More than 5,000-square-feet of floor space. Fishing rods – about 2,500 of them – as far as the eye can see. Five hundred fishing reels.
Not to mention rigs and hooks, terminal tackle, a walk in freezer for bait, and “everything, just everything, that a fisherman could possibly want,” said Bill Baker, who founded Bill’s Sports Shop in Delaware in 1994.
Baker considers his shop among the largest, busiest and most well stocked tackle shop on the Delmarva Peninsula. It started out as just him and it’s grown into a family business where two of his five children now also work.
“My favorite sport is fishing,” said Baker, who’s been fishing his entire life. “I figured (after a career in beauty supply sales) this was a great way to enjoy my sport and run a business. I thought I was semi-retiring. As it turns out I’m busier now than ever before.”
The success of the store means Baker doesn’t have much time to fish himself, despite being a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain and enjoying the hunt for black sea bass and flounder.
But it does provide the opportunity to share the love and excitement of bringing in the big catch with each of his customers.
“We get to hear all the good fish tales,” Baker said. “Fishermen bring in their fish and we take a picture, post it on our web site, Facebook, and print out a picture for them.”
For those who don’t bring in the big fish to document, Baker gets to hear about the good days on the water.
“Fishing…is the type of sport that the average person can go out and within a few minutes be enjoying time on the water – whether standing on the beach or on a boat. There’s a tremendous amount of fishermen who enjoy the sport just for the camaraderie of being with family and friends.”
As a bonus, he also gets to be part of the educational process for first time fishermen.
“I’ve got jetty, jockey, surf fishermen, off shore – just about every type of fishing available within just a few miles of the store,” Baker said. “We work very hard at making sure our customers are totally, totally familiar with the regulations so they don’t’ go out there and get a ticket doing something they are not aware of.”
His favorite fishermen to work with?
“I have a whole bunch of grandchildren and they all love to fish,” Baker said. “Other than the depletion of some of the fisheries and nature’s kill ratio, the big challenge for fishermen today is conservation. We need to make sure we can conserve enough to keep the fishery going for our grandchildren.”