Hook, Line and Sinker

Captain George Landrum walks you through Cabo’s best tackle shops, Los Cabos Magazine – Issue #11.

If you’re dreaming about having your own tackle, remember, fishing is a lot like golf. The cost of outfitting yourself for the sport may be far more than the price of your vacation.

This is a fascinating time of year because we get so many anglers from around the world, all of them ready to sample the fishing Cabo has to offer. Some are novices at big game fishing, others have made what was once a hobby into a profession, but each has one thing in common: they all want more information.

Novices want to learn how to catch fish and experts want to know what works here. Reading helps, there are websites, magazine articles and books that cover fishing in Cabo and the Baja California Peninsula, but the best information always comes direct from people who live here. The novice will come to Cabo without any tackle or gear, ready to fish with what’s supplied on the charter boat, and once hooked, will eventually go out and buy gear. Experienced anglers often bring their own tackle because it is custom-made or they feel more comfortable with it than with strange equipment. In either case, sometime during the trip there is likely to be a need for either an extra lure or two, more hooks, new line, or maybe a quick repair on the rod or reel. It can be frustrating to find exactly what you need in a strange place, so I have attempted to list a few of the more popular shops and stores, this may help you accomplish that last minute purchase or repair, or at least give you a new place to check out. One thing I know for sure, it is always a joy to see new products or discover a new method of doing something, and even if you’re just window shopping, these folks can give you great advice!

Minerva’s Baja Tackle. Need I say more? I guess that if it your first time to Cabo I might need to elaborate a bit, but for most of us Minerva Smith is Cabo sportfishing personified. Minerva and her husband, Bob, have been in business for 18 years as a tackle store and for almost 30 years operating fishing charters. Their goal has been to supply Baja anglers needs, adapting to changes in what anglers ask for. Sometimes that means dropping a line that has fallen into disfavor and stocking other items that are developing a following. That covers a lot of ground, but Minerva has made it work. Minerva’s stocks everything, and to give you an idea of the amount of traffic she handles, how about being the third largest buyer of Penn reel parts in the world. Besides having everything you might need for fishing, from light tackle to fly fishing to big game, she is also our International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) representative. If you think you might have a world record fish on any class of line, she is the one you call. If you have a question about the rules for submitting a record,
she is the one you ask.

If you want to know more about the sport, ask Minerva about becoming an IGFA or Billfish Foundation member. If you have a question on how the fishing is, she will give you a no-nonsense update; she has a fleet of boats fishing every day. I asked for a few minutes of her time to find out just what makes her do this and she was more than happy to sit down for a short Q & A session. My first question concerned what she sees as the major change in fishing here, between when she started her business and now. She answered that she now sees the local fishermen as much more receptive to change. They have had more exposure to different tackle and techniques since we host so many anglers from all over the world.

They are now more aware of the importance of conservation than they used to be, and now the majority of captains and crews are releasing the billfish they catch as well as abiding by the bag limits. As an example of both of these, she says that where she might have sold three release flags a week 10 years ago she will now sell several dozen in the same period. I asked her if the sales of circle hooks were up (circle hooks improve release survival rates), and if that might be used to indicate an increase in release ethic. Minerva was quick to say that her sales of circle hooks were actually down a bit, but it wasn’t because no one was using them! Quite the contrary, she was going through more circle hooks than ever, but most were going out the door free!

We have several annual catch and release tournaments a year here in Los Cabos, the Rolex/IGFA Offshore World Championship and the World Billfish Release Championship. Both require the use of circle hooks and the main manufactures, Mustad and Eagle Claw, have provided cases of complimentary hooks free, and as long as there are some available, captains and crew are welcome to come to Minerva’s for them.

Bisbee’s Tackle shop is owned and operated by Bob Bisbee, the co-founder and major force behind the origin of and the continued success of the Bisbee Black and Blue Marlin Tournament. This tournament recently had its 25th anniversary and is widely known as the “Richest Marlin Tournament” in the world. Bob has since passed on the baton of running and operating the Black and Blue to his son, Wayne, and has settled into a niche he feels very qualified to fill, that of supplying all the items needed for anglers in search of trophy-size big game fish. Thirty years ago, he owned a tackle shop and fuel dock in California. Since passing the tournament work on to Wayne, Bob needed something to keep him occupied and went back to what he knows very well, selling fishing tackle. He opened in September of 2003 just a few steps away from the action on the marina, behind Baja Cantina near Dairy Queen, on the parking lot.

