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story.lead_photo.caption A Bass Pro Shops cap is shown in this file photo. - Photo by Flip Putthoff

It's hunting season all right, with shoppers out in force seeking gifts that will bring a smile on Christmas morning.

Folks who love the outdoors may be the easiest to please. A gift of lures or tackle is a winner for the fisherman on your list. Anything an angler needs is available at our locally owned fishing stores.

Not only that, tackle from Northwest Arkansas companies like Arkie Lures, War Eagle Custom Lures, PJ's Finesse Jigs and others are a bonus when it comes to shopping local.

There's one shopping memory I'll never forget. It was years ago, the first time I stepped through the door of Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo.

This was back in the 1970s and I was a pup, 20 years old, working summers at Table Rock State Park marina during college. I worked the morning shift, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dick Meier and I held down the fort, pumping gas and selling minnows to the campers and locals.

Dick was one of the top bass fishermen at Table Rock. He showed me how to rig a plastic worm and how to walk a top-water plug across the surface and took me fishing for those big Table Rock bass. In my eyes, Dick was the coolest guy on the planet.

Every morning he'd show up at the marina in a crisp, collared shirt, overalls and wearing a Bass Pro Shops ball camp. Dick was my mentor, so I had to have a Bass Pro Shops cap, too.

One day I asked Dick where he got it, and he gave me directions to the Brown Derby liquor store in Springfield, Mo., the humble headquarters of the now mega huge Bass Pro Shops.

I walked into the store, too young to buy alcohol, but eager to shop the two aisles of fishing tackle over by the cold beer. This was Bass Pro Shops, started by Johnny Morris at his father's liquor store.

The clerk rang up my purchase -- a bag of Mann's Jelly Worms, which were all the rage back then, and a Bass Pro Shops cap just like Dick's. I was walking in tall cotton.

I didn't think much of that first shopping trip. Looking back on it now I realize I was a tiny part of history, there in that liquor store.

These days I buy 95 percent of my tackle at the mom and pop shops here in Northwest Arkansas. But I've always been a Bass Pro Shops kind of guy when it's time to visit a big box outdoors store.

When Cabela's opened in Rogers some years ago, one of my Missouri friends said, "So I guess you'll be shopping at Cabela's now." That's true some of the time, but I'm still fond of Bass Pro Shops. I like their Branson, Mo. store, on the shores of Lake Taneycomo. You can catch trout right from their parking lot.

Now that Bass Pro has bought Cabela's, I'm sort of shopping at Bass Pro Shops even when I pop into Cabela's in Rogers.

Both are giants in the outdoors business. Each had bare bones beginnings. Johnny Morris started Bass Pro Shops in 1971 at his dad's liquor store. Dick Cabela started in 1961 by selling fishing flies from his kitchen table.

I'm an Energizer bunny who beats a big drum for shopping local. This time of year, I always recall that visit to Brown Derby liquor and Bass Pro Shops when I was a wide-eyed kid.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at fputthoff@nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWAFlip

Sports on 12/05/2017

Print Headline: Little store grows big

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