What may be the most important thing Wayne Bettis learned when he tried his hand at creating customized bass fishing lures had nothing to do with fishing at all.
It was instead a life lesson: “You’re never too old to learn a new skill.”
Wayne, whom I’ve known for many years and whose community and business activities have been so abundant that he’s very nearly a public figure, is 69 years old now. It was only three years ago he began experimenting with taking clear plastic fishing lure “blanks” and turning them into what can only be described as works of beautifully colored art you can hold in the palm of your hand.
Not that he creates his stunning fishing lures just to be pretty. He creates them to catch fish.
“I don’t make them if they won’t catch fish,” he told me Thursday in what he calls his “bunker,” the spacious den/rec room/studio/man-cave where he personally makes his Wayneo’s Custom Baits fishing lures one by one. He markets them via the internet and through appearances at outdoor sporting events such as fishing shows. “Wayneo,” based on a nickname of Wayne’s, is pronounced “Wayne-O.” The e is silent.
One way Wayne knows his lures work is that so many fishing enthusiasts who use them tell him so, and because his lures attract return buyers.
He still marvels at one order he received: 60 lures for a single customer who declared he planned to use them all. “That’s about a thousand-dollar order.”
On his phone is a photo sent to him by a happy customer who used one lure to catch fish so consistently that the lure now looks almost like somebody scraped at it with a file and maybe stepped on it, but even in battered condition it continued to attract bites.
Wayne is a bit of a homespun philosopher, and has some theories about the importance of a bass angler having confidence in his or her lures.
It boils down to something like this: confidence leads to careful fishing, to casting the lure to just the right shaded spot where bass tend to lurk. If an angler has little confidence in a lure, he or she will be more prone to fish less strategically, figuring it probably isn’t going to work out right anyway.
“You’ve got to believe in your lure,” he says. And take care of it, he adds.
Greeneville-born Wayne lives in the Camp Creek area with his wife, Judy, one of the best cooks in Greene County, according to the Greeneville Sun’s Cameron Judd, who has tasted some of that cooking in the past.
The Bettis “bunker” where Wayne makes his lures is on their home property, but don’t look for a Wayneo’s Custom Baits shop there. None exists and none is planned. It’s a workplace and retreat, not a shopping area or even a public one.
Wayne is happy to make and market his product just as he does (internet sales and show visits), and isn’t interested in being tied down to a store or show room, or a manufacturing schedule dictated by someone else.
For one thing, he has other work to do. Wayne is an auctioneer. He’s involved or has been involved in the transport business and other enterprises past and present. He emphasizes that Wayneo’s, though it does make money, is a hobby, a thing he does to relax and relieve stress.
He could make it a full-out business if he wanted. He’s had the opportunity, but prefers his quiet and private little model and the opportunity to deal with customers personally.
Wayne was a bass fisherman himself in past years, though a stroke during a fishing trip a few years ago (which to his good fortune did not leave him impaired either physically or mentally) makes him avoid, out of necessity, the blistering heat that bass fishers often endure.
Q: So how does a man with no artistic training learn to make fishing lures with amazingly delicate feathered colors?
A: That man teaches himself. And lets himself be innovative and creative.
That’s what Wayne did. With thought, study and inventiveness, he tried and tried some more and threw away the results that didn’t work until he got some that did.
He can remember youthful efforts at hand-painting lures with a brush, and how it was impossible to get the subtle shadings and transitions from one hue to another. That need for the capability of feathering edges and transitioning smoothly between colors is what led him to learn to use an airbrush.
What’s Wayne’s process for creating a custom lure?
Shifting, depending on the stage of work, between two workstations near one another, Wayne takes a hard plastic, transparent lure “blank” he purchases in bulk from a supplier, and first coats it all over with a thin coat of epoxy. That both strengthens the lure blank and gives it a good base upon which to apply color.
It also far lessens the likelihood of the lure coming apart. Lure blanks are made in two halves that fit together, and they can separate sometimes.
With epoxy covering all of the lure, including the seam between halves, the lure becomes a single unit, sealed tightly within the epoxy.
The epoxy application is something Wayne came up with on his own. He is unaware of any other lure-makers who include that process, one he believes greatly enhances the strength and color durability of the end product.
When the epoxy is solidified, he uses his airbrush to apply the color in a way that makes the lure look like nature created it. The airbrush is used within a protective desktop enclosure that keeps the sprayed pigment from drifting out to get on walls and furniture (or on Wayne). Fumes within the enclosure are mechanically vented through a wall to the outdoors.