From custom #130-class big game rods to the hooks, line and sinkers required to rig them out, he has what it takes, and what most big game anglers are looking for, at his store. Walk in the front door and you are looking at the most extensive collection of Hi-5 lures available anywhere (except at the factory) hanging on the right hand wall. All along the back wall, there are gaffs and differing spools of line, on the left wall a selection of custom rods as well as smokers, coolers and Zane Grey artwork. In the middle of the front room hang all the accessories you might need, from Sabiki rigs for bait to lead weights and wiring gloves. Penn, Accurate and Shimano reels, Forschner knifes and Costa Del Mar sunglasses are all there. In the room to the right is his selection of personalized t-shirts, golf shirts and button-ups as well as hats. The left room holds an enormous selection of hooks, leaders, sleeves, and rigging materials. If you have a special request,
Bob will try to get it for you.

Cape Marine has new owners and Phil and Jennifer Goerss are anglers! Since buying the business three years ago, Phil has been slowly working toward carrying a selection of fishing products. With a personal friendship with the owner of “Braid” products, he has started out carrying their line of supplies. As of Fall 2006, the line-up includes lures, hooks, hook-sets, harnesses, and belts. Phil is looking at a major expansion in the tackle selection in the next six months with gear for people fishing from pangas to those in super yachts. Along with the gear he now has, he also carries quite a selection of clothing from Pelagic, Guy Harvey, Blue Water Wear, and Island Pro, from casual to dressy, from sandals, belts and sunglasses to golf bags. Cape Marine is off the marina, up the steps between Baja Cantina and Cheeseburger Cheeseburger, right in front of the ramp to “M” dock and close to Bob Bisbee’s store.

Stephan Jansen is a life-long surf fishing and light tackle enthusiast who has managed to do what we all dream about yet few are able to accomplish: make a living at what he loves. His store is next to the Hotel Mar de Cortez and carries every item needed for anglers looking to tackle both big and small game from the beach as well as from the shallows just off shore. One thing I always remember is that “elephants eat peanuts” and his shop is one stop I make at least once a month, mainly in order to stock up on top-water plugs (I sometimes use them on yellow fin tuna) and curly tail jig bodies (same thing). He has a wide selection of gear for anglers and sells his own art as well. If you are interested in trying a bit of surf fishing, he gives guided trips for a very reasonable cost and is more than willing to give you pointers on what to do and why. He holds several surf fishing records and definitely knows of what he speaks!

Mr. Ken Matney and his girlfriend-partner Linda Verkerk are very well known in Cabo and not just for their great personalities. Ken is an engineer by training and an angler—at least when he can find the time. He has been making his own lures by hand for years, always fiddling with weights, balances, and cuts. Having had a lot of success with his lures, he started giving a few to friends and as they continued to catch fish, the demand grew. Thus began Hi-5 lures. Having his lures catch million dollar fish hasn’t hurt either. In fact, a lure has been created based on one of his million dollar catches that actually sells for one million dollars, but that is with three pounds of gold and so many diamonds and rubies that I have forgotten the number.

Now you will find Ken in the workshop here in Cabo, busy manufacturing his custom lures. In the old days, Linda worked the docks taking orders, but now she spends much of her time packing, shipping and taking orders by phone and over the Internet. All of Ken’s Hi-5 lures are hand made in Cabo. You’ll find a complete selection at Bob Bisbee’s tackle store and online at the Hi-5 website: www.hi5lures.com. Ken has custom crafted lures for me and will customize a lure for you for a little bit more than the normal cost. I have many clients who want their name, date, and estimated weight of a fish in the head of a lure identical to the one they caught the fish on. That, along with a picture of the fish along the side of the boat, takes up a lot less room on the wall than a mount, and sure costs less!

With these shops and experts to choose from, and the variety of stock, anyone should be able to find anything they might need, be it that “perfect” lure, a new rod tip, a t-shirt gift for a fishing friend, information on where the latest action has taken place or how to join a fishing organization. All are near the marina, and if you are not exactly sure, just ask anyone. Los Cabos may be changing, but the heart and soul of Cabo San Lucas always was and still is fishing. And with the conservation ethic gaining ground, Cabo stands to remain one of the world’s premier fishing destinations.