I am smitten. Freshly back from Anglers Inn on Lake El Salto in Mexico, I am impressed with the lake, but dazzled by Billy Chapman’s accommodations. It’s easily the finest fishing resort I’ve ever visited … and I’ve been to a few.
The lodging is excellent, but probably not the best I’ve seen. I stayed in a cabin on Missouri’s Table Rock Lake that was fancier and in a fishing resort condo on the Space Coast of Florida that was far more luxurious.
The food at Anglers Inn was delicious, but it’s at least as good at Bienville Plantation and at a couple of beachside Florida restaurants that will cook your catch if you bring it to the kitchen.
The fishing at El Salto was world class, but I’ve enjoyed fishing that was as good — and far more exclusive — elsewhere … though perhaps not as consistently good as what I saw in Mexico.
The bass were big at El Salto, but my biggest on the trip was “only” 7 1/2 pounds. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch bigger bass on other trips to other fisheries.
What made Anglers Inn so great was the people and the service they provided. Having been there, I can tell you I want to go back as much for the off-the-water experience as for the fishing. Before visiting Anglers Inn, I didn’t imagine such thinking was possible.
Billy Chapman Jr. should teach a master’s course on customer service and hospitality. He should be lecturing to and consulting with those who “think” their facilities and personnel are up to snuff. Along with Anglers Inn on El Salto, he has one on nearby Lake Picachos, another on the Amazon in Brazil and one underway in the U.S. on the Idaho-Montana border that looks to be the outdoors lover’s resort to end all outdoors lovers’ resorts.
Chapman knows that his new destination — featuring trout, walleye and smallmouth bass fishing, kayaking and snowmobiling, hiking and horseback riding — will be a big success because he knows that his established customer base from the other venues will rush to book at the new place. He also knows exactly why his Mexico and South America resorts are enormously popular.
It’s the people.
Chapman has not only found the “right” people to take care of his guests, he’s also trained them to ensure they know the “right” way to care for his guests.
At Anglers Inn, you’re greeted at the airport by a friendly driver who loads your gear and takes you to the resort, about two hours away. When you arrive, attendants are there to welcome you, put a cold adult beverage in your hand and take notes about how you like your coffee, your steak and whether you have any special requirements for your stay.
Since you spend more time with your fishing guide than any other person on such a trip, Chapman has been particularly careful in his selection of on-the-water experts. To a person they are courteous, friendly, energetic and knowledgeable. Of course, everything is better if the fishing’s good, but Chapman has dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” to make sure that a good time is inevitable … whether the bass bite or not.
As a longtime media person in the fishing industry, it’s been my privilege to go on some outstanding trips through the years. My work keeps me too busy to fish very often, but when I have the chance to go I’m usually on the water with world class anglers or on world class fisheries using the latest gear from top manufacturers.
Quite often, as I’m leaving a junket destination, the lodging host will ask me about my experience. And since they ask, I feel obligated to offer an honest answer.
I once told a man who rented cabins on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville that he had a lot of guts to charge for the accommodations. I’d stayed in shacks without electricity or indoor plumbing that were palaces in comparison.
I’ve told guides that their “world class fishery” was nothing to write home about. They disagreed loudly, but when I asked if they’d ever fished anywhere else, they got quiet.
Now, when a host asks me about my experience at their venue, I can finally offer a suggestion rather than an ordinary answer.
I’m going to recommend that they book their own trip to one of the Anglers Inn venues. If they follow that advice, they can learn by example.
You see, your customer service is not being compared to the rival shop down the street anymore. Your pricing, selection and value are up against the big boxes and online retailers. Your knowledge is going head-to-head with the best how-to websites, magazines, television shows and seminars.
In fact, your competition is not just other players in the fishing industry. You’re being compared to Amazon Prime, Zappos and the Apple Genius Bar. What was good enough 20 years ago won’t keep the lights on today.
Luckily, there are lessons we can learn from those who are doing things right. By following their example and learning from their process, we can all take things up a notch … and we’d better do it.