushed him into the top 50. At least, he said, he'll be able to get home one day sooner to be with his family.
"Fishing is definitely not on your mind out there," Langill said. "Family is what is most important to me. I'm going to make it home and visit with the family for a few days before I have to get back on the road to (Lake) Dardanelle."
Even with family tragedies, Langill took to the water with the blessing of his family.
"My mother just told me to stay out here and fish," Langill said. "That is what my dad would have wanted."
Out on the water, he had to channel some of that grief to help him make it through the day.
"At one point I said, 'Pops, if you are watching, give me a sign.' Sure enough, not long after that I caught a 4-pounder," Langill said. "I knew he was definitely watching over me."
Fellow pro Kenyon Hill knows something of what Langill is going through. Hill's father died during the Elite Series season last year, not long after Kenyon won at Clarks Hill in Georgia.
"You start reminiscing a lot," Hill said. "I remembered growing up and my dad used to take me fishing all the time. You have to understand that it is a part of life — that doesn't make it any easier, but for me, I began to have an appreciation for the value of a day. It put a whole new perspective on that — it made me a better person."
Hopefully, Langill can make it home swiftly to be with his family, but it was his fellow anglers that helped him make it this far.
"I've had a lot of support here," Langill said. "All the anglers are great, standing by my side. I was really happy to see all the guys that stepped up and helped me through this."