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Debbie Ragland, 41

What I Do

We have rods and reels. We have all kinds of artificial lures. We have all the live bait, the minnows and the eels. We have bloodworms and night crawlers and crickets, and we have frozen bait, too. We have chum.

We opened in January. I'm the co-owner with my boyfriend, Robert. The bass-fishing industry alone is a $40 billion industry in this country. So obviously I want a little piece of that pie. And that's just bass fishing.

I was doing this full time and office work part time. I was office manager for Rite Aid's regional office. I did that for a year. Before that I worked as an office manager … with a door manufacturer. It was all office work — inside, Monday through Friday. Dull, dull, dull.

Now I don't go to the office at all; I'm here all the time. This is just the coolest job. I go to work in shirts and tennis shoes and when it's slow I'll take my little puppy, Roxie, and just sit out on the sidewalk.

I have a few female customers. Some of them are very knowledgeable. But I'd say 90 percent of my customers are men. They're obsessed, some of them. Some of them, they live for it. I have customers who are here three, four times a week. It's wild. I hear a lot of men say, "Maybe I can get this and sneak it into the house so my wife won't know."

I compare men and their baits to women matching their shoes with certain outfits. If the water's clear they'll use this, and if it's muddy they'll use that. Or if the sky is cloudy they'll use this, or if it's clear they'll use that. Is it a science? Well, they think it's science. Let's just say that.

It's definitely more of a man's sport, that's for sure. The women go along to ride in the boat: "I'm not touching that bait!" We hear a lot of that. "I'm not going near that thing."

Yes, I do count the eels and the minnows and the crickets. We do a lot of live bait, bloodworms and peeler crabs and so on. So it's a lot more hands on with stinky stuff.

The worst thing is having to handle the eels. They're slimy and they're very — if they were just very relaxed it would be one thing, but they don't want to be held. They're trying to get away. They're muscly. They're like a snake — except they're very slimy. And I mean slimy, not just wet like a minnow.

They don't have much of a personality at all. They just sit on the bottom. We feed them the dead goldfish. They're pretty lazy, really. But they're very tough to kill. They're just nasty. —

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