You may be asking, “What in the world is that?” A “Classy, classic bait and tackle joint?” It’s what I call a fishing sport shop that functions pretty much like the Bait & Tackle shops from 40 years ago.
I borrowed and modified the phrase about that long ago from a conversation between my father and the owner of a restaurant we were in: Dad said: “This is a nice classy joint you got here!” The owner replied, “It’s a classic!” and took it as the highest of compliments, so I figured it would work in other instances as well.
Classy and Classic Bait and Tackle Joints—here’s why I love them!
- They are “On Top of What’s Hot” of the newest and coolest tackle and tactics. They are usually pretty well stocked with it, too! Both products on the pegs and experts in the aisles! That’s how they survive, knowing what’s working and how to use it! One of my favorites is my local store: Sportmen’s Unlimited in Waukon, Iowa. Justin Johnson the owner can set you up on a big Walleyes or bass (And that’s not the big whitetails or longbeards he knows about as well.)
- They have old and discontinued, and even sometimes, collectable “stuff.” Notice I said “Stuff” and not “Junk.” This is a by-product from No. 1 above: They stocked up on it, went deep, and maybe got stuck dusting a little bit after the fad faded. Stuff that still works incredibly well, like PowerBait plastics or discontinued Rapala crankbaits, or even a phased out St. Croix Rod. Critters in Winneconne, Wisconsin always seems to have a peg loaded with: “Dude! I’ve been looking for some of these forever!” I once found an old classic St. Croix Rod Rack in a joint that I will cherish forever.
- They have live bait, too. Not dead bait, not half live bait, but LIVELY bait. Take for instance Hank’s Live Bait And Tackle in Waterloo Iowa. To make certain that they’re customers have the BEST crawlers available they buy in volume at the beginning of the year and “re-bed” the crawlers regularly in “secret worm-dirt” to keep them fresh plump and lively. Then before they are sold to a customer, they get re-bedded in high-quality worm bedding to ensure they stay lively and the angler’s hands stay clean! Most of the core products names and bedding techniques have been omitted to protect the trade secrets!
- They have personalities that work there—no wait—real characters that could actually be a star in their own reality show—‘cept they are too busy fishing to be on TV. I mean let’s face it, to work in a bait and tackle store, you have to love it, because you certainly ain’t doing it for the money. These are real people that have a passion for the sport of fishing and everything that goes along with it. A prime example is Jeff “Tilkey” Tilkens from Smokey’s on the Bay in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Even on the way up to fish Bays de Noc (Which, by the way, has another classic joint called Bayshore Resort Bait & Tackle my rig veers off the interstate and heads straight to Smokey’s—the conversation and expenditure is therapy and well worth the detour.
- They have information. Real life fishing information that can “put you on them” and tell you where they are biting – of course, this information flows freer when you walk up to the counter with your arms full of tackle, not your hands full of pockets!
So the next time you are traveling by one of these “Classy, Classic Bait & Tackle Joints”, regardless if you need something or not, yank ‘er on in and start exploring. You may find something classic! At least you’ll find yourself staying classy!
For more great daily content and fishing tips, check out Tommy Skarlis on Facebook!