It's Saturday morning, and the trucks are lined up outside the Complete Angler. "You couldn't ask for a better location," said owner Herb Quintero, whose shop is about 300 yards from the Seminole Boat Ramp. "I wish we were open when I used to tournament fish." Like many serious anglers, Quintero got tired of running to one store for sandwiches, another for ice, another for bait and yet another for tackle needs. "What I needed was a one-stop shop," he said. "That is how we came up with the idea of the Complete Angler."
Quintero, a 40-year-old contractor from Clearwater who grew up fishing local waters, credits his son Andrew with formulating the store's business plan.
The 17-year-old worked as a mate for a local charter boat captain and noticed that anglers always seemed harried or late when putting in at a nearby boat ramp.
"He said, 'Dad … if we only had a shop right there that people could get everything they needed without getting out of their truck,' " Herb Quintero said. "But finding the right location was a different story."
Any boat owner knows that a truck towing a boat needs a lot of room to turn. A drive-through bait shop would almost have to be built and designed on an empty lot.
Then in early October last year, Quintero was driving back from the Seminole Boat Ramp near North Fort Harrison in Clearwater when he passed an old produce stand for sale.
"I knew it was perfect," he said. "It was close to the ramp, and people could pull right up with their boats."
One honk for pinfish
Being a fisherman, Quintero knew his shop would only be as good as the quality of his bait.
"We put a lot of time and effort into our bait tanks," he said. "People come in wanting fresh, lively bait. That makes all the difference in the world."
As Quintero spoke, Gary Marshall of Clearwater pulled up.
"We have a customer," Quintero said as he spotted Marshall's truck and boat on a video monitor.
Marshall was on his way to way to fish St. Joseph's Sound and needed a few dozen shrimp. As Quintero talked about where the fish were biting, 14-year-old son Steven looked for some jumbo-sized shrimp in the bait tank.
In a matter of minutes, Marshall was on his way with a livewell full of bait and an earful of free advice.
Free fishing spots
Quintero, who has now been in business for eight months, prides himself on his inventory. He sells everything from bait hooks to big-game reels.
"All of our sandwiches are made fresh every day," he said. "And our bait freezer is as big as one you would find in a large restaurant."
But there is one thing that money just can't buy.
"Would you sell your secrets spots?" I asked.
Quintero appeared shocked by my audacity.
"Of course not," he said. "But I will give you a couple for free."
With that he went to the cabinet and pulled out a chart and a magic marker.
"Now, what do you want to catch?" Quintero asked. "Trout, redfish or snook?"