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.