Galen Scott

Mark Anthony has been slinging bait all his life, but now its a business and a prize catch for the community of Weatherford.

You might know Anthony better as “Rusty Hooks,” his chosen pseudonym.

“Get it, I never get to go fishing,” he said.

Anthony runs the Brazos Bait and Tackle shop on the west side of Weatherford on Mineral Wells Highway.

His shop features rods, reels, tackle and all kinds of squirmy live bait.

Crawfish, Koi, crickets, shrimp, chad, livers, meal worms, and of course the old standby — night crawlers.

For local anglers, Anthony’s shop is the first stop before heading to water.

Metroplex fishermen pass by Brazos Bait and Tackle on their way to popular honey holes like Mineral Wells Lake, Lake Palo Pinto and even Possum Kingdom Lake. Catfish, bass and crappie lure hundreds of record-catch seekers west to compete in tournaments or simply to escape urban sprawl.

Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Webster hits up Brazos Bait and Tackle all the time. Webster, who recently founded the Parker County Bass Club, said Anthony’s prices and selection are competitive with Bass Pro Shops, generally considered the biggest tackle supplier in the nation.

Even Top Ten B.A.S.S. Angler Gary Klein stops in every now and then.

Klein and Anthony enjoy a convivial relationship, and Anthony sometimes ends up with the latest product samples from Klein’s sponsors.

Klein competes in Anthony’s fledgling summer fishing program, The Working Man’s Tournament, at Lake Weatherford.

Every Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m., 20 or 30 maniacal fishermen split up into teams and compete for a pot filled with $25 team-entry fees.

The tournaments began April 6, and will run through Sunday, Oct. 29, taking advantage of daylight savings time and allowing local working men a little time to themselves at the end of the day.

Anthony said the first 2006 tournament, held last week, produced three fish over eight pounds — not too shabby for little old Lake Weatherford.

According to environmentalists, siltation, pollution and other environmental concerns, like rising temperature trends, are contributing to a decline in the number of fish caught in other North Texas lakes.

Anthony was sad to say the fishing at PK has been pretty bad since he opened the shop in 2002.

“There have been problems with Possum Kingdom and Lake Granbury as far as golden algae,” he said “but it’s starting to come back around.”

Anthony said the fish are spawning and the next few weeks are the best time to fish.

“Right now, with the full moon in April, is when the majority of fish are spawning,” he said. “They’re up close to the banks and fighting for spawning beds. This is the easiest time to catch a fish because usually they’re in deeper water.”

Anthony lives in Brock with his wife, Jaquetta, and enjoys the morning KRLD fishing report on his way to work. He grew up in the little Texas panhandle town of Fritch near Lake Meredith, and has been a fisherman since he was just a guppy himself.

For Anthony, the surge of excitement that strikes when a lunker chomps down is a distant relative of childhood itself.

He sees his bait and tackle shop as an essential part of childhood.

“When it gets right down to it, all this place is, is a community service,” he explained. “It sure as hell doesn’t make any money, but it has to be here. Kids have to have a bait shop. Kids come in and put their hands in the water, which I don’t really like, but they just get so excited.”

Brazos Bait and Tackle is open year round from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends, and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays. Anthony only closes the shop on Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter.

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