Origins

Bud Richard Leeson was born to Clyde and Anna Lee Leeson in 1940 in Carthage, Missouri. Clyde was the owner of the Sunset Drive-In on Route 66; his son was a self-described "River Rat" who spent much time on the Spring River near their hometown. See the entry below for more background on Bud & Gloria.

Bud's Bait Founded

Bud & Gloria Leeson opened their bait shop 62 years ago in Carthage, Missouri. It was (and still is!) located on "Route 66"*. Bud wanted to own his own business, but he didn't want to show movies...and he loved to fish. He worked long hours and sold mostly live bait, fishing tackle, and lots of RC & Coca-Cola along with having a gas pump or two out front. (Legend has it that Bud was the first in the local area to sell self-service gasoline!)

The Early Years

In 1964, Bud moved the store to its current Carthage location. This may have been partly due to the changing path of "Route 66", but it was also a better location as there was an available homestead nearby. Bud's & Gloria's Bait Shop has been there now for 60 years.

Bud's Faith Foundation

Bud was known not only as a fisherman, but also as a man of abundant faith in Jesus Christ: a Christian. To this day Christianity serves as a foundation for our brand, our values, and how we try to live & work. But Bud didn't start out that way: you can read Bud's faith story here.

Bud Leeson, 1960s

Fishing Politics

Bud was influential in a controversial "gigging and bowfishing ban" that was in place for 8 years in the 1960-70's in the Spring River watershed in Jasper & Lawrence counties. He stated that he wasn't opposed to bowfishing, but was opposed to gigging because the dams (milldams) on the river didn't allow fish to migrate, and the relative shallowness of the river didn't allow them to hide from wintertime gigging. Although the ban had lots of support locally---98% of over 400 of Bud's customers signed a petition in favor of the measure---it was lifted in 1976. Conservation officials couldn't find any data that showed gigging and bowfishing in Missouri streams, even those with clearer water than the local streams, had a negative impact on fishery populations.

Everyone has a "Fish Story" — Here's one about Bud

Here's a fish story about Bud and a giant flathead catfish, told by "Walcrabass" on the Ozarks Anglers forum. Fishermen might also get some tips from this forum post. 😉

Forging Ahead — Without Bud

Bud & Gloria had two daughters, and then two sons-in-law. Bud, with a little help from family, ran the store until he passed away in 2000. Gloria & her family worked hard to keep the shop open after this unexpected turn of events. Currently, Bud's Bait is run by her son-in-law David Shumaker and grandson Sam Shumaker, along with plenty of help from other relatives. As of 2024, Gloria still lives in Carthage and visits the store(s) from time to time.

BudsBait.com

We established our initial online presence in 2006. Budsbait.com at that time featured Luck "E" Strike Plastics, Southern Pro Grubs and Tubes, and Gamakatsu Hooks, and sold products in 16-21 different categories.

Wholesale Business

Also in 2006, "Bud's Bait Wholesale" was started, which grew to become Wholesale Fishing Tackle, LLC. This enterprise allows us to assist others in creating their own Bait Shop dreams.

Joplin Globe Article, April 8, 2006

This Bait Store's for Bud, and Always Will Be

Disclaimer: not all services and products mentioned in this story are still handled by our store(s). Also, we cannot find a record of this story's author/byline. If you know, contact us.

Gloria Leeson can give you a bunch of reasons why, at the age of 65, she still keeps the bait shop open, but really there is only one reason.

Bud.

Gloria and Bud opened their bait shop, located on Highway 96 on the east edge of Carthage, 35 years ago. Bud and Gloria's Bait Shop is a landmark of sorts. It's a haven for generations of folks who have fished the waters of the nearby Spring River and Kellogg Lake. Gloria will tell you that even though her name was on the bait shop, the business was really Bud's. It was his pride and joy. It was his life.

Gloria was raised in Kansas City. She said she had never even seen a river until she met Bud. But she grew to love the bait shop.

'I was totally in love with him,' she said. 'I guess that's got a lot to do with it.'

Bud passed away on May 19, 2000. He said he was tired. He sat down in his chair at home and died. He was 60.

Gloria keeps coming to work. She sells bait. She sells tackle. She rents canoes, and she talks with her customers. She talks about the weather. She talks about fishing. And she talks about Bud.

'I still get people who maybe stopped in here years ago, and they want to know where that Big Bud is, and I have to tell them he's gone,' Gloria said.

Gloria and Bud were meant for each other. After all, how many successful romances can be traced to a 25-cent bet?

Gloria and Bud got married on their first date. They were 18 years old.

'He bet me a quarter I wouldn't marry him,' Gloria said with a laugh.

Bud lost the bet. Gloria wound up using the quarter she won from Bud to pay the toll on the trip to Miami, Okla., where the couple got married.

Bud and Gloria eloped, but to say the elopement was the stuff of Hollywood romance would be overstating things. At one point, Bud stepped away from the counter where he was filling out the couple's marriage license and walked back to where Gloria was sitting.

'He had to ask me what my last name was,' Gloria said.

The question didn't bother Gloria. The truth is, she wasn't sure what Bud's last name was either.

What Gloria and Bud did know - even then - was that they loved each other, that somehow they had a connection, a bond that neither could explain.

'It was a love made in heaven even before we knew it was,' Gloria said.

Bud's dad built and operated the Sunset Drive-in Theater. Like his dad, Bud knew he wanted to run his own business. But he also knew he didn't want to run a drive-in. So Bud looked for something else, and it didn't take long to find what he was looking for.

Until he met Gloria, Bud's true love was fishing. Growing up, Bud was what you would call a river rat. When he was a kid, the standard answer to 'Where's Bud?' was always 'Check on the river.'

So in 1962, Bud opened a bait shop. He moved the business to its current location in 1969.

As bait shops go, Bud and Gloria's is a good one. It's nothing fancy, but it is stocked with everything you would need for an afternoon on the river. Fishing rods of all types and sizes hang from the walls. So do fishing nets and cages. Other walls and shelves hold lures, lines, weights and tackle boxes. The glass case is filled with fishing reels. Against the north wall is a big tank full of large goldfish. Minnows and crawfish are in smaller tanks below the goldfish tank. You can get just about any type of live, freshwater bait you need at Bud and Gloria's. If Gloria doesn't have what you need, she'll order it for you.

Beyond the normal trappings of a bait shop you can still find traces of Bud. For example, the old-fashioned cash register (it was the original cash register Bud's dad used at the Sunset Drive-in) is adorned with pictures of Bud. Most of the pictures are of Bud and his grandchildren fishing. On the south wall are old newspaper clippings - most of them featuring pictures of a smiling Bud. On the wall behind the glass counter are several of Bud's hunting trophies.

And finally, underneath the glass covering the counter top, is Bud's obituary.

While Gloria and I chatted, she stopped talking and looked around the shop. Then she looked back at me for a second before she spoke.

'I don't know. I just can't seem to get past it,' she said. 'I don't want change anything. I'm running (the bait shop) for him. Do you know what I mean?'

I told Gloria that I did know what she meant. But deep inside, I wondered if I really did. I decided that I didn't.

The only person who knows exactly what Gloria means is Bud.

In Joplin

In 2018, David & the family saw an opportunity to serve even more friends in the city of Joplin, so a second Bud's Bait store opened at 3328 E. 13th Street in that city.

YouTube Video by "That's a Good Fish"

Also in 2018, YouTube Channel "That's a Good Fish" profiled Bud's Bait. Gloria appears in this video along with 3 of her grandchildren (Sam is one of them).

*The road at this spot is now both US 66 and MO 96.