The temperature in area lakes is the same as a refrigerator — somewhere around 38 degrees Fahrenheit — making it just right for keeping the meat from spoiling but too cold for an enjoyable swim.
Unless you’re a bass.
If you’re a bass, you barely swim. You sort of float. If oxygen exists close to the bottom, that’s where you sit. Like a log, until spring.
To feed, you slurp — without expending energy — anything that wiggles past.
You’re not going to chase a top water plug, or fin across the flats to clamp onto a crank bait or a spoon or a plastic worm unless it bumps your big fat lip.
You conserve energy.
If you’re a bass, your activity is nearly the same as a denned-up bear.
Meaning, you aren’t moving a whole lot until your environment warms up.
“They aren’t doing much right now,” said Blake Becker, who specializes in catching bass and helping others do the same.
Becker has a passion for bass and bass fishing. But unlike the creatures he loves to chase, even in winter, Becker is gearing up.
He and his wife Melissa own Becker’s Tackle Shop at 174 E. Neider Ave. in Coeur d’Alene, a business about to celebrate its fifth anniversary.
Which means, like catching a smallmouth through the ice on a rubber worm, Becker’s business has beaten the odds.
That’s a big deal for which the Beckers are continually thankful.
Viewers who click on the shop’s latest YouTube video will see a smiling and cheerful Blake Becker — propounding on the gratitude he has for his patrons, clients, friends and anyone who has ever thrown a crank bait at the shoreline in spring to experience the excitement of hooking a big, throbbing fish in a couple feet of water.
The fight at the end of the line is what hooked Becker as a boy. Back then, he traveled from Coeur d’Alene to visit his grandfather, an avid striped bass angler, in Kentucky.
“My grandpa got me fishing when I was 4 or 5 years old,” Becker said.
A photograph in Becker’s shop — taken a day before his grandfather died — shows the man hoisting a pile of sizable stripers.
“That’s the fish whisperer, right there,” said Becker, who started out after high school cutting hair in Coeur d’Alene barber shops.
To get closer to what he loved, catching bass, Becker switched jobs and became a salesman in the outdoor industry. He eventually traveled around selling lures.
That’s how he came face to face with his future.
While on a sales trip he walked into a store in northern California and was stopped in his tracks. The store sold only bass gear, lures, rigging, clothing and line. He had entered his riparian utopia.
He called his wife. Can you believe it?, he sputtered.
“Let’s try it,” Melissa said.
It took time to transform the raw spontaneity into the finished product.
“It took us about two years from the time he had the idea to get all our ducks in a row,” Melissa said.
She handles the business and marketing end of things while Blake runs the day to day enterprise inside the store, usually in shorts, a T-shirt and a Becker Tackle ball cap.
The couple met on a blind date.
“I don’t know how much he is into dating,” someone told Melissa. “He just likes to fish.”
It seems to have worked out.
“We support each other,” Blake said.
When he was nervous many years ago that the business may not make the splash he’d anticipated, Melissa told him not to worry.
“If it doesn’t work, you’ll have the biggest tackle box around,” she told him.
The bank bought in, loaned the Beckers the money for the shop and on their first day of sales — a soft opening — the shop made more than the monthly projections the couple had used to get the loan.
These days, Becker’s Tackle carries more than 9,100 items, including locally made gear and rods. Inventory is updated regularly depending on customer feedback, the Beckers said.
“He really listens to the customers and gets them what they want,” Melissa said.
The store doesn’t have an online presence yet, but it’s in the offing. Aside from traditional advertising, the couple uses social media for the occasional blast. Winter is the time to research new products and stock up.
“I see a lot of empty pegboard up there,” Becker said, peering at wall to wall plastics, plugs, divers, crankbaits and … you name it.
To keep anglers happy, Becker has regular promotions and the shop helps sponsor three pro bass anglers.
“If you sit in here during the day you’ll meet 5,000 pros,” Blake said, “but we have three legitimate ones.”
Taylor Smith, Brandon Palaniuk and Luke Clawson — all local, top notch, pro bass anglers — fly the Becker flag.
Although the passion behind Becker Tackle is alive and well, the Beckers know it takes more to make their business work.
“You put your heart and soul into it,” Blake Becker said. “You show up every day.”