Retailer Spotlight: Half Moon Bay Sportfishing & Tackle

HALF MOON BAY, California— Sherry Ingles is celebrating an anniversary this year: 10 years owning and operating a West Coast tackle shop with her husband Bob. Technically, Sherry doesn’t own just any West Coast tackle shop. She owns a tackle shop located at one of the most legendary surf spots in the world—Mavericks.

Mavericks is famous for big wave surfing. Seriously big waves, like the 80-foot plus waves that break about two miles off shore from Pillar Point Harbor and the front door of Half Moon Bay Sportfishing and Tackle. But how does a tackle shop operate out of a surfing mecca?

As it turns out, it operates pretty well. And the reason for that has a little to do with Mavericks itself.

In the world of big wave surfing, Mavericks is a legendary locale. On most days, the water is flat. Before Mavericks was discovered, it was thought that no big, Hawaii-sized waves existed in California. However, at very special times—maybe one or two a year, when the right combination of Pacific storms send waves towards the rock formation off of Pillar Point—an invitation-only competition is held among the world’s best big wave surfers.

“Mavericks is a pretty unique place,” says Ingles, “it can do its big 20-40 feet waves and we can sit in our charter boats about 20 yards away. We go from where it’s 20 feet deep out to 60 within a matter of 20 yards. So the boats can sit out there without having to go through the swells, but we can be real close where we can hear the guys and see all of the action. Without a doubt, the word Mavericks brings people into this harbor.”

[divider]Into the Shop[/divider]

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Half Moon Bay is about more than big wave surfing. Half Moon Bay has plenty of fishing. Traditionally, it’s one of the best locations for king salmon along the California coast. And this idyllic dot on the map along the Pacific Coast Highway has been home to Sherry’s charter boat, the Queen of Hearts, for 25 years. And for decades, the Queen of Hearts set forth into the Pacific in search of the day’s catch. However, until about a decade ago, the Ingles were strictly in the charter business.

“This tackle store was owned by another family for 25 years before us. But they got up in age and not great in health, and we said okay we’re going to jump into this with both feet. We had the boat and we just said, ‘Let’s do it.'”

Now, the Ingles still book charters on the Queen of Hearts, but they also sell tackle, rods, fishing licenses and everything else anyone wandering down the highway could need to get onto the water and into a mess of salmon or rockfish. For $70-$98, you can get out onto the Pacific with your own gear. If you don’t have gear, you can nab enough to get going for about $35 more from their shop and get going.

Most people, Sherry says, use a Super Fly to get to the rockfish, “but you can use plastics like fish traps, AA baits, grubs, worms and Gulp!,” she adds. “People can go the inexpensive route and catch as many fish as someone who has been doing it for years.”

Of course, even with the foot traffic that Mavericks brings, Ingles can’t sell tackle when fishing season is closed. And from December-March, it is.

[divider]Revenue Boosts[/divider]

“When we took the store over, it was 40 years of dust and smoke and not a lot else inside. We built it up.”

Building a successful tackle shop sometimes takes more than selling tackle. To boost their income, Half Moon Bay Sportfishing and Tackle has devised a few clever ways of generating more revenue beyond the store shelves:

Whale Watching– To stem the slow tide of sales during the off season, Half Moon Bay Sportfishing & Tackle is taking advantage of the natural resources around their store by offering whale watching tours on the Queen of Hearts. “Whale watching is for the grey whale migration from December to March, when fishing season happens to be closed. It’s a good fill-in between fishing seasons,” says Ingles.

Tackle Vending Machine– Ingles says her sales have also been boosted by the addition of a Calcutta tackle vending machine. “We are the first one in California to have one that I know about,” says Ingles. “I saw it somewhere online a while ago and I thought it just might work. When Big Rock took them over, it kind of pushed me over because I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ve got Big Rock behind it.’ I’m running out of bait in it all the time. If I’m not here every two days loading it up, it runs out. That’s not a bad problem to have.”

Yellow Pages- Yes, the Yellow Pages. But not for the reasons you think. Ingles has worn many hats in her career—one of them tech-savvy enough to land her the domain name FishingBoat.com. (The domain cost her $35 before anyone heard of Yahoo! and has garnered $75,000 offers.) Ingles says one of the tricks to keeping customers in the door is buying Yellow Pages ads, because they list you on search engines. “Even if people don’t use the Yellow Pages, it still puts your name out there.”

Ingles says her number one goal every year is to survive. Beyond that, she hopes to continue to be able to build for next year, to “make sure I have what the people want, and hopefully get a few more people out fishing too, to keep this thing going into the future.”

Half Moon Bay Fishing & Tackle is located at 27 Johnson Pier in Half Moon Bay, California. You can get there via Lyft or Uber for about $30 from San Francisco. A return trip will cost you a little more for a local cab back into the city. Pro Tip: stop by Mavericks Surf Shop next door for a history lesson and collection of big wave surfing artifacts. Try the fish and chips at Ketch’s Joanne’s Restaurant and Harbor Bar for some of the best fish n’ chips in the Bay Area.