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Midway Bait & Tackle

Published in the February 2013 Issue Published online: Dec 20, 2013 Feature
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Midway Bait & Tackle is one of the best local bait shops. It is located on the St. Joe River near Elkhart, Ind. Mike McNulty has owned the business for ten years now. McNulty was looking for something challenging like this to do, because he had just retired from his other job.

What keeps him in business is his steady flow of customers and new customers.  

"I rely greatly on new customers," says McNulty. With the Wal-Mart that just opened in 2008 on the same street as Midway Bait & Tackle, it makes for a lot of competition. With that, he offers a larger variety of live bait, while the local Wal-Mart only carries the basics. Plus Midway carries tackle and fishing rods that Wal-Mart doesn't, and that's how Midway stays competitive with the price. Wal-Mart and big places like that carry national supplies, and McNulty carries local. He estimates that 50 percent of their business is live bait and the rest is tackle-hooks, bobbers and sinkers. McNulty is the owner and only employee.

"The best part of owning my own business is not having a boss," McNulty chuckles.

Midway's busiest times of the year are spring and early summer starting in April. He is open year round, seven days a week and the hours vary by the season. Being located in Indiana means there are four basic seasons. If they don't have a good ice year it means there is no ice fishing. Indiana does have a distinct fall and winter season.

"I am constantly spending time getting ready for their next season," he adds.

When asking McNulty if he had any tips or advice on tackle, he said, "You don't need to get the most expensive or the name brand. All you need is a stick and a piece of line and you will catch a fish."

As far as bait recommendations, "Well it varies from season to season, so for the spring, fall and winter I recommend live minnows, and for the hotter days night crawlers are always good or red worms," says McNulty.

The owner has lived in Indiana his whole life. He was previously a store manager at Kroger for 31 years. He was hired when he was only 16 and after 31 years he realized he was ready to do something else on his own. When he went in to Midway Bait & Tackle to go buy some bait he was talking with the previous owner and found out that he was selling it and McNulty bought it right then and there.

"With any business it's still a business no matter if it's a hobby or not," comments McNulty.

He still fishes a lot, but not as much as he did before he bought the business. McNulty has a boat on the river and that's where he fishes when he finds the time.

"It's the best fishing in the area, and that's what I tell everyone who asks," he says.

Mom and Pop type shops are known for great fishing tips and products. They truly offer invaluable customer service comparatively to name brands like Wal-Mart. You are talking with the people who know what's best and love the sport. They're not trying to sell you products they know nothing about or don't care for. They are honest and will tell you what works and doesn't work and offer their advice.

McNulty has learned a lot when it comes to running his own business and fishing.

"I've learned that customer service is what sets you apart from the big box stores. I make sure our customers can get current information on fishing conditions, what's being caught, how deep, and what bait to use," says the owner.

They also know how to answer questions, like what tackle and equipment to use, etc. If they need help setting up their rods and equipment McNulty is there to do it.

"Also, if I don't have what they want in the store I'll order it for them," adds McNulty. "One of the things I enjoy the most is knowing I am able to sustain a business that has been declining over the last ten years due to the increased competition from the big box stores and the internet sales. In the last ten years I have seen several bait & tackle shops similar to mine that have been forced to close."

It's important to continue to support local bait shops like this one and hopefully we'll have Midway Bait & Tackle around for many more years.

Midway Bait & Tackle

56183 Ash Road, Osceola, IN 46561

574-674-8880

Midway Bait & Tackle on the St. Joe River near Elkhart in Indiana is a great place to stop by and pick up your fishing license, grab some gear and then launch your boat behind the shop. This local marina improves your odds of catching a walleye, smallmouth bass, or any number of other species.

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