Luring urban anglers

Bob Moore runs the only all-bait and tackle shop in Minneapolis

WINDOM —  It’s 9 a.m. on a warm, sunny Sunday as Bob Moore fills small plastic containers of squirming leeches with water and slides them into a fridge.

Water gurgles in eight tanks swimming with minnows and bullheads in front of him. They’re arranged in an island taking up half a store that is maybe double the size of an average studio apartment. It smells of fish. All around are lures, lines, sinkers and poles — all the armament an angler could ask for.

It’s in this nook at 58th Street and Lyndale Avenue that Moore spends 12 hours a day, six days a week, running the only 100-percent bait and tackle shop in the City of Lakes, which makes him a busy guy.

“It’s not hard work,” Moore said with a laugh. “I mean, it’s long hours and things like that, but it’s really not that hard of work. You just get to gab with the guys and find out where all the hot spots are.”

Moore, 53, hasn’t had a lot of time to fish those hot spots since opening his shop, Moore’s Bait and Tackle, in September 2005. Before then he was a recreational fisherman who worked as a distribution manager for the Star Tribune.

He decided to leave that job after discovering on a fishing outing with a nephew that — other than a bait shop-gas station hybrid in Bryn Mawr — all of the city’s bait and tackle stores had closed. He said he didn’t know much about bait, other than that he used it, but he knew there was a need for it in the city.

With some encouragement from his wife, Moore set out to become the new go-to guy for fish food in Minneapolis.  

“We knew it was going to be successful only because there was no other bait shop,” Moore said. “It was like there had to be one.”  

Moore’s wife knew of a vacant space immediately next to her hair salon, Artiste Hair Stylists, in a small strip-mall type building. The spot had plenty of parking and nearby freeway access. Perfect.

After months of live-bait research, Moore set up shop. He initially worked seven days a week. He now has Tuesdays off. He’s his only employee, so the shop closes that day.

Over the store’s short lifespan, Moore has succeeded at becoming a destination for metro-area anglers, who used to travel much further for bait.

“Aw, cripes, I’d have to wait until I got out to whatever lake I was fishing on,” said regular customer Rory Hokens, 46, who lives in Armatage.

Hokens was buying minnows for a trip down to a lake in Faribault. He said Moore is always open and always has bait.

“It’s great having him here because there’s no other bait shop in town,” Hokens said.

Jason Weage, 39, who lives in the Regina neighborhood, stopped in with son Preston, 8, to get a fishing license and buy some worms. He and friend Joel Lambert, 33, and Lambert’s son Miles, 3, were heading to a pond in Eagan for their first fishing trip of the year.

“I come here all the time,” Weage said of Moore’s shop. “It’s more personable than like a Wal-Mart or a Gander Mountain or whatever. And he’s a wealth of information, too.”

Others are still discovering the shop.

“I’ve been in this neighborhood for 20 years and I didn’t know this place was here,” said Richfield resident Nick Gilliland, 31, as he walked through the door with daughter Haley, 11, to buy wax worms for crappie fishing.  

Moore greets every customer with a question: “Where are ya goin’ today?” And he wishes them luck on their way out the door.  

He said he sells something for everyone — his pan-fish guys, muskie guys, walleye guys, catfish guys and others. In addition to the customers mentioned above, Moore in less than an hour served a group of guys fishing for walleye on Lake of the Isles, a couple of fisherman heading out to Lake Waconia for whatever they could get and several others. He said it was slow.

Moore has even lured in a couple stylists from the salon next door as customers.

“We really like Bob. He’s a nice guy,” said salon manager, stylist and fisherwoman Mary Harrison.

The fishy smell of the bait shop has only drifted into her place on a couple hot days, she said. Moore said the smell of hairspray is more noticeable.

He still fishes when he can, though he said time is often short by the time he’s done with his honey-do list on Tuesdays. He also hosts walleye and catfish contests once a month after store hours.  

He said he’s caught his share of big fish, including a 38-pound flathead catfish, but he doesn’t offer up any tall tales. When asked about where he got the big fishhook he keeps in his hat, Moore didn’t talk about a monster he reeled in from Lake Calhoun. He simply pointed out the decorative hooks hanging nearby.

He keeps a photo of himself holding a bass behind the service counter, so customers can see he can “actually do something.”

Moore suspects the multiple city bait shops he used to frequent died off from competition with each other. That’s a problem he doesn’t have to worry about.  

The bait business is good, Moore said, and he plans to stay in it for as long as he can.

“My retirement would be maybe if I could get a second day off,” he said.

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected]