Mike’s Tackle World packed with fishing gear, the wisdom of angling | Local
DECATUR – It is a modest, squat building in a side street, with a red brick facade and concrete block sides.
A sign on the front proclaims “Mike’s Tackle World,” but someone walking past the store with half of its windows closed might wonder if there might be some world-class fishing gear in the store. interior.
If it’s fishing tackle they’re selling here, where’s the lake or river that’s normally a few casts down the road?
But a step in the front door and all doubts about the brand’s boasting are dispelled.
The place is crammed with hundreds of rods hanging from the ceiling, display cases and shelves filled with a huge selection of spools, racks and more floor-to-ceiling brackets containing all known types of decoys and an endless selection of lures. devices and gadgets designed to thwart anything and everything that dwells in the depths.
Store co-owner Mike Lowe, 57, a former champion tournament fisherman, stores nearly all the creepy things a fish has ever sacrificed its life to get. He and his wife, Joann, know their products well and test several of them in the field.
One recent weekday morning, Lowe was working in the back of the store, tending to two well-stocked 250-gallon minnow tanks. He changes the water in the tanks every two to three days, adding chemicals to neutralize the chlorine. Aerators are permanently operating in the tanks.
Lowe explains that one tank has minnows, one bigger and shinier minnow, while the other is full of tuffs, which live longer.
“They are much stronger minnows,” Lowe said of the tuffies. “Most people use them to catch crappie. Some will use minnows to catch catfish. White bass will hit them.
“We weigh 60 pounds a week. In high season we will be increasing to 150 pounds every third day. In high season, we will be using four tanks at all times. “
The Lowes also sell shad tripe, whole shad, chicken livers, prawns and giant red worms.
“It’s not those skinny little things. Those skinny little things, you put your hook in your finger while doing it,” Lowe said.
Even though selling all that yummy stuff helps pay the bills, Lowe said he had no use for it himself.
“I don’t use live bait,” he proclaimed.
The Lowes opened their first store in 1978, in the same building as the New Alcazar Tavern on North 22nd Street. The couple, who tied the knot on September 9, 1969, got to know each other when Mike Lowe picked up his mother from the beauty salon after Joann Jules cut his hair.
On one of their first dates, Jules, who immigrated to Decatur from a mountain village in Greece at the age of 15, spent a long night near a fire with Lowe.
“He took me to Rheas Bridge, in the river,” she said. “It was my first fishing experience, with him and his uncle. I fished it that night.”
When Lowe brought her home, her uncle (her adoptive father at the time) was waiting at the foot of the stairs.
“He didn’t believe we were fishing,” recalls Joann Lowe.
But the bitterness of having to deal with an upset parent was outweighed by the joy of catching 15-inch shit.
“That’s when I got hooked on fishing. It was a ball. And here I am, working seven days a week,” she said.
The couple’s dream of living off the fruits of their favorite hobby was nearly shattered nine years after their store opened.
On October 1, 1987, Joann Lowe was pricing a new stock when she heard popping noises and called the fire department. She fled the building just before the fire that destroyed $ 250,000 in fishing gear and the rented store.
The owner of Park’s Market, a few blocks away at 2283 E. Geddes Ave., has offered to sell his building to the Lowes. In a few months, they were operational in the new store, which has several advantages, including a large parking lot. In January, the Lowes will celebrate their 20th birthday at their current location.
If there is a family shop full of fishing tackle on this planet, Mike’s regulars haven’t found it.
Ty Eaton, 56, who carries 11 rods in a rack in the back of his pickup and ties his own flies, has been coming to the store since the first one opened.
Eaton acknowledges that there might be a few huge, corporate-owned stores in the big cities that sell so many items, but there’s no place like this.
“You can’t beat that to find anything,” Eaton said, as he set eight sandblasting decoys on the counter. “They know what I want, so it’s easy. When you walk through the door, you’re a friend.”
Kelsey Shelby, 21, who lives on the streets, has been visiting the store regularly for about six years. He was buying treble hooks, catfish bait and weights before heading to the dam with his best friend, Brylin Turnbo.
“I always come here,” Shelby said. “This is the best place. We usually have worms. Sometimes we have shad tripe. Sometimes we have shrimp. I bought a few fishing reels. I find everything I need here. . No problem. This store has so much more than Wal-Mart. I’ve never been to a better place to fish. “
Turnbo, 20, said he liked everything about the store, including the fishing rods he bought for $ 12 each.
“They haven’t broken yet. They’re still good. I haven’t broken a rod from here in the five or six years I’ve been coming here. This is the best tackle shop I’ve been to. If we come. upset, (Joann) has jokes. Hope this shop stays here forever. “
Mike Lowe said he owed the store’s success to the dedication of his wife, whom he calls “cheap labor,” as well as his other job as a truck driver to support them.
Then there is the wealth of knowledge possessed by the couple, which is generously dispensed.
“It’s about knowing the lures, which lures catch fish, knowing what times of the year which fish are biting,” said Mike Lowe. “The patterns of fish don’t really change. We have something for everyone: crappie guy, bass guy, catfish guy, walleye guy. Some people fish in salt water.
The Lowes’ children, Mike and Michele, said they enjoyed working in the store growing up, especially because of all the fishermen they met.
Michelle Lowe said she learned a lot about fishing, mostly from her parents, during the long hours she spent at the store. Over the past two years, her parents have donated a lot of fishing gear to the kids who participated in a kids’ fishing tournament in June.
“They dedicate their time to everyone before themselves,” said Michelle Lowe. “They love to help children more than anyone. They try to accommodate everyone as much as they can.”
Huey Freeman can be contacted at [email protected] or 421-6985.