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Bait business down, but smoke sales are up
Kerry Hicks restocks cigars in the humidor at his business, the Smokin' Fisherman, on U.S. 129 in Clermont on Thursday afternoon. Despite low water levels in Lake Lanier hurting fishing, Hicks' business is doing well enough that he is planning on expanding.

Some people choose to view the glass as half full. Others, like Kerry Hicks, owner of the Smokin' Fisherman in Clermont, think it's better to be prepared for the worst.

With Lake Lanier low and getting lower every day, Hicks said he's doing what he can to keep his fishing supply and tobacco business going.

"I'm not quite that optimistic, I guess. I'm going to expect things to get worse," Hicks said.

He said with less water in the lake and customers with less disposable income, he has seen his profits drop this summer. People who might usually fish more aren't spending money on supplies because it costs $4 per gallon to fill the boat up with gas to go out on the water.

"Sunday, I sold $12.34 in tackle," Hicks said. "That's what hurts your tackle stores; if you don't fish you don't lose anything. If you don't lose anything, you don't got to buy it."

Hicks said another factor affecting his business is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' restrictions on nighttime and weekend fishing tournaments. He is involved in organizing tournaments; he said that with up to 200 boats entered per tournament, he could be selling more fishing supplies to participants.

"The less fisherman you have on the water, the less bait you're going to sell," Hicks said.

Though his fishing sales have dropped markedly, Hicks said his tobacco sales are steady and he thinks they could even go up.

"Smoking, it fluctuates. You have a bad day, you smoke more. You worry, you smoke more. So the worse the economy gets, probably the more smoking's going to pick up," he said.

The Smokin' Fisherman will be moving to a new location, and Hicks said he will try to adapt to the shrinking lake by expanding his inventory.

"I've been trying to stock products for lakes other than Lanier," Hicks said.

Other Georgia lakes are full or near full and may be more appealing to fisherman, Hicks said. Because of the different water clarity and temperature in different lakes, fishermen need to use different kinds of bait.

Hicks also said he will try to make money without depending on the lake.

"When I'm moving, I'm gonna try to put in lottery and Keno to help bring in extra money," he said. "Instead of relying solely on fishing and cigarettes I'm going to bring the Georgia Lottery into the new store and we might go for some hunting clothes and maybe some hunting boots."