TREMONT, Ill. (WMBD) – Lee Kerr is no stranger to the intricate art of fishing.

“I am at peace on the water. I’m out with nature,” he said. “I mean, I can be out there just floating and not even fishing and just enjoying the peace and quiet, seeing ducks and geese land. It’s my happy spot.”

It’s what Kerr has always done.

“I’ve been fishing my whole life. My dad took me fishing. I taught my children how to fish. I taught my grandchildren how to fish,” Kerr said.

But in December of 2018, Kerr’s world forever changed with the sudden death of his wife, Debra.

He said, “It was a shock. We were married 40 years and it wasn’t expected or anything. We were watching a [Chicago] Bears’ game and she died of a pulmonary embolism.”

The pain of that unexpected loss ultimately pushed Kerr to bring his and his wife’s post-retirement dream to life. This January, he fused family and fishing to open Big City Fishing Gear in Tremont. 

“It’s something we love to do. We love to fish. My wife loved to fish with us too. She loved boating, the water. So that’s how it all got started,” he said.

The Army paratrooper veteran is keeping the excitement much closer to the ground nowadays as a business owner. Kerr sells t-shirts, tackle, tumblers and hats on his online store as an extension of his love for the great outdoors.

“Fishing is what it is. It’s what I am.”

Lee Kerr

Kerr is working alongside his son and daughter to bring awareness of the activity to the larger Central Illinois community. 

“If you’ve ever seen a child catch their first fish—and that child could be five years old or 80 years old because when they get that rod in their hand to catch that first fish, they’re a child. And that glow on their face—they’ve never fished before—it’s just awesome,” he said.

Kerr is also involved in the Tremont community. He’s hosting a tackle swap and raffle on Nov. 19 at Tremont High School. The proceeds will benefit the school’s fishing club. 

For more information, visit Big City Fishing Gear’s website.