Bait shop luring anglers
By ED PILOLLA
Rachael Naerebout and her husband Tony have always enjoyed fishing at the reservoir and county lake. They used to pick up bait at Canada Bait N Tackle on Nighthawk Rd. until that longtime bait shop closed a couple years ago, leaving the county lake office as the only place for bait in the county.
So when the Naerebouts’ well dried up a year and a half ago and they moved from outside Tampa to the north side of the reservoir, they saw their opportunity in the little garage on their property.
The Bait Bucket quietly opened for business last May west of Pawnee Rd. on 230th Rd. Rachael Naerebout hopes to make Marion a two-bait shop county once again.
“It was a little scary,” said Naerebout, a stay-at-home mom when her two teen-agers were younger. “Aside from running a day care, I had never done anything in business. It was a learning experience for me, too, because I was just a worm fisherman and I had to learn this stuff. Luckily, fishermen are very helpful.”
For example, an angler walked in the Bait Bucket and asked for “roadrunners.” Rachael asked him what he was talking about. He went out to his tackle box in his truck and returned with a little rubber jig to show her.
“Everybody uses something a little bit different,” said Naerebout, who has enjoyed meeting anglers from all over, including out-of-state campers, locals, and folks from Wichita, Salina, and Great Bend.
Naerebout also visited the bait shop in Council Grove for advice to get started. And she received industry contacts from Steve Hudson, the county lake superintendent.
Hudson said he didn’t want to give her too much information on how to handle bait because “everyone has to learn on their own.”
“I’m happy to have a bait shop over there to tell truth,” Hudson said. “So many out-of-county people visit the reservoir. When the Canada bait shop closed, a lot of people who wanted to buy bait couldn’t find anything because they didn’t know we were here at the lake. A lot of wasted money was going elsewhere. Lots of people bought bait in Wichita and fished at the Marion Reservoir.”
Naerebout is working to change that recent purchasing pattern. She’s hung small signs at Pawnee Rd. pointing in the direction of the Bait Bucket, and she plans to make those signs larger because some people have difficulty finding it. Naerebout also couldn’t have gotten the business going without a small business loan through Marion County economic development, she said.
As soon as she got that loan, Tony and their friends helped remodel the garage into the Bait Bucket, accomplishing most of the work in a weekend. By the next weekend, it was open for business.
They plan to install signs on the garage and water lines from the house to the bait shop in the spring. For now, Rachael uses the hose, or she assigns her kids to do it.
Naerebout said business has been good, even despite a nightcrawler shortage in Canada last summer that increased the price of worms 10 cents a dozen. Back in the summer, anglers hunting catfish bought goldfish and perch for bait. With crappies active in winter, they are now buying minnows, she said.
One customer, who did not want to be identified, made only his second visit to the Bait Bucket last week and bought two jars of gizzards to catch Channel Catfish. The Marion resident has been fishing for 56 years and used to buy gizzards at Canada Bait N Tackle before he went to Bill’s Bait Shop in McPherson — then he found the Bait Bucket.
“Somebody told me it was out here somewhere, but I didn’t know where, and it wasn’t till I got to roaming around that I found it,” the customer said.
Last modified Feb. 4, 2015