Red Drum Tackle Shop Inc….”A Special Kind Of Medicine No Doctor Can Prescribe”
Back in the mid-90s’ I was a sales rep. for a tackle wholesaler called Folsom Inc., out of New Jersey. My job was to cover the Carolina coast selling tackle to stores and tackle shops. What was interesting, is that I barely had enough knowledge of fishing gear to know which end of the fishing rod was the butt or the tip. It was a fun job because of the people I got to know, but not much money and a lot of riding in the car. Back then, not many folks had cell phones, and I sure wasn’t one of those that did. Instead, I carried a beeper and then searched for the nearest phone booth only to get reprimanded by my boss for low sales or an order written wrong. It was a job with very little satisfaction or money. However, the many people and places along the way made up for the rest. This is a story about one of those places and the people that made it well worth remembering. This is about “Red Drum Tackle Shop” in Buxton, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. “A place with a magic kind of medicine that no doctor could prescribe.” (Courtesy of the late Jimmy Buffet)
First, you need to understand that Buxton, NC, is not a big city with many highways and fancy restaurants, nor any of those Starbucks, or trendy places you’ll find in big cities like Charleston or Wilmington. They don’t have a Bass Pro Shop or any of those big box stores. However, what they do have is Red Drum Tackle Shop. It goes back to the mid-70s and since then, they’ve become the first place most anglers stop when they come to fish that part of the Outer Banks. It’s not only a place to get your bait and tackle, but most of all it’s a place where you can get the more important things like what’s biting and where. And what’s the water temp, and a whole lot more.
Established in 1974, they have been welcoming fishermen to Hatteras Island with a fully stocked tackle shop ever since! They carry everything for the sport fisherman: Bait, ice, tackle, rod & reel repair, custom rods, camping supplies, and expert information. Red Drum Tackle is the closest tackle shop on the Outer Banks to Cape Point, also known as “The Point”, on Hatteras Island.
Bob Eakes took over the operation in 1977 and built the business as you know it today. His passion for fishing and the people who loved it too was seen in his commitment to the community by serving on important committees such as the Board of Directors for the American Sportfishing Association (2006-2012). He was on the Governmental Affairs Committee for the American Sportfishing Association, and Recreational Advisor to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). He served on the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission, and we’ve only named a few. Bob passed away in August of 2021. Today, his wife, Kara, and son Bobby operate Red Drum Tackle Shop. They continue to carry on Bob’s legacy today.
It’s still a place where visitors to the area as well as locals gather to talk and learn about fishing. It’s also a place where 3 generations of fishermen, male and female, come to not only fish but also make those family memories and bond together. It’s not a tourist attraction with kiddy rides and massive T-shirt shops, but a place where those outside the Outer Banks (tourists) continue to come and live the lifestyle they wish they could enjoy year-round. Red Drum Tackle Shop’s staff are like saltwater fishing professors. They live in a town that revolves around fishing and helping others enjoy it as they do. Even the local kids many times will roll out of bed at 6:00 am and head to the beach to fish and still make it to school just before the tardy bell rings.
When you walk into Red Drum Tackle Shop, you’ll find yourself at home. It’s just a feeling you get when you see the lures, rods, reels, and other paraphernalia hanging on the walls from ceiling to floor. Then you can’t help but notice the other fishermen in the store. Some are hardcore anglers who are well-known in the area and come here nearly every day, and others may be there for the first time to learn what Outer Banks Fishing is all about. You may hear a few comments about sports or politics, but most of the talking is about fishing, today, yesterday, and the future. It’s a place where yesterday’s fishing is reported, and today’s fishing is planned. Whether it’s a novice fisherman or an “old salt”, they’re there for one thing…to catch fish on the famed Outer Banks of North Carolina. For many fishermen, it’s like a baseball lover walking into Yankee Stadium for the first time, or a pilot seeing the place where man first took power flight (which is just up the road).
Take a ride off the beaten path and head to Buxton, NC when you get a chance. When you get there, look for the big round sign that says, “Red Drum Tackle Shop.” It’s easy to find and there will be a bunch of trucks with rod holders and sand on their tires. Go one in and get yourself a cold drink and some nabs, then take it all in. You’re in a special place that was built and now cared for by special people. It’s a place where you can walk back in time to a fishing legacy from yesterday while getting your bait, rigs, and fishing education at the same time.
After reading my own story here, I think I’ll give them a call and see what’s biting and if it’s Redfish and Blues, put my surf rods in my truck and head that way. I can make it by daylight, just about in time to pull into Red Drum Tackle Shop to get my bait and a cup of coffee. Then I’ll head to the beach and look for those school kids fishing before school. That’s where the fish will be. Want to come with me?