After the lure is wearing its colors, Wayne uses a self-designed, hand-built rotating drying device to turn the still-wet lures (with a mechanism improvised from a rotary grilling device) under heat lamps. The steady, slow rotation gives a consist heat exposure to all parts of the painted lure, and also keeps wet pigment from running down and conglomerating at one end or side of the lure.
The eyes attached to the lure, like the blanks themselves, come from manufacturers, and Wayne puts them in place individually, being sure to use the correct eye size and type for whatever type of small swimming critter the bait simulates.
He creates both “lipped” and “lipless” lures. The “lip” is a protrusion, or bill, on or near the mouth that some fish varieties possess.
The last stage of creating a lure is to attach the hooks, assign the lure an individual number, and place it in a protective plastic box, ready for exterior packaging, labeling and shipment.
Oh … and you can always identify a Wayneo’s lure because Wayne places his initials, in tiny letters, on every lure, on the underside near the tail.
Legal recreational marijuana in Tennessee isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.
That’s not the case in neighboring Virginia, where a bill allowing recreational marijuana use will make pot products available to anyone crossing the state line.
The new law could complicate efforts by law enforcement to curb cannabis use in Tennessee.
Local authorities say legal marijuana may also be a menace for other reasons.
“I’m going to deal with the law the way it is (in Tennessee). The Greeneville Police Department will continue to deal with it in a lawful manner,” Greeneville police Chief Tim Ward said this week.
In Tennessee, possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum jail term of one year, and a maximum fine of $2,500. A $250 fine is mandatory for all first-time convictions, with mandatory minimum fines of $500 for subsequent offenses.
“I certainly don’t think at this time the legalization of recreational marijuana in Virginia will affect our laws,” Greene County Sheriff Wesley Holt said Friday.
Virginia formally legalized recreational marijuana last week. State residents can legally possess or grow small amounts of marijuana beginning in July.
“I think we will have people who will travel across the state line to be able to do this freely,” Holt said. “Our laws have not changed and it is still a misdemeanor to possess less than a half-ounce of marijuana or to possess any large amounts over the limit, which is a felony.”
Proposals in Tennessee’s General Assembly to legalize recreational marijuana have met with minimal support. A proposed measure to legalize medical marijuana was dropped from consideration in March by the state Senate Judiciary Committee.
Virginia is now one of 18 states that have legalized cannabis for recreational use. More than 30 others have statutes allowing medical marijuana.
The states that have legalized recreational marijuana have done so despite a long-standing federal law. The Controlled Substances Act puts marijuana in the same category as heroin and LSD, with “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”
When it comes to marijuana, what happens in Virginia should stay in Virginia, Ward said.
“If they drive to Bristol and use it, that’s one thing. If they bring it back, it doesn’t give them a pass on what happens in Tennessee. Marijuana is still illegal,” he said.
In recent years, many police agencies have taken a more laid-back approach to how possession offenses are handled. Depending on the amount of marijuana seized and the particular circumstances, officers may issue a criminal summons to appear in court rather than making an arrest. That’s particularly the case since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to keep jail populations at manageable levels.
Ward spent nine years as a narcotics investigator. He and Holt have strongly formed opinions about making marijuana use legal.
“Do I personally think it’s a good idea? No,” Ward said. “Yes, I believe it is a gateway drug.”
Ward said if a person sells marijuana, they are also likely to sell other types of drugs that could introduce users to more dangerous substances.
Holt shares that view.
“I am not supportive of legalization of marijuana. Marijuana is the gateway to trying harder drugs,” he said. “We certainly don’t need any more bad influences on the lives of our young children today. Drugs continue to destroy families in our county, state and country.”
Ward said assurances that tax dollars generated by cannabis sales would benefit economies and services in states like Colorado have not worked out.
“Almost none of the money would go back into law enforcement,” he said.
“They have a huge amount of homeless people” who moved to the state because of legal marijuana, and issues related to drug use “continue to create a huge strain on their social system,” he said.
Ward said that when money is in play, the criminal element moves in.
“That has led to Mexican cartels coming and strong-arming (legal) marijuana dealers,” Ward said.
The “tentacles” of criminal organizations already in place in Tennessee await more money-making opportunities.
“It’s already happening. We already have a significant cartel involvement in Tennessee in the narcotics trade” supplying methamphetamine and deadly drugs like heroin and fentanyl, Ward said.
Extensive study would be needed “to keep a state-endorsed industry as clean as possible,” Ward said.
“If (recreational marijuana) is going to be contemplated, it really needs to be thought through a lot more than it has been,” he said.
Holt has relatives in Virginia who are not pleased about the new law.
“I was recently in Nelson County visiting. They do not want to see marijuana legalized in their state,” he said. “(In) speaking with them, they have drug problems with meth just like we do in Greene County, so you can see it’s a problem in every state in our country.”