Word & Image 

Roy Ryer, 61: Fishing Tackle Maker and Seller.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

"Well, 30 years ago I got laid off — I had a collapsed lung and I got laid off from a construction job. And I was trying to make ends meet for my wife and my kids. And I turned around and started making sinkers.

"I just come up with it because nobody would do it. And I just wanted to do something that really nobody don't want to do.

"I take old wheel weights, like off these tires, and I melt them down. And I got the molds to make different sizes and different kinds. I do it in an old shed I've got.

"I started with one little mold, and then I built myself up and I started selling sinkers, and then I started buying some tackle here and there cheap and then reselling it. Then I started selling to bait and tackle shops. I sold down here at the river too for about five years. Another old guy sort of took over.

"But I'd go to Richmond Recycling and get about 5,000 pounds [of lead] at a time. That's when I was selling to tackle shops. Now I'm lucky if I do 1,000. Everybody comes up and says, "Yeah, I've been looking for you." Because everybody knows I'm the cheapest man around for sinkers, 'cause if you go to bait and tackle shops, one guy told me they was 55 cents an ounce. I sell them eight for a dollar — 12.5 cents.

"I got started selling out here again last year when, well there's a guy that comes by my house and he buys a bulk of sinkers. And I asked him, "Is the old guy down there still selling?" And he said, "No, he passed away." So I said, "Well, who's down there hustling?" He said, "Nobody." So that's when I come back down last year.

"[The old guy] wasn't selling snacks. He walked around and sold sinkers and hooks and sometimes he'd get a hold of some rods and reels really cheap and sell them down here.

"Because everybody — they don't want to lose their spot if it's a hot spot. They don't want to leave it, so they would rather come here and get the stuff and go right back to the home instead of packing up everything and going to the store.

"Now if y'all come down on the weekends, this whole place it's just jam packed. It's lucky if you can find a spot. That's why I do what I do here pretty good, because they don't want to leave their hole. …

"They got some crazy stories. Last year, six or seven … people got in a boat, and put all their stuff in their boat, but they forgot to put the plug in and it sunk to the bottom. Then, Sunday I think it was, he had a little car but a big, big-ass boat. A little-bitty car, but a big-ass boat. Like that little bitty white car over there. But it looked like a yacht. And he was driving it with a car. He was spinning the tires coming up the hill.

They got all the fish in here. They catch 40-, 50-pound catfish. Flatheads. But you catch those big ones at nighttime. You don't catch them during the day. You catch those late in the evening. That's when you catch the big ones. I've seen 'em. They come out off that wall right there across the river. And you got to use a net to bring them up."


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