Settling down in a cozy resort village and opening up a bait and tackle shop is the dream of many an avid fisherman.  After years spent casting the rod, there’s no better feeling than opening a business where one can impart their hard-earned fishing knowledge to local anglers while supplying them with the finest equipment available. 

The United States is a nation of anglers: 37% of Americans fish 4 to 11 times each year. Therefore, compared to other business ventures, opening a profitable bait and tackle shop is a realistic goal: if you set up in the right location and supply quality goods, becoming a central hub of the local fishing community is fully realizable. 

After years spent at a nine-to-five, you’ve earned the right to invest your savings and expertise into a meaningful second career as a small business owner of a bait and tackle retailer. In this guide, we’ll explain what it takes to open a bait and tackle shop and go step by step through the process of launching the business. 

Is opening up a bait and tackle shop business right for you?

Those with the proper skills and background should be able to own and operate a bait and tackle shop with little difficulty, while others less adept at the day-to-day management of a business may have a hard time. Here are some of the qualities that make a good fishing supplies store owner.

You have years of fishing experience.

This may sound like a given, yet there’s a difference between taking the occasional fishing trip as a hobbyist and a dedicated engagement in the activity. Unless you have a more knowledgable business partner, as the owner of a bait and tackle shop, you’ll need to possess a working understanding of the various types of fishing rods, lures, and bait in order to know which products to stock and how best to advise customers. 

You have a nest egg set away.

Although there are countless means of financing a new business, those that can fund partially or fully a new venture with their own money won’t be beholden to a bank or other financial institution and will have a greater say in the daily running of the business. 

You have experience in inventory and management.

When setting up a new business, making poor choices about which products to stock–resulting in them collecting dust on the shelves–could have serious consequences and hamper your chances for success. A background in inventory and/or logistics in your previous line of work will be very useful in guiding your bait and tackle business towards profitability. 

You are affable and don’t mind shooting the breeze with customers.

If you establish your shop in a popular vacation spot, visitors to the region are your target market.  Tourists that walk through the doors are likely to be unfamiliar with the area, and some may be complete novices in the art of fishing. 

They will likely turn to the proprietor of the shop for advice on local fishing holes and the right kind of bait and lures to have a successful catch.  Being patient with the uninformed and willing to impart your wisdom is key. You want to give customers an experience they can’t get at Wal-mart. If you don’t suffer fools well and aren’t much for small talk, this may not be the right line of work for you. 

Recreational fishing industry statistics at-a-glance

  • The recreational fishing industry in the U.S. supports over 828,000 jobs.
  • American recreational fishing contributes over $38 billion a year to the U.S. GDP. 
  • The top five states for angler expenditures are (in order): Florida, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, and California. 
  • Around 46 million Americans go fishing at least once a year, with over 9.5 million taking one or more saltwater fishing trips.
  • In the most recent year that data is available, U.S. bait and tackle retailers contributed over $2 billion to the national economy. 

Sources: American Sportfishing Association, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

 

Opening a bait and tackle shop

1. Select your location

Moreso than other retail shops, location is a major factor in the potential success of a bait and tackle retailer. Here are some tips to help you decide on a location:

  • As you’ll be selling fishing supplies, it’s ideal to rent a commercial space near a lake, marina, jetty, or another popular fishing spot. If there’s no water for miles, the chances for walk-in business are nil. 
  • One cost-saving option is to open your shop as an adjunct to another store or service center, like a gas station, grocery store, or convenience store. This saves money on rent and draws plenty of customers from the main business. 
  • Be mindful of the local competition: as the new angling entrepreneur in town, you don’t want to upset local bait shop owners by setting up too close to their stores. If possible, meet with the owners of local bait and tackle shops to let them know of your intentions and appeal for their consent. At the same time, if one has a bad attitude, don’t let it get in your way.
  • Size is another serious consideration: you don’t want to rent out a facility with more space than you can handle.   

