Visitors to Fisherman’s Wharf at Rocky Fork Lake in the last two years may have noticed the floating bait shop docked in the area, and, if the weather is warm, the man in overalls fishing off the deck with his old dog not too far away.
The fisherman is Ed Tipton, a 76-year-old Dayton native who moved to Hillsboro around the time he retired from the trucking industry, and the dog is Sadie, a 10-year-old boxer that only lifts her head when her owner says the word “cat.”
Neither one is shy about introducing themselves, though, and most patrons of The Bait House know it by now.
As Sadie snoozed in a sunny patch of the blue-carpeted boat floor Friday morning, Tipton said the idea of a floating bait shop occurred to him someplace far away from here, a long while ago, as he rolled down the freeway in an 18-wheeler.
“Going down the highway, you’ve got all the time in the world to think about junk,” he said. He patted the minnow tank behind him. “I thought, this’d be pretty damn cool.”
It took more than five years, a couple used pontoons, some government bureaucracy and plenty of old-fashioned work — most of which was delegated to Tipton’s son and a team of Amish boys from the area — to get the bait shop on the water.
The minnow tank and refrigerator on the 18-foot floating structure are powered by solar energy, Tipton said. An additional wall-mounted air-conditioner has to be run on a generator, but he only turns it on for Sadie. Customers can keep cool with ice cream from the fridge — normally free for kids.
Tipton said this summer will be his second full year of business on the lake.
“I don’t make no money,” he said, “but I have fun.”
Tipton served in the Navy early in his life before he was “beat up bad” in a car accident and honorably discharged. After that, he moved back to Dayton and worked as a forklift operator for a brief time before he started trucking.
With his military pension and retirement from the Teamsters, he said he’s not in the bait shop business for the money. Mostly, he just likes to sit and talk and fish on warm days like Friday.
“But I sure do sell a lot of minnies,” he said, again patting the minnow tank.
Tipton, who resides in the Hillsboro area on a small farm, was recently remarried after his first wife passed away a number of years ago. Including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Tipton’s family numbers about 50, he said.
When Tipton remarried, his new wife brought several dogs into the picture, and most mornings they clamor with excitement as he leaves for the bait shop, hoping he’ll bring them along.
“Sadie got preferential treatment today,” he said Friday.
It would seem a love for life on the lake runs in Tipton’s family, since three of his five daughters live on the water at a private lake near London, Ohio. That lake is nice, Tipton said, but he prefers the one in the back yard of his business.
“I like Rocky Fork,” he said. “It’s one of the nicest lakes I’ve been on. I’ve talked to a lot of folk from different areas, and they think it’s an awful nice lake, too.”
After the interview, as Sadie sprawled out in a different patch of sun, Tipton re-cast a fishing line that had been sitting on the deck, made brief conversation with another fisherman further down the dock, then made his way back into the shade for another long day at Rocky Fork Lake.
The Bait House is located at 5999 Fisherman Wharf Rd. Tipton can be reached by calling 937-403-8397.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.