The Hook, Line & Sinker bait and tackle shop presents a fierce, guarded exterior. There’s a big, black dog at the entrance and rows of guns on display next door. But inside the shop, the fierceness is overwhelmed by a sense of family warmth and undercut by the presence of a lot of glitter, which serves a very real purpose when it comes to fish bait: Fish are attracted to sparkly things.
Captain Tiffany Vague manages Hook, Line & Sinker for her father, Captain David Bacon, who also owns the gun store next door and a private charter business, WaveWalker Charters. She is exceedingly well qualified to run the family businesses, having handled a fishing rod since she was about six months old. “If my dad was the one carrying me, I would have been born on a boat,” Vague jokes. Sharing her father’s passion for fishing was not a choice for Vague. “When I was 14, I was grounded for life. I became his deckhand, and he’d call me his first mate. I’m still grounded,” she laughs.
Now, in addition to running the store and captaining charter trips, Vague spends a lot of her time passing on her lifetime of expertise to others. She regularly gives seminars at trade shows, is all too happy to answer customers’ fishing questions, and dispenses incredibly useful tips, such as make sure you hide your fishing license in the darkest corner of your wallet because the new, waterproof paper turns pitch black in the sun.
Talking to Captain Vague is much like talking to any expert — she opens a door to another world with another language and, in the case of the fishing world, a whole lot of fun toys. The Lingslayer, for example, is her weapon of choice for catching lingcod. Invented by her father in the ’70s, it has three key elements that make it irresistible to the fish: a kazoo-like piece of metal with a scarred surface that reflects light like a disco ball, a red and glittered rubber tail that wiggles and jiggles artfully, and a metal clasp that bangs clamorously against the other metal part and brings out the territorial lingcod with a vengeance.
But fishing is hardly about slaying. “Fighting a fish is hard to explain,” Vague says. “It’s fun; it’s hard work. You get food on the table. It’s a skill. You have to watch the game.” She continues her explanation, and it sounds as if she’s describing two dancers weaving through space, matching step. Vague also believes strongly in “sustainable fishing” — the term she uses for only catching what you can eat — and there are certain fish Vague won’t touch, even if they’re legal and available. “I don’t take calico rockfish unless they’re injured,” she says. Vague explains that the rockfish are slow growing and take seven years to reach reproductive age. It is also clear that she is especially fond of the fish and their unique “sport coats” that look like a shiny checkerboard.
Two hours into the interview, the big, black dog enters the store, tail wagging, eyes pleading for a pet, and it becomes apparent that the only thing fierce and guarded in the store is Captain Vague’s love for fishing. Her heart is in it — hook, line, and sinker.