MANKATO – Family owned bait and fishing shops aren’t as commonplace in Minnesota as they once were. Competition from large outfitters is a primary reason.
Oftentimes it’s difficult to beat the big boys’ prices when they order thousands or tens of thousands of an item for resale, and the little guy orders 10 or 20 of the same product.
One shop that has survived, even thrived, in the fishing game is the Bobber Shop, here in Mankato.
It’s worth reiterating that Mankato isn’t located in one of Minnesota’s iconic lakes areas, such as those around Brainerd, Grand Rapids or Ely.
Instead, it’s in southern Minnesota — not the land of Sky Blue Waters, perhaps, but still within a 30-mile radius of 28 lakes and three river systems, notably, of course, the Minnesota.
“The [Minnesota] river is very popular with our customers,’’ said Paul Rosenberg, who operates the Bobber Shop with his wife, Kelly.
Anglers fish the river both from shore and from boats, Rosenberg said, adding that most summers the river holds enough water for boat owners to run outboards with conventional-length shafts. That is particularly true now, with the heavy rains that have inundated the Minnesota River Valley. Fishing action — and fishing itself — has slowed as a result.
Rosenberg, 37, is originally from Spirit Lake, Iowa, and grew up on the shores of East Lake Okoboji. He fished a lot as a kid, and worked at the Bobber Shop when he was a Minnesota State University, Mankato student studying construction management.
After graduating, he worked in the construction business for a year, but missed the shop. When its owners, Ron and Katie Robb — founders of the Bobber Shop in 1977 — called, inquiring about Rosenberg’s interest in returning, he saw it as a good opportunity.
“I just enjoy the business,’’ he said. “That’s why I bought it.’’
Lake Washington (walleyes, panfish; with about 800,000 walleye fry stocked most years) just north of Mankato is a popular destination for area anglers, as is Madison Lake. (stocked annually since 2006 with walleye and northern pike fry).
Bait and terminal tackle, along with marine accessories and electronics, make up much of the Rosenbergs’ business.
“And when people do go up north to Mille Lacs or wherever,’’ Paul Rosenberg said, “many of them buy their bait here before leaving.’’