Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a brand new Gander Mountain store located in Mooresville, NC during its grand opening. I was excited to check it out because I had watched it being built for several months and could only imagine what "outdoorsey goodness" it might hold. I have visited several Bass Pro Shop locations so I was eager to make the comparison.
We arrived at the store around lunch time and, as expected, found the parking lot pretty full. Two things immediately caught my eye. One was the twenty food center console fishing boat with the words "Rent Me At Gander Mountain" emblazoned on its side. The other was the giant inflatable bass shaped bouncey thing that they had set up for the kiddies at the grand opening celebration. Children were being encouraged to play inside the jaws of the massive fish much to their parents delight. Since we live near a bass fishery I had expected the store to have an emphasis on bass fishing and it did from the outset.
Once inside the store's log cabin facade it was obvious that this retailer was quite a bit different from the Bass Pro Shops that I had visited before. The store has a very open layout (read like a Walmart) and I noticed that many of the fixtures appeared to be movable allowing for different configurations. There was an extensive selection of camping gear and a very large area along the back wall of the store devoted to handguns and rifles as well as a full service gunsmith on site. Names like Glock, Springfield and Beretta were noted and prices did not seem out of line. I was not able to convince my better half that I had a real need for a new Bushmaster varmint rifle (Honey, I hope the varmints don't over-run our house anytime soon.) so we moved on in search of fishing equipment.
I could see the tips of the rods in the far left corner of the store so I proceeded to have a look around. Much to my dismay I did not see any fly rods. There were tons of spinning rods, boat rods, bait casters and such but no fly rods. Then I noticed a separate room off the fishing rod area and perked up thinking that they must have a full fly shop in there. As I moved into the room a foul odor struck me. I looked around and discovered that I was in a full service shop all right, a full service bait shop. I must have wandered into bait fisherman heaven. There were crickets and minnows and worms and stink bait but no flies (unless you count the ones hovering over the stink bait). As I said before, we live near a popular bass fishing / cat fishing destination so I don't blame them for putting an emphasis on bait.
As I rounded the corner towards the front check out I finally came upon what turned out to be a fairly full featured fly fishing selection. Fly Rods were not readily visible but after a bit of looking I was able to locate some St. Croix rods that were in a bin still safely tucked into their tubes. The store had an amazing amount of fly fishing and tying gear and materials displayed in a relatively small space. At first glance I was disappointed, but as I began to look around a bit more it was hard for me to find something (outside of rods and reels) that an angler might need that wasn't on the shelf here. I noticed Cortland lines and leaders among other brands. The fly tying section had a good assortment of quality fly tying tools and materials. Necks and saddles were available in both the traditional colors and also those more suited for tying bass bugs. Bulk fishing flies were $1.79 each and they had a moderate assortment. Most of the other prices in this section were in line with area fly shops but no great "door buster" deals were noted.
Overall, I would have to say I was impressed with my first Gander Mountain visit. The store definitely does not have the "tourist attraction" feel of our local Bass Pro Shop but it does have a great selection of outdoor products at reasonable prices. I guess I could sum it up by saying that while I can walk around a Bass Pro Shop for hours, I would probably head to Gander Mountain when I needed to make a quick purchase and get out the door.