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The Bait Business — It’s an Ohio Thing

April 12, 2016 - Larry Claypool
Ohio is full of history when it comes to fishing bait and tackle. My knowledge of that expanded even more recently while I was researching for an article on available live bait in the upper Ohio Valley region.

Of course the Akron, Ohio area presented us with Pflueger lures and reels, Fred Arborgast’s lures (Jitterbug, Hawaiian Wiggler, Hula Popper and many more), the Creme Lure Co. (inventors of the plastic worm), which comprised a large chunk of the artificial fishing bait in this century. Akron also has been the home of many large wholesalers of live bait in the midwest. Three larger live bait warehouses — featuring minnows of all sizes — previously handled the business in this region. They were Akron Wholesale Live Bait in Mogodore; Bass Boss Bait in Akron and Eddie’s Live Bait of Nimisila Lake (Portage County, OH). Eddie’s Live Bait is the only wholesaler still in business. They now work under the name of J.W.S. Wholesale Bait of Clinton, OH (North Canton).

J.W.S. Wholesale Bait is run by Joe Langenfeld. His father started the business more than 50 years ago. He said the other two long-time bait businesses (Akron Wholesale and Bass Boss) were family-run businesses too.

“It’s a tough business. It’s five months of hard work, and is very demanding,” said Langenfeld recently during a phone interview. It was generally a slow spring day for Langenfeld due to a string of cold weather days in early April. Read more about Langenfeld’s bait business in my article “Finding Live Bait this Spring’ in the April issue (Page 10) of the Ohio Valley Outdoor Times.

I guess the species of fish you’re trying to net, or the method, will determine the bait you use — live or artificial. Some fisherman use one or the other. For me, I use both. It depends on what I’m fishing for, the body of water, or what live bait is available. Ninety percent of the times I go fishing I have nightcrawlers in my bag. And my refrigerator at home usually has worms kept in storage, waiting for my next fishing trip.

Another staple item that’s usually in my tacklebox is some form of doughball. I may only use it one out of five times, but it’s something I like to have if nothing else is working.

During my research for bait shops along the Ohio River I came across the manufacturer of Van-Do, a long-time supplier of doughball, a brand I used to have in my tacklebox for years. This well-known doughball has been around for 65 years and is made in Toronto, Ohio. Van-Do owner Bob Nelson said he bought the recipe and business in 1980 from the original owner, Jack Kelly.

Ohio is also home to the top walleye fishing lure in the country, the Erie Dearie. Since 1961 charter boat captain and bait shop owner Dan Galbincea has churned out the popular walleye lures near Mosquito Lake (Mecca, OH). Galbincea once told a reporter his company was selling two million Erie Dearie lures a year. Currently the Erie Dearie lures are manufactured out of state, but still sold from Ohio, along with many other fishing products.

Two other midwest states are well known for inventing and manufacturing fishing equipment that have been staple items for many years. South Bend reels and other fishing equipment are made in Indiana and Shakespeare and Bronson reels hail from Michigan. Legendary Heddon Lures also come from Michigan.

 
 

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Blog Photos

These minnows are ready for spring fishing at Mee Mee's Bait Shop, near Wellsville, OH. Photo by Larry Claypool