This Music Star Grew Up in a Tackle Store

“I’m one of the last holdouts. Everyone else moved to Nashville.” The man’s gruff voice resonated through the phone as he thought about home. He was remembering a place, Danville, Ky., and an independent tackle shop on the south side of town.

Even through the static, the voice sounded familiar. It should.

Country music star Eddie Montgomery (the first half of Montgomery Gentry) has been belting out hits since the 1990s. But he didn’t call to talk about music—he called to talk about fishing, about Curtsinger’s Sunrise Outfitters and how even now, he returns to the tackle shop when he’s not on tour.

Curtsinger’s rests under the shadow of a gravel quarry on U.S. 150 and not far from wholesaler Pitman Creek Outdoors. The small town, all-around outdoors store has been serving Danville for 43 years. “We’ve known about it since we were kids,” Montgomery recounts. “Growing up, it was kind of the one place that had fishing reels, rods, bait, tackle … all of that.”

It was from Curtsinger’s shelves that Eddie Montgomery first got a taste of fishing. It’s where his grandfather would go to grab bait. And after a long week of (literally) working on the railroad, he would head to the lake with young Eddie in tow. Every year, the family elder would take his grandchildren to a new place: Lake Barkley, the Cumberland River, the Green River. “He would always take time off during the year, and he wanted all of his grandkids to go fishing, so that’s what we did,” crackles the now 51-year-old Montgomery.

Years after those first fishing trips, as he and brother John Michael Montgomery ascended the country music charts, Eddie would hold on to his grandfather’s lessons.

“Me and my brother, we would get done at the clubs at one or two in the morning, and we would get on a boat. We would spend the night on the pontoon or at the campsite as we got older.”

Back at Curtsinger’s, store owner Joe Curtsinger is on a phone call of his own. He’s been manning the register for 43 years. Joe knew Montgomery’s grandfather. In fact, the brothers Montgomery lived on the road behind his shop as kids. Joe knows the whole family because that’s the way the fishing business is. “His grandpa reminds me a lot of Eddie,” Joe says. “Their look. The way they walk about. Eddie practically grew up in my store.”

Right now, the fishing is slow. According to Curtsinger, late summer in Danville means a lot of night fishing, and that means soft plastic sales. It also means targeting the bass fishermen. As the four-decade tackle dealer says, “Bass fishermen never quit.”

Neither do lifelong anglers.

“The rush that you get being on stage and hanging out with your friends and stuff, man—we ain’t never called anybody fans, we call them friends—it’s the same thing when you’re starting to hit them fish,” Montgomery says. “You start grabbing them fish and of course you’ve got some kind of thing on who can catch the biggest fish or the longest fish. It’s a blast when you’re just out there in Mother Nature’s air. What’s the saying? A slow day of fishing is better than any day at work?”

Unless you work at Curtsinger’s store. Then, a Montgomery family fishing day is the best of both worlds.

“Good God,” Eddie recalls, “You can walk in there for one thing, and you’ll end up walking out of there with $200 worth of stuff.”

On the other side of the phone, Joe Curtsinger laughs. Eddie Montgomery’s new single launched on iTunes earlier this summer. You can be he’ll be using some of the proceeds at Curtsinger’s store.