It is easy to understand why Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas are popular destinations. It may take most of the day, but one can wander through a fantastic, wide selection of boats and fishing tackle and the kids can ogle at massive blue catfish and spotted gar in aquariums containing thousands of gallons of water. That is, when they are not pleading their case for a giant stuffed fish pillow.
When traveling, I also always try to visit the off-the-beaten path, neighborhood bait shops. The kind of place that may have a “web site,” but it is in the corner, behind the bait fridge. Ken’s Bait Shop in tiny Rimersburg, Pennsylvania is one of those charming places.
The sign on the door may say, “Closed”, but there is a “ring bell” sign too that more often than not will bring a proprietor from some nether region. Here, you can be sure minnows are sold the way they are supposed to be. Rather than count each individual minnow, density is assessed in a glance by how effectively the bouncing little fish obscure the bottom of the minnow bucket. Plus, during the warmer months, minnows and night crawlers are available on the front porch via the honor system and a money envelope to drop in a slot in the door.
Like many bait shops around the country, Ken’s Bait shop has the creaking screen door that might stick and threatens to whack your backside upon departure. There is a musty smell, perhaps of a dried out fathead minnow, crushed into the Astroturf long ago.
The inventory of hooks, weights, lures and such may be smaller, but what lures the bait shop carries are probably going to be the ones that work in that area. It is a great place to pick up some unique, regionally specific lures. In addition, the owner can be a wealth of information, often sharing what is biting, where to go, and what to throw.
Now if only Ken’s Bait Shop carried giant fish pillows. . .
Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad living in Oklahoma. Visit him at www.justkeepreeling.com.