MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For most people going fishing this weekend, their first stop will be at a bait shop.

You can get minnows and nightcrawlers at any one of them. But we wanted to find the Best of Minnesota.

Your votes sent me all the way to the South Dakota border to check out Artie’s Bait and Tackle in Ortonville.

There’s a lot that goes into making a good bait shop. But Taj Mahal said it best: “Any fish will bite if you’ve got good bait.”

“That’s a big deal,” said Artie Arndt, the owner of Artie’s. “Ours aren’t bought or trucked in. They’re right from the slough, you know.”

Artie’s reels customers in with fresh bait. Then he tips the scales with customer service.

“When he gets his crawlers, he takes them out of dirt, washes them and puts them in a worm bedding,” said customer Brad Jensen. “And they’re nice and clean.”

The shop in Ortonville has sold bait for close to 40 years. But when Artie took over last winter, he made a change to hook serious anglers.

“We set up a 24-hour bait station on an honor system,” he said. “And we stock the bait in there, so our regulars coming though at midnight, one in the morning, whatever time it is, can still get their bait.”

But the thing that gets people hook-line-and-sinker might be Artie himself.

After fishing competitively for years, Artie is always willing to use his experience to help a fellow fisherman.

“It’s a free map that they get, and if they don’t know much about [Big Stone Lake], we go through and mark out some areas and tell them what’s going on,” he said. “People really like that.”

Artie’s is also a family business. Most days, you’ll see one or two — or all four — of Artie’s kids tackling the workload.

Watching Artie work with his family or chop it up with regulars, you can tell this bait shop is more than a job.

“I don’t know if I hit my midlife crisis early, or what it was, but it was really important to me, I realized, being in a business of doing something you love,” he said. ”

Artie’s is by Big Stone Lake. And since the lake is a border water, its opener was actually three weeks ago.

In addition to walleye, it’s one of the best perch bites in the Midwest.

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