RIDGE MANOR — There had been heavy rain and the motocross track in rural middle Georgia was slick with mud.
Ross Tanner, who had been riding motorcycles since he was a young boy, wasn’t apprehensive, as he had experience riding on all manner of surfaces in all kinds of conditions.
Unfortunately for Tanner, this ride ended painfully.
Sliding out of a turn, he went off the track and into a tree.
The impact shattered his left knee cap in five places.
That was about 18 months ago. At first, doctors told Tanner, now 24, that he was not likely to walk the same again.
At the time, he worked as a heavy construction worker in Pasco County, working on airplane hangars and auto shop garages in Hudson. After the wreck, he tried to return to the job, but couldn’t climb ladders or tote heavy loads.
“When I got hurt, about all I could do was fish,” said Tanner, as he reclined in a chair at Buzz’d Bait & Tackle, the bait shop he opened about five weeks ago on Tremain Boulevard, just south of State Road 50.
The shop — often simply called Buzz’d Baits — is also located between two bars, the Lighthouse Bar and 301 Grill, hence its quirky name.
On the walls surrounding Tanner were all manner of fishing gear and accessories: rods, reels, hooks and fishing line, as well as a homemade crate full of crickets, and other containers holding shiners, minnows and wigglers.
Behind the cash register was a stuffed 14-pound large-mouth bass caught by his father, Buddy Tanner.
It was early afternoon on a weekday, and traffic inside the store was slower than the sparse traffic on Tremain, but Tanner, a 2008 graduate of Hernando High School, wasn’t worried. He chose the location using the same sense that tells him where to cast a line. And as a lifelong angler, he understands the value of patience.
“The Withlacoochee River wraps around us. Lake Panasoffkee is only about 30 minutes away. You’ve got Lake David and Chanel Lake,” he said, beginning a long list of lakes and waterways in the area.
With a wall-unit air-conditioner humming behind him, Tanner said that business has already started to accelerate.
“Every day, I see someone new who comes in,” he said. “There’s a lot more tournaments and bass fishing in the fall.”
In the meantime, Tanner will hold john boat tournaments the first Saturday of each month on a different lake or body of water. The next one is scheduled for Sept. 6.
“The first one, we had nine people show up, and I already have eight signed up for the next one,” he said.
Customers aren’t just from Hernando County.
Mark Edmonds, a retired Pasco County resident, is a lifelong angler. He said he was disappointed that a bait shop in the Tommytown section of Dade City had closed, as it was the only place in Pasco where he knew to get shiners.
“A friend of mine drove by there and saw the signs, and told me I should stop in, so I did,” Edmonds said. “I’ll definitely go back for shiners and whatever else I’ll need. The guys there were real nice and tried real hard to help me.
“They might even tell you where to go fish, if you ask them.”
Such are the testimonials for which Tanner strives.
The shop’s television was on a fishing program, and he rose slowly to adjust the volume.
Clamped around his left knee was a black brace. Visible through the brace’s opening were the raised scars on his damaged knee. He has endured two surgeries, but a knee replacement is required.
Family and friends often pitch into help him run the shop.
“Without them, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Buzz’d Bait & Tackle
For information about Buzz’d Bait & Tackle, 4477 Treiman Blvd., Ridge Manor, call Ross Tanner at (352) 608-4237 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The shop also has a presence on Facebook and Google.