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Hiwassee Angler going up against the big guns

Caleb Luzader (left) said they chose their location in Charleston, TN in part because they wanted their building to have a down home, rustic feel. (Photo: Richard Simms)

When most folks think about fishing equipment in this area, the top-of-mind stores are most likely Sportsman's Warehouse, Bass Pro, Cabelas, or Academy Sports. But Caleb Luzader hopes you'll add "Hiwassee Angler" to the list.

Luzader is a wise young man. He has no pipe dreams of ever out-competing the big guns, but he is convinced there is a niche for his new fishing store in Charleston, Tennessee in Bradley County.

"We chose Charleston because we wanted a certain type of building, a certain type of a rustic environment and a certain aura," said Luzader. "When we walked in [this building] we thought, 'This is it."

Luzader opened the doors on Hiwassee Angler April 22, 2017. While he is far from the population center served by the big box outdoor retailers, Luzader says Charleston really is in the center of a fishing universe.

"We're 30 minutes away from the Hiwassee River, right on the way for most fly fisherman heading there," he said. "We're just 40 minutes away from Chickamauga Lake that's become a bass fisherman's dream and we're just 45 minutes from Watts Bar Lake. So in a way, Charleston really is in the center of things."

Unlike many tackle stores, Hiwassee Angler is stocked to outfit hardcore fly fishermen and hardcore bass anglers.

"Actually we were going to start just as a fly shop," said Luzader, who attended Bryan College and fished on the school bass team. "But my background is in bass fishing so we thought, 'We've got the room so why not."

With his new store open for about two months, the 21-year-old Luzader said he's living out a dream.

"Ever since I was 14 years old, I've always loved the business side of fishing," he said. "That's when I got my first sponsor and I worked my first show. And I just love it. I love the fishing side too but I'm a lot better at the business side of it."

As a millennial, Luzader is hardcore into social media and understands very well that these days, socializing on the web has to be an integral part of any marketing plan. But getting warm bodies into the store is probably more important.

Hiwassee Angler is hosting a Lowrance Electronics Seminar on June 29 at 7 pm. The seminar will feature Lowrance Pro Staff member and FLW angler Col. Tim Dearing.

"I can remember being out on a boat with Lowrance electronics when something came up," recalled Luzader. "I remembered one little nugget of knowledge he gave me and it fixed the problem. He knows a lot about the product and can answer a lot of questions and get you set up right."

Luzader admits that running a fishing tackle store six days a week has cramped his style as a fisherman.

"You don't get to fish as much, but you get to experience fishing in a whole new way," he said. "But we do try and stay on the water enough so that we know what's going on for our customers because we want to get you good information and help you be successful."

For fly fishermen Hiwassee Angler carries most top name brands including Simms, Hanak, Daiichi, Chota, Hareline Dubbin and Loon, just to name a few. The bass lure selection might not rival the big box stores, but Luzader said it's hand-picked based on what's hot, and what's working.

Opening this store was a huge leap of faith for Luzader.

He said as a newborn in the fishing business community, "My goal was to not have any days where I don't sell anything, and we've done that."

Fishermen who have been around a while know the fishing tackle business is almost as volatile as the restaurant business. Relatively few "Mom & Pops" have been able to hang on competing with the major corporate players. Luzader understands that and feels sure he has the location and the plans for the future, to stay in the black.

When you make your way through Charleston, pay him a visit.

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ADDRESS: 9051 Hiwassee Street, Charleston,TN 37312

PHONE: (423) 758.FISH (3474)

(Footnote: There is another relatively new retailer in Chattanooga for the discriminating fly fisherman. NewsChannel9.com/Outdoors will be sharing more about Blue Ridge Fly Fishing in the future.)

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