Lancaster’s Amaysing Fishing Bait & Tackle, named after owner Wilton E. Mays III, has been a fixture in the Antelope Valley for more than 10 years.Hardcore fishing fans and amateurs alike visit the shop, Mays said, where a crew of three employees sell gear for hunting and other outdoor activities, besides fishing.The Amaysing team is a bit of an R&D facility too — the “world’s strongest fish attractant,” dubbed XXX Blood, was invented by the shop owner.“I served in the U.S. Army, the nuclear warhead battalion. We were tasked with molecular structure, so that’s where I learned a lot about chemicals, and structures of chemicals,” said Mays, who started participating in army fishing tournaments, always aiming to catch the prize fish. “I wanted to make a fish attractant that would force any fish to bite. Some of these fish are really, really intelligent, especially the basses. When it gets really aggressive, it will just sit there and look at you and will not eat anything you try to give it. We tried imitating the different things that it eats, but at certain times they are so stubborn that they won’t eat anything.”It took Mays 15 years to perfect his attractant, made of food additives.“I started selling it out of my car, driving out to lakes,” added Mays. “It was already catching fish, but it needed to catch the eye of the people too, and do the things that I said it would do … I wanted it to work on every kind of fish – crustaceans, crabs, there are so many baits out. I wanted to take over the entire market and make one.”Despite its landlocked location, Mays said there are plenty of options for fishing in the Antelope Valley.
“We have Castaic, Lake Pyramid, Quail Lake, Jackson Lake, Devil’s Punch Bowl … there’s fishing everywhere here,” he said.One of his biggest business challenges so far has been getting his baits in stores.“We overcame this by doing trade shows and meeting the buyer, upgrading our products,” he said.The shop has experienced an 89 percent loss in revenue, Mays said, because of the pandemic. He attempted to get a government loan to help his business but hasn’t had luck yet. The optimistic entrepreneur expects the business to bounce back in time though, noting an uptick in amateur anglers due to the socially distant nature of such an activity.Mays told the Business Journal that he loves being his own boss and wouldn’t trade it in for anything. The Lancaster local enjoys being in control of his own livelihood, while also knowing that business mistakes often come “out of your pocket.”Mays’ advice to aspiring entrepreneurs? Put in 100 percent, and you’ll get 100 percent back to you. Also, don’t be deterred by those who laugh at your ideas.“It was hairy and scary for six months, trying to figure out how to become an entrepreneur,” Mays said. “How does this happen? There’s no book, there’s no nothing. I went to a bunch of different people that I knew that owned businesses.”Always hungry to learn more, he once gave a franchisee all the cash he had on hand to learn about business ownership: “He told me a lot, for $150. He told me a whole lot in about 30 minutes.”Prior to the entrepreneurial life, Mays was in law enforcement for 19 years.“My office started looking just like this shop. I wanted to leave, I wasn’t really happy. My wife said, you’re not getting any younger, and at that time we had an internet store,” he said.Being Black has affected his business, Mays said, but says he always has to “keep pushing” past unfair treatment: “Yes, your skin may be your sin sometimes when doing business.” In addition to his fishing shop, Mays started a nonprofit fishing club, Amaysing Fishing Club and Mentoring program, to help veterans, the elderly and at-risk youth learn how to fish: “Our tackle store is in an elderly community. They have the apartments, and then underneath that are stores. We have a lot of people that just come down here to look around.”