That Worm Business

April 24, 2010 By: Marshall Cutchin


Image by ryanleynse via Flickr

MidCurrent‘s relocation to Fort Collins, Colorado last year meant leaving behind a boat ramp that was half a mile from sight-castable tarpon and snook water, exchanging it for what I knew from my years in Montana would be many hours-long drives to find the happening hatch. But kids have a way of correcting your perspective, and it wasn’t long before my nine-year-old discovered that the aerated “lake” near our new residence was home to a “bazillion” bluegill and bass.
“Schnikies, Dad!” were his exact words.
Like any good angler, it took my son about five minutes to realize that dough balls, string cheese, and deli chicken weren’t nearly the bait that a live worm was. So off we went to the local gas station to hunt up a package of farmed worms. “Don’t have any worms here,” the tattooed attendent said. “Try Wal-Mart.”
“Wal-Mart?” Could a company that generated $14 billion in profit last year have done so while bothering to be sure kids were supplied with worms? Harry Hamman’s Financial Times article helped me understand the business a bit better: a truckload of fishing worms, Hamman writes, can be worth as much as $30,000. His profile of French farmer turned worm “magnate” Bruno Durant, who owns the 300-plus-acre Silver Bait worm complex in Coalmont, Tennessee, includes this comment by a USC professor of entreprenuership: “…a Harvard business graduate would have done things differently from Durant – written a business plan, raised money, etc – ‘but you can’t do this” in today’s economy. Moreover, he said: ‘Find someone with a pain, and if you can cure that pain, you’ve got a customer for life.’”
The FT piece also includes this comment from Kirk Deeter: “’Fly fishermen go out of their way to shun the worm,’ but “fishing with worms is the way that almost all life-long fishers get their start.”
But as my son pointed out to me, perhaps the best news of all about farmed worms is that they live for several days in the fridge — granted, not the lifespan of most artificial flies, but long enough to make sure a kid gets to fish almost every day of the week.