By CHAD HUNTER | Southwest Times Record
FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) — A Barling teenager with an affection for fishing is turning his favorite pastime into a future.
Garret McMahan, a sophomore at Northside High School, sells hand-painted bass lures with aspirations of one day owning a bait and tackle store.
"If I'm not fishing, I'm doing something fishing related usually," he said. "That's what I like to do. I've painted lures for quite awhile, but I never thought about really marketing them until now."
The 15-year-old created a club for high school anglers in 2012. His passion for fishing recently blossomed into a custom lure business through an entrepreneurship class at Northside.
"It's kind of unique that a 10th-grader would be doing that," business teacher Melinda Briscoe said. "He paints them, puts the hooks on them, the eyes. He airbrushes them. He does really good work."
The teen credits Briscoe with "helping me get all the behind-the-scenes stuff done."
"It was things like learning how to market it, what to do with the money and how to talk to investors," McMahan told the Southwest Times Record. "That's how I got started. I've had four investors, and it's still growing."
McMahan sells his $10 lures through a Facebook page called Garret's Custom Lures.
"After I get a paint job done and package them up, I'll take a picture of it and post it," he said. "Tournament fisherman want top-quality stuff. I think this is the stuff they're looking for."
His cost for the body, hooks and other features is about $5 per lure.
"I'm making $5 profit, which is pretty good," he said. "That's not counting the time I have in it. But I didn't start this to make money. I started it because I like fishing."
Recently, he tested the waters at the annual Arkansas Tackle, Hunting & Boat Show at the Fort Smith Convention Center.
"It's only a few hours in, but things are going real good," he said. "I might end up selling out. I might have to stay up all night to paint some more. But that's not a bad deal."
The teen said he tests about one of every five lures he creates.
"Once you go out and catch a fish on that thing that you painted, you feel a lot better," he said. "I also build rods. I want to kind of do all of it and see where it takes me."
A member of Future Business Leaders of America, the teen's future plans include attending Arkansas Tech University to join both the business and fishing teams.
In fall 2012, McMahan organized a bass fishing club called the Fort Smith High School Bass Federation for local teenagers. Nicknamed the Bass Busters, the club has about 25 members, according to McMahan's father, Greg McMahan, who is a mentor to the teens.
"Our kids have to sign a bylaws agreement," the elder McMahan said. "They have to be responsible and have good grades."
The club hosts fishing tournaments, a river cleanup day, boater education classes and fundraisers.
"High school fishing is getting big," Garret McMahan said. "We fish a high school series. We have the world finals at the end of July at Lake Dardanelle."
According to The Bass Federation, 133 high school teams from 20 states traveled to compete in the 2013 High School Fishing World Finals in Russellville.
Information: Southwest Times Record, www.swtimes.com