Let's face it. Live bait such as minnows and worms were never profit-makers for these family-owned businesses. They survived on the fishing tackle their loyal customers purchased when anglers came in to buy their dozen night crawlers or tube of crickets.
When rod and reel sales dried up due to cut-rate prices offered by the mega stores, which could afford to buy tackle by the trainload, it didn't take long for small, locally owned businesses to begin disappearing. I have always believed our nation's strength and might is displayed in our huge corporations and industries, but the heart and soul of a country is depicted in shops owned by area residents.
Local fishermen always believed they would have a place close by to pick up their soft craws or leeches, which they would use with their discounted, internet-purchased tackle. It wasn't until the bait tanks were drained and the cricket cages emptied and set outside as garbage that many realized it was more than bait that was quickly disappearing.
Also gone is first-hand, knowledgeable information. Things like what bait to use to catch the fish that swim in the lake in those home waters just down the road. Now, the only source of advice comes from people, many who have never held a rod and reel and who split their time between fishing tackle and housewares.
Also gone are all the old guys you could see hanging out. Every store seemed to have a place where people would gather to visit. They had a following of kids and young adults who would sit close by hoping to gather morsels of fishing knowledge. Sometimes bystanders would hit pay dirt when they would get invited to go fishing with one of the old geezers. This was a coveted chance to gather years' worth of knowledge in one short trip.