The state of Florida – where we founded this web site, is the perfect place to do it; there's an angler on every corner, and a center-console boat behind a measurable percentage of the cars on the roads of our coastal communities. Go inland twenty miles, and the flats boats are replaced by bass-fishing boats. With what look like living-room seats in the front, beautiful polished engines in the back and hulls the color of gemstones, they're taken from lake to lake in chains where native cultures wove baskets and created gorge hooks from quartz ten thousand years ago, using them to catch and later eat the same fish in the same spring-fed waterways. Some – like the vastness of Okeechobee are oceans. We spawn anglers here in Florida. And where anglers spawn, tackle shops grow.
Buying Fishing Tackle and Outdoors Gear
For many years – most of my life, in fact – there were stores that had exactly what you were looking for. There were clothing stores if you needed a new pair of slacks, a grocery store where you bought milk (no skim in those days – it would have seemed sacrilegious to remove cream from that milk unless you intended to whip it to put on your ice cream), and if you wanted to buy fishing tackle, a tackle shop. There was even a place in Elizabeth, New Jersey where my Uncle Eddie used to buy the Hornell solid glass blanks he often used for heavy rods. Move forward in your time machine from the early sixties to the eighties, and along came a guy named Walton. I loved those huge stores when I first entered them. The argument that they put all "the small guys" out of business seemed – to a younger guy who counted money as much as he counted friends – just something that was inevitable. If a huge store like Walmart could save a bunch of money doing huge buys, and in turn pass those buys along to a needy middle-class consumer, so be it. It was destiny and progress. When I first saw the price of a MirroLure in Walmart, I figured the day of the individually-owned and operated tackle store I had grown up in – literally for many weekends and afternoons of my life – were just gonna go away. Thank God I was wrong.
That vision of a superstore that would – in the fishing tackle aisle – replace the independent store turned out to not be true. Why? Simple. Service, quality, and passion. Passion? Passion. It's something we feel helped us build the fastest growing and most popular online fishing magazine – the one you're reading right now. Passion for fishing, passion for communication and education, and a passion for the fun of what we do for a living and for the sport. It's a passion you find in independent operators like George Duren, the guy behind Bluewater Outriggers.
It is not all-that often in today's retail world that a unique and exciting store rises out of the ever increasing conglomerate of chain box stores.
Bluewater Outriggers is a very cool story. I know the owners of a few very popular and very successful retail stores. Stores that have thrived despite the fact that the Walton family foundation – while spending upwards of $250 million annually to fund anti-fishing environmental organizations – also funded the openings of mega-super-tackle-shop and grocery stores. Sure, Walmart brings the price of many goods below that offered by independent owners. But at what cost to our culture and our communities?
Bluewater Outriggers was the brain child of George Duren, a generational supermarket owner and operator in the lovely coastal town of Port St. Joe, Florida. An avid angler, Angler wanted to create a retail model that would "wow" guys and gals just like him and the people he loved and lived around. Fishing is in our blood in Florida. It's in our sweat, it's in our hearts, and it's in our lives in ways somebody not from the Sunshine state could never appreciate. He knew what anglers wanted when they walked into a private tackle store. And he gave it to them. The store flourished as a result.
All Outdoors Gear at Both Digital and Brick-and-Mortar Locales...
The founder comes from a family of grocers. In today's world, a lot has been lost in family-owned business. The feel of connection between the cash register and the products a grocer sells that,eventually end up on our table teaches retailers something about doing right by people. George Duren took that gene – that family-owned and family-responsible feeling from the vegetable aisle to the rows of rods and shelves of outdoor gear he sells – into his stores and onto the internet. The entire connection between the grocery family and the online-on-ground tackle shop fascinated me when I was writing the story. A grocer-turned online tackle dealer and owner of a tackle shop – the kind I love to hang out in – is something I thought worth the space, and certainly worth the time to write about.
The store Duren and his wife Hilda (all the clothes are chosen by her), built didn't only specialize in fishermen, either. Again, he was shooting for a "wow" factor at the moment a new shopper (or one that's been there, for that matter) walked in the place. A full range of outdoor goods – from every manufacturer you know and ones you should know about – can be found in both George's gorgeous and incredibly-stocked physical location as well as his online store. The online store is a rarity in our world, too. Although many tackle shops did, in fact, and to some degree invest in online alternatives to their store, in most cases the branding of the online offering is not all-that connected to the physical stores. Not so with Duren's business. It's why we wanted to tell our anglers about the store and the guy behind it.
