New Fairplain store is a fisherman's dream

Suzette Lowe

When Brandon Vance and his wife, Amanda, decided to locate their business in the rustic-looking building in Fairplain, they had no idea what it would eventually become.

“It started out just as a place for our insurance business,” Brandon said.

The Vances are independent insurance agents. Brandon specializes in life and health insurance, while Amanda works with life, health, property and casualty.

“I don’t know what happened,” Brandon said with a laugh. “Now we’re an insurance office but also a bait and tackle shop.”

The sign along the road in front of the store says Vance’s General Store Bait & Tackle. The general store portion of the business isn’t quite in place yet.

Vance’s General Store Bait & Tackle is located in Fairplain.

“We hope to, at some point, add in food items that would be good on camping or fishing trips,” said Brandon. “We’re thinking crackers, canned meats, things like that.”

What the shop does have is everything a person would need to go fishing. The sport has advanced beyond putting a worm on a hook.

“We have some of the finest musky lures you’ll find anywhere,” Brandon said.

What makes the Vances particularly proud is that many of those lures are crafted by people in Jackson County.

“Jonathan Shamblin who has Bubbytuff Baits and Mike Milam with Fatbelly Baits both have their lures for sale here at the store,” Brandon said. “These two are some of the best around. Their craftsmanship and skill are pretty amazing.”

Brandon Vance showcases many locally crafted lures at Vance’s General Store Bait & Tackle.

What’s even a higher compliment to the couple is that fishermen like Shamblin and Milam not only provide inventory, they shop there as well.

“To have these guys come in, find some things they can use and then go out and share it on social media means a lot to us,” Brandon said.

The response on Facebook has taken both Amanda and Brandon by surprise.

“We were so amazed at the ‘likes’ we got in such a short amount of time,” Amanda said.

Brandon added, “We thought this was all just a hobby for people, but we got 11,000 views in a week,” he said. “That was unbelievable.”

The Vances have been able to use social media to find lure makers.

“We put out a call for people to reach out to us with their product,” Brandon said. “Stephen Whitely, a disabled veteran in South Carolina, saw that and sent us spinner baits. They are absolutely beautiful and sold out in one weekend. He gives a portion of his money to veteran’s organizations. We love being able to support veterans and our local folks as well.”

A lot of the products at the bait and tackle shop revolve around musky fishing. Brandon said it became obvious that this type of fish is ‘big’ around here.

“I hear that in Mill Creek there are some that are 50 inches long,” he said. “I’m not a musky fisherman myself, but I’m learning. I like crappy and bass fishing. But now I want to catch a musky really bad.”

Amanda, who is also an avid fisherman, said she didn’t realize there were so many catfish available as well.

“We’ve had people come in and share pictures of huge ones,” she said.

One goal for the couple is to have a photo wall for people to display their catches.

“Everybody likes to tell and hear fish stories,” Brandon said with a smile. “We’d love to have a ‘bragging wall.’ We’ve got a few already but we want a lot more.”

Just like with musky lures, the shop features products for catfish made by local vendors such as Hartford Outlaws. And there are nine-foot catfish poles at the store also.

Amanda said something that makes their smaller store unique is offering items that are area specific and hard to find.

Everything a fisherman would want can be found at the Fairplain shop.

“We listen to what people want, we fish ourselves and we understand what they’re talking about,” she said. “That’s a big plus.”

They also try to have different price levels available. Fishing can be a very expensive sport, but it can also be kept at a lower cost.

“We have some people that come in looking for the most expensive, finest product we have,” said Brandon. “Of course, we’re happy to sell those to them. But we also have people just starting out or wanting to teach their kids how to fish.”

Brandon says they carry poles that are suited for children, beginner kits to purchase, along with some night crawlers.

“We also do special orders if we don’t have what the customer wants,” he said. “Once we get approval from the Department of Natural Resources, we’ll have live bait too. This is such a fun job.”

According to Jeff Hudnall who mainly works on the insurance side of the business, but also helps with the fishing side, part of the fun is the secrets they learn.

“We find out the best fishing holes,” he said with a laugh. “And people share some of their techniques too.”

Even though fishing is fun and a great way to share time with family and friends, Brandon said there is a lot of serious concerns that need to be addressed as well.

“Education is very important,” he said. “How to preserve and keep fish alive is just as important as anything else.”

One of the vendors who makes musky products, Joel Miller, has an information sheet that goes out with each sale of his Awakin’ Blades lures. He tells how to catch and release the fish safely and successfully.

“We’d love to have some classes in the future to train kids up right in all areas of fishing,” said Brandon. “We’re open to all kinds of ideas.”

Fishing has always been a passion for the Vances. It’s the reason an insurance agency shares space with bait, tackle, poles and lures.

“We’d be working all day and come home and want to go fishing,” Brandon said. “But when we’d need specific supplies no one was open. That’s what we’re trying to do here, offer a chance for people to get unique things like the big box stores don’t offer. That’s why we’re open every day with long hours. We want to be open when people need us.”

Vance’s General Store Bait & Tackle is open seven days a week from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. For information, call 304-590-1789 or follow them on Facebook.