Rick Scharninghausen began making earrings after a woman mistook the glimmering merchandise on the wall behind him for jewelry. "I sat down and the magic began," says Scharninghausen, who has a banner hanging on his wall that reads, "Where the magic begins."
Staff Photo By Patti Sells

Man Bait: Fisherman reeling 'em in with custom earrings built from lures

By PATTI SELLS, News-Telegram Feature Writer

July 31, 2008 - Fish aren't the only thing lures are attracting these days thanks to a new line of Man Bait earrings created by Lockhart Lures employee Rick Scharninghausen of Yantis.

"Right now, in the heat of the summer, fishing is slow. Man Bait is the only thing keeping me alive," said Scharninghausen with a laugh as he held up his newest pair made of multicolored silicone skirts. "These things have really got the name Lockhart Lures buzzing out there."

Jigs, spinners, buzz bait, even chuck-n-spins have heads turning and asking the obvious question -- "Are those fishing lures?" -- as they dangle from the ears of more and more customers.

"They're a lot of fun, great conversation pieces" Scharninghausen said.

The "lure lounge," as it has been called, is located inside East Fork Club & Restaurant. Owners Dennis and Shirley Frazier have owned and operated East Fork Restaurant and Club, along with an RV Park at Lake Fork Texas, for more than 16 years. They bought the lure business three years ago from Chuck Lockhart upon his retirement.

Scharninghausen, who is from Wisconsin, said he has been fishing Lake Fork for the past 10 years, and met the Fraziers on one of his many trips.

"We just hit it off and have been friends a long time now," Scharninghausen explained. "When they made the offer for me to relocate and run the lure shop, I was at a place in my life where I had things squared away and could up and go."

When the snow melted (107 inches last year), Scharninghausen loaded up his van and boat with all his belongings and was here by April.

"I started building lures," he said. "I knew a lot about them 'cause I've been using them for years now, taking them back up North with me. But I had to learn how."

Lockhart Lures have been custom-manufactured by hand at Lake Fork for almost 20 years.

"Bait is a little more high-tech than when I was a kid," he laughed. "Back then we used a hunk of corn or a snake crawler. I remember days when we would tie a fishing line on our big toe and lay back on the bank just waiting on a fish to tug. I started out as a kid with a piece of stick. Now, it's all about bass boats and $200 reels."

According to Scharninghausen, lures are as tempting to fish (and men) as jewelry is to women, which is pretty much how this whole line of novelty wear got started.

Working at his bench Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to last call inside East Fork, Scharninghausen views the excitement of the night club and dinner crowd through a 4-foot by 6-foot opening.

"The window is like my aquarium," he explained. "They all walk by here at one time or another."

On one particular evening, as he sat building a spinner bait, he saw a lady checking out his booth from across the dance floor. She came over to see the glimmering merchandise that adorned the wall behind him.

"She got over to the door and was like 'Agh! It's all fishing stuff.' She thought it was jewelry hanging back there," he recalled.

Describing himself as a man who "when given oranges will make orange juice," he said he came to the shop the next day and scoured the inventory room, which used to house a gift shop. There, he came up with several packages of earring backs -- ironically called "fish hooks" due to there similarity to the distinctive shape.

"I sat down and the magic began," he said referring to a banner hanging on his wall that reads, 'Where the magic begins.'

Soon, all the waitresses walking the floor where donning his creations, and asking for custom colors and designs to match their styles. One waitress even bought a tackle box, rather than a jewelry box, to store her earrings in.

A few area stores and gift shops even began selling his line.

"Word has spread fast," said Scharninghausen, who constantly has orders coming in on napkins. "The guys were wondering why so many women were hanging out in the tackle shop."

Anglers who have "caught on" to purchasing a pair or two for their wives in addition to their own whims of fancy are discovering they have a much more pleasant household.

"I had one woman come in and hug me. She said, 'This is the first time my husband ever bought me jewelry,'" he proudly boasted.

Scharninghausen said he has even found tournament fishermen waiting for him to open in order to take them home to loved ones as souvenirs.

Cost of Scharninghausen's "Man Bait" range from $5 to $10.

"There is some high-end stuff with little working reels where the handle turns, but who wants to spend $50?" said Scharninghausen. "I'd rather give them change from a $10 bill and watch them walk away with a smile on their face."

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