Bait Bosses: The 7 Men Behind Your Favorite Live Bait

It’s a cinch you’ve never heard of them, but these seven men have likely helped more anglers put more fish in their boats than all the guides in North America.

A handful of hardy ’crawlers is ready for shipping. Photographs by Finn O’Hara

It’s a cinch you’ve never heard of them, but these seven men have likely helped more anglers put more fish in their boats than all the guides in North America.

The sludge was part mud, part hay, and a lot of manure. The recent rain germinated the stench of the dirt goulash, which stuck between the fingers of Dirk Dekker, hunched for the past six hours in a dark, lonely field 70 miles west of Toronto, Canada, handpicking nightcrawlers from the mire. His back ached and his knees throbbed nonstop from the squatting, bending, and constant crabbing about. But the sun wouldn’t come up for another hour or two, and there was more money squirming on the topsoil. Most anglers don’t understand that the worms purchased in little cartons from their local tackle shop were plucked one at a time under a shroud of darkness, discomfort, and muck. But live bait doesn’t simply magically appear.

Dekker is just one of hundreds of outdoorsmen who have turned a passion for fishing into a thriving business. While the simple purchase of a dozen live shad or a carton of nightcrawlers is the start to your fishing day, it is the hard-earned reward for some of the most resourceful outdoorsmen in the industry.