0512 Dream Catcher's

Dream Catcher's Fishing Supply owner Austin Neary (right) shows off some recent catches with Ron Philips on a guided lake tour.

For Austin Neary, the closing of one door represented another door opened.

An injury led to the end of his career as a baseball player at Western Carolina University. But becoming a Christian set him on a new path that created a business opportunity.

The friend who led him to his new faith prayed with him and read Matthew 4:19 — “And he sayeth unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Neary took that verse to heart in more than one way.

The most recent expansion of his fishing-related business, Dream Catcher’s Fishing Supply, opened on March 1 inside Morganton’s Foothills Marine Center. There, the business has begun selling tackle to the community.

“We’re located inside the Foothills Marine. It was formerly the sport shop and they sold tackle, but they reached out to us and wanted a more specific tackle brand to be there,” Neary said. “We’re pretty excited that (Foothills Marine owner) Matt Farris reached out to us for the opportunity. It’s a great location. There are tons of people in and out of there.”

Neary’s business does guided fishing tours in western North Carolina and northern Georgia and started with his first tackle shop in Sylva near WCU.

“We’re a big customer service brand. We really care about serving the community,” Neary said. “Honestly, we want to impact people and help them enjoy God’s creation. We’re very different in the fishing industry because instead of being super-secretive, we really promote enjoying catching fish. We just want to see people succeed.”

Neary, a Maryland native, grew up fishing on the Chesapeake Bay before earning a scholarship to become a Catamount. After his baseball injury left him seeking a new identity, he started a collegiate bass fishing team at WCU then a lake fishing guide service in the area around campus and his first store.

“As a fishing guide, I was buying so much tackle online,” Neary said. “You know how online shopping can be. Sometimes, it’s not what you think when you get it. I ended up wanting to start a tackle shop that was very community-oriented. It took off as a great brand in the fishing community regionally, then Matt Farris asked if we wanted to do that over in Morganton, too.”

Neary already had a Morganton connection before he went into business in the city. He played baseball with Morganton natives and former Little League All-Stars Aaron Attaway and Dykota Spiess in Cullowhee.

“It was just like immediate support,” Neary said. “The Attaway family and the Spiess family — Aaron Attaway, who had a little stint there with the Toronto Blue Jays, and Dykota Spiess, who graduated from Western and then coached a couple years up there — really welcomed me into the community. The Attaways housed us for a couple weeks while we were getting all the construction done on the inside for our store renovating it.”

Neary now lives in the area, residing part-time in Marion and splitting time there with his father and his best friend. He’s excited to spread the word around about what he’s doing with his business to promote fishing, which he said is the No. 1 hobby for Americans outside of running.

“It’s one of those things where I’m trying anything I can to get awareness out,” he said. “For so long, so many people knew (Foothills) was a boat dealership, but they never knew there was a tackle shop on the inside.

“So, we’re really just trying to promote that it’s there and not just another tackle shop. We carry the latest and greatest. Instead of just selling people tackle, we really try to teach our customers how to use the tackle. We teach them why to use certain lures and techniques at certain times of the year. We do seminars and really try to teach fishing to the community.”

Dream Catcher’s Fishing Supply and Foothills Marine are located at 1331 N. Green St. For more information about the business, visit dreamcatcherguides.com.

News Herald staff writer Justin Epley can be reached at jepley@morganton.com or 828-432-8943.

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