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Shucks reflect on past, look to the future

August 7, 2010
By Steve Weisman - Outdoor Editor

Mention the name Shuck's Bait and Tackle around the Iowa Great Lakes, and you think of the husband-wife team of Charlie and Bev Shuck. For 38 years, they have prided themselves in taking care of their customers and standing behind the fishing and hunting equipment they sold them.

After 27 years in the bait shop an offer came to sell giving them the opportunity to branch out into another area of the fishing industry: producing their own line of fishing tackle because as Bev says, "We can't sit still." So, over the past 11 years, they have shifted from the 7-day a week, 15-hour days at the bait shop to a work-from-home wholesale/retail fishing business. "That's what is nice about the Shuck's Lures business," Bev continues. "We can do everything from home and work when we want to.."

For the past 50 years, Charlie has been part of the fishing world on the Iowa Great Lakes. During that time, people have come to trust him when it comes to fishing advice. "My dad bought the Okoboji Bait Farm in 1961." The bait shop was a great place to learn the ways of some of the fishing legends of the Iowa Great Lakes, and with youthful enthusiasm, Charlie put this schooling to good use.

However, it was a four-year stint in the United States Coast Guard that cemented Charlie's future. While stationed at Wisconsin's Two Rivers Coast Guard Station, Charlie met his future wife Bev. Bev was not into fishing as much her future husband was. "When I was 5, I caught one fish, a sucker, and screamed and ran away," Yet years later here she was traveling with her husband to take over the Okoboji Bait Farm from Charlie's dad.

"In 1972, we decided to move the business across the road and erect a new building. However, we didn't have the money to just build, so Bev ran the business during the day (from the old bait shop) with help from my parents, while I worked for Butler Buildings in Spencer. Then after work, I would come home and work on the new building. Then on Sundays I ran a Des Moines Register route starting at 2 in the morning and finished in time to open the bait shop at 7 a.m.," Charlie reminisces.

That meant that during the week, Bev took care of the bait shop and her customers. "I came into this knowing nothing about fishing," Bev says, "I learned really fast. We had some great customers in those early years that really helped me out!"

To provide additional income, Charlie fed out 20,000 turkeys from a weight of four pounds to a finished weight of up to 30 pounds. "Actually, I started doing this when I was 16 years old, and except for the time I was in the Coast Guard when my brother and dad took over for me, I handled turkeys when I came back until 1978."

They both say it all came down to dollars and sense. The extra jobs meant not having to borrow money unnecessarily to purchase needed inventory. "We did not want to go in debt. We wanted to build the business and be able to provide our customers with the equipment they needed and wanted," says Charlie.

Over the course of the next 27 years, Charlie and Bev added onto the building three times. Customers came to know that if they wanted certain fishing or hunting products, they could go to Shuck's Bait and Tackle. "As we expanded and added inventory, our buying power increased with our wholesalers. That resulted in our being able to place special orders for our customers," notes Charlie.

By 1999, they were employing up to 12 employees, because they wanted their customers taken care of. "There is nothing worse than having a customer come in and have to stand around waiting to be helped," says Charlie.

"We were blessed with exceptional help," adds Bev. "We wanted our employees to feel that they had a stake in this business, so we gave them authority to deal with the customers and to develop a relationship with them."

Then after 27 years, it was time to move on to the next challenge. "We met a lot of great people over those years. Many are friends that still call us 11 years later with fishing questions, wanting to know where the fish are biting or just to chat," says Charlie.

It was only natural that Charlie and Bev would stay in the fishing industry. In 1974, Bev started Shuck's Lures when she bought out the Red Dot Spinner Company and began tying her own Shuck's harnesses, a series of highly regarded walleye spinner rigs. With their strong reputation, Bev continues that along with making an expanded selection of slip knot bobber stops.

However, it is the Jigger Minnow that has helped put Shuck's Lures into retail stores across the states of Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

The story of the Jigger Minnow goes back to the late 1980s when the Pilki, which was manufactured in Finland, was no longer shipped to the United States. "It was such a hot lure here that we went out and bought by the bulk as many as we could. We had fishermen come in and buy boxes of them, because they worked so well and they knew that we wouldn't be able to get any more!" says Bev.

After they were gone, Charlie and Bev found a friend who had designed something similar and had molds to produce the Jigger Minnow. Then in 1995, they began marketing and molding the Jigger Minnow themselves.

With two sizes, one designed for panfish in 24 colors and one for walleyes with 8 colors, the Jigger Minnow has found its way throughout the United States. Charlie and Bev continue to put their customers first and guarantee product satisfaction. Word of mouth continues to be the key for success, including The Internet. "The Internet opens up a whole new world of communication," says Charlie. "Fishermen use the Jigger Minnow and then share their success in chat rooms and on message boards. It's another form of sharing fishing information."

That's the way Charlie and Bev look at their Shuck's Lures company. "We continue to enjoy our customers and working with our dealers across the Midwest," says Bev. "We've enjoyed our lives in the fishing industry. Now with our own wholesale/retail business out of our home, we can work as hard and as long as we want, together." Charlie and Bev want to say, "Thank you to all of our customers for their support in the past and present."



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