There was a time when locally owned bait shops dotted Kokomo's business landscape. Places like Mal's, Martin's, Jack's, Bryant's, Hamler's, Alley Tackle, Mark's, S&S, Dave's and Jim's come to mind.
“We miss them as much as anybody,” said Liz Bryant, co-owner with her husband, Billy, of Kokomo's only remaining tackle shop.
The Bryants have been in business nearly 30 years and even when other competitors were in town, they were all friends.
“We would always help each other out,” she explained. “If someone ran out of a particular item, you could always get extra from another shop.”
These places represented much more than a source of minnows, worms and a variety of Hostess snacks. This is a fact fishermen are learning the hard way as mom-and-pop businesses are going the same way as locally owned lumber yards, drive-in theaters and K-Mart subs.
The Kokomo Reservoir, the place I grew up fishing, was created to supply adequate water to our growing city. The establishment of the lake a little over five decades ago was responsible for my dad taking us fishing. It is also responsible for guiding me to what I love to this day.
Since the construction of the concrete structure, holding back the waters of Wildcat Creek, there has always been a bait shop located near the reservoir. That too is history. But Kokomo is not unique. This unfortunate phenomenon is taking place across the nation.
Bait and tackle shops are being forced out of their long existence due to competition from internet dealers, mail-order catalogs and superstores that sell everything from lures to ladies lingerie. Now, most convenience store also offer commercially raised live bait. Gone also are the days when, after a good rain, kids could be seen running around barefoot picking up worms which they would sell to the bait shop down the block.