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For nearly half a century, a humble, low-slung Fort Collins building resembling a mid-century ranch house has been an area go-to famous for fishing supplies.
When Betty Minch first opened the doors of Betty’s Bait & Tackle in 1972, scenery north of downtown was primarily rural, sparsely populated, bordering on back of beyond. The long, low building with its penguin mascot sat where north U.S. Hwy. 287 wound its way toward good fishing spots in LaPorte and points north and west.
Of course, people 46 years ago would have stocked up on plenty of provisions for even a short day trip. An overnight trek required considerably more gear because it was a long haul back to civilization. Better get a good set of directions before setting off, too, so getting lost doesn’t ruin the fun!
By the time Minch’s son, Duane, took over the business in 2004, toss the paper maps and compass because GPS was on the horizon. The busier road out front was a rapidly growing truck route between Wyoming and Colorado. Fast food joints were popping up along 287, making starvation less likely for semi drivers and anglers alike.
In 1992, about halfway between Betty’s founding and Duane’s taking the reins, Jesse Gamble moved from Iowa to Fort Collins. Gamble had spent most of his life in Winterset, where, he proudly proclaims to anyone within earshot, John Wayne was born and the movie “The Bridges of Madison County” was filmed. Likely as noteworthy for him, he victoriously caught his first bass at Viking Lake at age 10!
Affable Gamble subsequently ferreted out some fine fishing spots in the Fort Collins area, too. One of his particular favorites is Watson Lake, just outside LaPorte. Gamble has also often cast his line in California, Idaho, Iowa and Texas. Then he threw something else.
He said that when Betty’s Bait & Tackle came up for sale, “I threw all my credit at it to get it. I used it all!”
Perhaps that bold decision was merely Gamble living up to his surname. Or maybe he’d tired of being on the customer side of the fishing supplies counter. Regardless, since April 21, 2017, the now 40-year-old has happily owned and run his first retail establishment.
Betty’s longtime clientele climbed in the boat with him, so to speak, remaining loyal to the primitive white building chock-full of fishing delights. Tourists likewise seek out Betty’s sign, although these days the quaint old one sporting a gigantic lure on each side is peacefully retired. Its shiny blue-and-white replacement proclaims something new is swimming in this pond!
Gamble would like to find a new home for the old sign. Its buyer must, however, be someone who will appreciate the vintage piece by displaying it locally as wall art. As for the newbie name dropper out front, people continue to pose for photos under it, just as customers did with the oldster since Betty’s began back in 1972.
Gamble still carries tried and true best sellers. These include lures, Biobait, Mister Twister (soft bait), minnows, and LaPorte-grown worms. Other hot inventory all cool anglers need includes poles, reels, sinkers and molds, flies, jigs, sunglasses, vintage reels, tackle boxes, styrofoam minnow buckets, swivels and bobbers.
Besides providing fishing folks with all those necessities, Gamble is a U-Haul dealer and sells Tri-State Carports. He plans on also offering customers barbecue food and chainsaw art during the peak fishing months of May through July. (Fish gotta swim, people gotta eat, and decorators gotta have at least one carved tree-trunk bear!)
Other than small additions, Gamble wants to keep the store as-is and as it has always been. Don’t mess with success, I guess, just like don’t swap bait that draws in the fish!
Betty’s Bait & Tackle is located at 210 N. US Hwy. 287. Call Jesse Gamble at 970 493-3474 for hours and more information.