2. Calculate your expenses and purchase equipment

Now it’s time to buy the equipment and stock your shop with an inventory. Start-up costs could add up to $50,000 dollars, so making wise purchases is essential. Here are the key purchases to consider:

  • Industrial refrigerators – You’ll need a place to keep your live bait, so purchase at least two large refrigerators with glass doors that will keep bait fresh and position them where customers can easily grab the grubs they’re looking for. 
  • Shelving, baskets, and styrofoam boxes –  You want your fishing rods, lures, and other equipment to be arranged nicely and be readily accessible, so buy an assortment of storage containers for all the types of products in stock.
  • Rods, flies, and artificial lures – No retail fishing shop is complete without a solid selection of the tools of the trade. Be shrewd about the equipment you have on offer: if fly fishing isn’t a popular practice in your region, there’s no reason to stock a ton of fly rods. Likewise, if you are operating near a lake, opt against supplying heavy-duty gear and spool reels tailored for saltwater angling. 
  • Live bait – Stock your shop with nightcrawlers, crickets, minnows, and/or whatever the popular varieties of live bait are popular with local anglers and effective in drawing local species of fish. Be sure not to violate local laws about the types of bait that can be legally sold.  
  • Miscellaneous equipment – In addition to the essentials, stock moderate stores of nets, line, hooks, swivels, shiners, tackle boxes, and any other vital fishing equipment. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to have a wing of the shop dedicated to supplying t-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, and assorted tchotchkes to tourists eager to take home a souvenir from their vacation.    

3. Acquire funding, choose a business entity, register your business, and obtain federal and state tax ID numbers

Refer to our How to Start a Business Guide for instructions on how to complete these essential steps. 

 

4. Obtain the necessary licenses and permits 

The bureaucratic yellow tape surrounding opening a bait and tackle isn’t too much of a hassle, but as a retailer, you’ll likely need to obtain a number of licenses and certifications in order to operate legally. 

While the definite list of essential certifications varies from region to region, the following are some of the most commonly needed licenses for a bait and tackle retailer:

  • Retail merchant’s certificate – Depending on local laws, you’ll likely need to apply for a retail merchant’s certificate and pay the associated fee. This is a widespread requirement for most types of retail shops and boutiques.
  • Bait dealer’s license – Due to the threat of invasive species and other environmental concerns, bait transportation and dealing are heavily regulated in many parts of the country. You’ll have to obtain a bait dealer’s license from the local government’s Department of National Resources and comply with strict restrictions on which types of bait can be legally sold in the area. 

5. Buy insurance coverage

Insurance coverage is an essential means of protection for any business, even a bait and tackle shop. While it’s not the type of business prone to accidents or injuries, there are still a few types of insurance that a bait and tackle retailer should consider.  

In fact, if your shop staffs one or more employees, you are required by the federal government to have two types of insurance, while others are strongly encouraged, or required at the state level. 

Here are the forms of insurance you should consider:

Required forms of insurance for all business with employees:

  • Workers’ compensation: Covers medical costs and disability benefits if an employee is injured or becomes ill on the job.
  • Unemployment insurance: Provides benefits to workers after a loss of job through no personal fault.

Recommended forms of insurance for all businesses:

  • Professional liability insurance: Covers losses as a result of property damage, medical expenses, libel, slander, and negligence claims. 
  • Commercial property insurance: Covers property damage to business-owned properties and possessions as a result of fire, theft, or storm.

7. Market your fishing business

While a central location and local word-of-mouth go a long way,  no bait $ tackle business can thrive without local advertisements and a well-established online presence. Here are the key steps for promoting your business around town and on the web:

  • Create a website. Register a domain name for a company website (You can use domain.com, Bluehost, GoDaddy.com, or Namecheap.com). Hire a web designer to develop the website (or do it yourself). Be sure to include detailed contact information on the site.
  • Open social media accounts. Register accounts on the popular social media services (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
  • Register a Google profile. This will allow you to add pictures of your business, respond to positive customer reviews, and address customer concerns.
  • Respond to online customer feedback. Register accounts on business review platforms such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. This will allow you to write thank-you notes in response to glowing reviews and address negative reviews.
  • Take out ads on billboards and in local publications. It still pays to increase visibility by buying ads in local newspapers and on highway billboards. 

 

Bait and tackle business resources

  • American Sport Fishing Association – The world’s premier sportfishing trade association runs a website with a wealth of vital information for any purveyor of fishing gear, including advice on what inventory to stock, articles on the latest equipment, and the up-to-date statistics covering the recreational fishing industry.  
  • ICAST – A national showcase for the latest and greatest fishing gear. ICAST is a great resource for deciding the right equipment for your shop to supply. Local anglers deserve the cutting edge best. 
  • Maurice Sporting Goods – A renowned wholesale supplier of fishing lures, reels, and other goods. 
  • Burch Fishing Tackle – Another well-reputed fishing goods wholesaler that has been supplying retailers for over 70 years.