In a lot of ways, success in tackle shops like this one in Port Saint Joe or the ones we frequent here in the Bay area are similar. There is something about the people in those shops – something connected to our way of life – that makes them so very different from the aisle in Walmart where they sell spoons and split shot and braid and leaders we all use every day. It's not the spoons. It's not the difference between 2.99 and 3.99. The dollar is worth the smell of the store. It's worth the passion.
We are about our readers, and we know that you're interested in the tackle we use, the clothes we all wear, and the shops we feel special at. In the two short years we've been a family, we know that we like the same things our readers and forumites like and love. We write articles about lures, we ask our readers what they use and find the most effective – they are the real experts.
No one can shop the 16,000 Square-Foot store without noticing the real animal and fish mounts that there are to see, including a 16 foot shark hanging from the ceiling, two bears, a moose and a wolf. When the Duren family says outdoors, they mean it. The store was built to include the necessary "Wow" factor to people walking in, and the family-owned business has certainly accomplished that. George Duren told us they're carrying 42,000 items, and considering the fact that his family has been in the grocery business for generations, and his love for the outdoors has broken the gene from vegetables and steaks to Penn Golds and Binelli Super Black Eagle Shotguns. You want to wow? Carry the best and show it well. Generational business teaches you things like that.
So whether you intend to buy something this week, this month, or this year, or not. Whether you're always looking for a new provider (which we are) or not, it's worth visiting the company's site. We would love to hear what you think about the site, the stock, and how you get treated if you ask questions. That third issue – how the company treats you – is important and is something we've already experienced. We spent time on their site, and although looking specifically for tackle, found a range of items, including:
- All things fishy. Something we found on the site that is on our Someday-wish list was those Penn Gold Series offshore rods. Oh, the feel of that reel. If only....
- Diving Gear. Both bottle gear as well as snorkeling. With scallop season coming up on us, this is worth the visit. Just search for snorkeling on the company's site.
- Camping Gear
- Firearms and all things Hunting. Super Black Eagle 12-gauge shotguns, anyone?? I would have it in the same room as the Penn Gold series :)
- People who love, live, and breath all of the above.
Competition and the Independent Tackle Shop
Before this story went "live" on the site, we talked to Anna at the store. She had some interesting insight into our feeling that it's worth it to pay slightly more to deal with and support independents.
"Bluewater Outriggers, as well as other independent fishing tackle retailers in Tallahassee, south Florida, and Alabama (we go to a lot of buying shows with these people so we’re all friendly :) ), are surprisingly very competitive with Walmart on many items. We can’t really afford not to be – and our product suppliers know that - although the perception is that if a store looks really nice, the prices “must” be high. Another thing to note is that in the case of certain products -- I could quickly name Coleman's products and a number of snorkeling products -- the manufacturer sells Walmart a "dumbed down" version so that the price can be cheaper. The product is still functional and new, but doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles. Some companies, like Coleman, Penn, Shimano… will not offer all of their products to Walmart/Kmart/Target. There’s a lot more to that story but that’s the basic fact :) When we go to shows and such, the company rep will tell us what is in Walmart, and what they won’t allow to be in Walmart. Most big names do not want to be associated with Walmart or Sams because they think it cheapens the value of their products. Of course, that’s not to say you can’t find cheap basic fishing tackle at Walmart, but it’s a little bit bigger picture than most people think. I think that's why stores like Bluewater Outriggers, or Capt Henry’s, or Kevins… all are able to compete in the marketplace."
This insight -- something I've failed to really consider over the years of writing about this stuff -- goes to show you how much we can learn together by simply talking to people like Anna. Thanks, Anna :)
Real Store behind a Powerful Online Inventory
We're not strangers to large, well-stocked, and expertly manned tackle shops. We try, to buy as much from a variety of stores as we can. We buy things we don't need, in fact, and sometimes buy things for more than we could pay online, or at a cheaper, more well stocked store. In the case of Walmart – primarily for political reasons having to do with the money behind the stores – in the form of the Walton foundation – we strongly discourage people from buying fishing tackle there.
We at The Online Fisherman are very proud to endorse and recommend a family owned and run outdoors store like Bluewater Outriggers though. BWO offers some great specials on various "featured items" every week so visit them online at www.BlueWaterOutriggers.com and see how easy it is to find exactly the brand name and model of fishing equipment or outdoor gear you are looking for - regardless of what that might be. If you happen to live in the Port St. Joe area or find yourself taking the beautiful drive west on Hwy 98 headed towards Panama City - stop in and see their very impressively stocked (and very cool looking) brick and mortar location. And tell them you read about them at TheOnlineFisherman.com.
You can visit the company's excellently-designed web site here, and contact them by phone at (855)258-9837
PLEASE NOTE that the company is working to make it easier to get to their site, so they would like you to check them out at BWOFish.com and use that as your favorites.
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