Next time you buy some worms from an Academy store, check the bottom of the container and it should say from C&J Bait Co.
C&J Bait has been in business for 30 years in Purcell. It was started by John Buterbaugh, who one day went to see a man about buying dirt for his roses and ended up in the worm business.
The way his daughter, Kelly Evans, tells it, her father struck up a conversation with the man, who also sold worms, but who confided to Buterbaugh that he wasn’t very good at it.
Buterbaugh, a fisherman, told him that he could sell worms.
“Dad could sell the bark off a tree,” Kelly said. “He was a born salesman.”
Buterbaugh started selling the worms to bait shops around the state and the C&J Bait Co., was born. C stood for his wife, Clarisa, and J, of course, was John.
Daughter Kelly also helped in the family worm business.
“I would get up in the morning and go feed the worms,” she said.
The business has changed over the years. Now, the worms C&J sells are Canadian night crawlers. When it rains in Canada, the worms come out of the ground in the millions, Kelly said.
The worms are trucked to Purcell where C&J employees cull them and package them for sale to wholesalers in Texas and Louisiana. During the busy fishing months – which will soon be upon us – C&J will sell a million worms a week.
“A truck came in today with 800,000 worms,” Kelly said.
Many mom and pop bait shops around Oklahoma lakes who were C&J customers have closed their doors over the years.
“You don’t hardly see bait stores anymore,” Kelly said.
So John Buterbaugh changed strategies and persuaded Academy to sell his worms. All worms bought at any Academy store are C&J’s, Kelly said.
C&J also makes sinkers and sells stink bait, including stink bait made by another Oklahoma company, Magic Baits of Guthrie.
I share this information about C&J because it’s just one example of how important the outdoors industry is in Oklahoma. There are numerous small businesses in Oklahoma that depend on anglers, hunters, campers.
I also share it because John Buterbaugh died recently at age 69. He suffered a heart attack on a vacation in Cancun.
But the business he and his wife successfully built will go on. Kelly is going to start running C&J Bait Co.
Now, feeding the worms are only part of her duties.