Sep 22, 2011

Bass Pro Shops East Peoria

Wednesday evening, I braved the crowds with the hope of excitement. It turned out that the crowds were the excitement at the grand opening ceremony of Bass Pro Shops in East Peoria, IL. Dave and I grabbed one of the very last parking spots when we arrived forty-five minutes early...two of the early arrivals in a crowd of 6000. Unfortunately no one contacted me about a press pass, so we had to slum it and wait in line with the "regular folk." There were already two long lines, one to meet NASCAR drivers Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray and the other line formed to just get in the door....

In addition to the NASCAR guys, there were a few D-list celebrities such as Jimmy Houston, Andre Dawson and Jeanette "The Black Widow" Lee.  The Black Widow was working the pool table and willing to beat anyone wanting a chance. Even local celebrities were on hand to report the "news" that East Peoria now has a ridiculously over sized outdoors store.

The celebrity panel took the stage and said some stuff, I don't really remember what. Just as the crowd grew restless the doors opened. This is the first thing I saw....

Straight ahead of the door and near the back sits a giant aquarium filled with local species of fish like largemouth, smallmouth, stripers, carp and gar. The tank was a huge draw and was constantly swarmed by gawkers.

In the tank is a particularly impressive specimen. A catfish reported to weigh eighty-eight pounds, here she is next to a boy shown for size reference.

After leaving the tank, we went straight to the fly fishing area. This is the single thing I have the most excitement about. There are plenty of places to by fishing poles, guns and clothing but any fly fishing stuff I've bought has been from the intertubes. It is going to be excellent to go touch fly tying materials before buying.

We spent a couple hours milling around the fly shop, time kind of slipped by. We happened across Jonn "Streamstalker" Graham and got to chat with a couple BPS employees who actually know a thing or two about fly fishing. We swapped stories, talked about fishing spots (but not the secret ones) and got to know each other. Dustin and Andy were the two guys who impressed me most. We offered some suggestions on products they should offer and others (see trout stuff) they need to drop. It sounds like they have plans to help localize the selection.

If you are like me and aren't super happy about big stores putting pressure on the little guys, at least you can appreciate finally having fly fishing supplies in the area. I hope to patronize the fly shop as much as possible to keep them around, and I hope you do too. Their fly rod selection is definitely focused on affordable entry models, so if you're thinking about trying the long rod there are plenty of options and some expertise to point you in the right direction

Also of note is an archery range, nothing new for our area. In fact, it's not nearly as nice as as the ones at Wolf Hollow Archery near Chillicothe or Presley's in Bartonville. The BPS lane would be snug with just two people, but it'll be a great place to try before buying.

Speaking of trying before you buy, there was a large Tracker boat store and I hope someday the management takes advantage of their prime location on the Illinois River. How sweet would it be to take a boat for a test drive before buying it? Or pretend to be serious about boat shopping to get to go boating?

The store also features a restaurant, bar, coffee shop, bowling alley and shooting arcade game. Shoot stuffed animals with lasers while a talking moose taunts you. Loads of fun for fifty cents.

All told, I was a little underwhelmed by the opening day festivities. I was hoping for some big door busting deals, feebies and entertainment and that really wasn't the case. It sure didn't reduce the appeal of the place in general. As a store, it is absolutely enormous and offers a huge selection. As a tourist attraction there are plenty of eye popping stimuli to keep you and the family happy. Go check it out...and by some fly fishing stuff.


  1. I wouldn't have ever figured Bass Pro for a place to buy fly fishing stuff. But the one close to my house is amazing. And they do offer some door busting deals and excellent classes. They also are sort of home base for our local Project Healing Waters, so that's a plus as well. You'll come to really love it I'm sure.

  2. "If you are like me and aren't super happy about big stores putting pressure on the little guys, at least you can appreciate finally having fly fishing supplies in the area."


    Presley's will still get my gun business, Wolf's Hollow will still get my archery business but it's good to have more fly fishing stuff available than just the one-half-of-one-aisle at Gander.

    You might want to go in and ask Dustin about your muskie on the fly goal. He said he pulled a big muskie out of Spring Lake on an 8wt. Found a guy who knew where to catch 'em with standard tackle to put him in the right spot and figured out the rest.

  3. Kid + Candy Store = Broke, Fat Kid.

    But a Happy, Broke Fat Kid. Enjoy!

  4. I'm glad you don't have to rely on ebay for your tying materials now!

  5. thats a lot of 'merica. congrats on getting to touch and feel things. thats always a plus.

  6. I don't really know what to make of this. 6000 people showing up for the opening of a retail store? Let's say you're estimate is off and it was only something mildly absurd, 2000 people....for a BPS!? It's not that I think there's anything wrong with that - it's just weird for there to be that big of a deal for a store. Any store. :) BPS is my very favorite place to buy fly fishing stuff after Cabela's, JStockard, Hook-n-Hackle, Little River outfitters, and my local shop. IOW, they'll do in a pinch. :)

  7. I typo'd "You're" didn't I? Oh God, Troutrageous will be all over that one. :)

  8. @Cosifher: The fly fishing selection in comparison to their other departments. However it is HUGE in comparison to the non-existent fly shops around here. I'll take what I can get.

    @Mark: Wouldn't hurt to talk with someone, but at this point I'll be doing good to catch another bass this year.

    @Stevie Z: I was a good boy, saved my pennies

    @Dr. Timmy: Me too. I saw they have turkey flats, something I couldn't find this past spring.

    @Ivanski: a whole lot of 'merica.

    @Owl: I got the 6000 number from our local newspaper, who knows how they come up with those things...

    @Owl: Don't worry, he doesn't read this blog.

  9. What?! No Asian Carp Cooking Classes? What a disappointment.

  10. Woah, that is so much bigger than ours here in MD, and certainly puts the Hampton, VA BPS to shame.

  11. Holy catfish! What a show! AD did a stint with the Sox. Guy was a mega talent, but injury laden. Could hit and run like crazy when he was young. Didn't know he was a bass fisher too! Great post.

  12. @Cofisher: During the festivities they kept mentioning that half of all sales that evening go to state and local conservation efforts. That was nice to hear considering the state of our state.


Clif reserves the right to delete your comment if he is so inclined, but he is a pretty liberal guy so post away and see what happens.