Saturday, July 21, 2007

Remembering the Great Bait Shops of Yore

They are fewer and fewer every year, their livelihoods being squeezed out by the growth of sprawling mega-marts and incredible tight margins. I'm talking about bait shops, of course, and not just bait shops but classic bait shops. There are still some left; Pastika's in Hayward, Wisconsin and Vados Bait & Tackle in St. Paul, Minnesota spring to mind, and I'm sure there are a few others, but not as many as before.

Lake Ontario Tackle Shop ca. 1940

What got me thinking about old baits shops was two things. First, Prevost's Bait Shop of Solon Springs, a fixture for 75 years in the Northern Wisconsin Sand Country, closed a few years back. I hadn't been by it in awhile but on my last trip north I drove by and was saddened at how run-down it had become (is there anything more folorn than an abandoned bait shop?). And second, The Chicago Tribune ran a piece on a classic bait shop entitled Bait-shop owner casts pall by taking a day off--to fish.

Bait shops serve the important service of providing fishermen with what they truly need--live bait. Crawlers, minnows, frogs, leeches, maggots, and whatever else the fish might bite on (ever fish a mudpuppy?). They also traffick in a large amount of terminal tackle and rods, reels, and lures, but not as much as before.

Ye Olde Feshin Hole Bait Shop, Florida Keys, Ca. 1945

Do you have fond memories of a bait shop from your youth? Many writers did--David Halberstam, for example, wrote movingly of the bait shop of his Winsted, Connectitcut childhood. If anyone has any stories, memories, or photos of bait shops gone by you'd like to share, I'd love to collect them and post them right here.

Long live the local bait shop!

-- Dr. Todd

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