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There have been few bonefishing operations in recent years that have caught on as quickly as the one on Grand Bahama Island called Pelican Bay Bonefishing. The reasons are clear. First, Pelican Bay is based in a first-rate hotel in downtown Freeport, in the midst of all sorts of amenities and activities for non-fishing spouses. Second, the lodge had the good sense to market itself as a spouse-pleasing destination, which makes it a rarity in the Bahamas. Third, the lodge opened with first-rate boats, motors, vehicles and trailers.

Somewhere in the priority of reasons for Pelican Bay’s success (maybe first), is the fact that it opened with a stable of famous guides (the Pinder brothers) who have a following among bonefishing cognoscenti. The man responsible for bringing the Pinder brothers to Pelican Bay was peripatetic angler Jim Hoffman, who primed the pump for Pelican Bay by calling his many friends in the international angling community. Hoffman subsequently evolved into booking agent for the place.

Then, in early January (see January 1999 issue, page 3), Pelican Bay suddenly cut its ties to Hoffman. To date, no one has said just why this was done, but clearly it was a mistake because now the Pinder brothers have jumped ship together and started their own bonefishing operation called Grand Bahama Bonefishing, Ltd. (Call Mosby Vogler for reservations). At press time, the new business was up and running with four new Dolphin Super Skiffs powered by 90 hp engines. The base of operations is a small hotel on the outskirts of Freeport called Hotel Xanadu.

Here at The Angling Report, we have not had an opportunity to check out the new lodgings, but word reaching us is the rooms are adequate but a far cry from the luxurious digs Pelican Bay offered. Obviously, because the hotel is out of town, Grand Bahama Bonefishing also does not offer the same easy access to spouse-pleasing amenities and activities that Pelican Bay does. In sum, it appears Grand Bahama Bonefishing is not going to be right for all of the anglers who were drawn to Pelican Bay Bone-fishing. Clients thinking of switching bookings between the two places because of the shakeup should be aware of that.

On the plus side, the Pinder brothers are world-class guides who earned their following by knowing where the fish are and how to put top-class fly fishermen in the right place to take them. The Pinder brothers are also known for their cheerful demeanor and calm professionalism. Countless anglers have said a day on the water with them is a delight. Out on their own now, they are said to be more dedicated than ever to pleasing their clients. In sum, based on what we know at the moment, dead-serious bonefishermen should have no complaints about the experience provided by Grand Bahamas Bonefishing.

Meanwhile, back at Pelican Bay Bonefishing, we are not as bullish about the service being provided. Manager Jock Shaw says the guides he has hired are performing adequately, and he looks for all of them to get up to speed quickly. All five Pelican Bay boats were on the water at press time, Shaw said, indicating he did not foresee any problems. Maybe not, but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t say we had some doubts at this point about these guides’ abilities. Mind you, bonefish guiding is not rocket science in a fish-rich place like the Bahamas, and even novices can quickly learn to put clients on an acceptable number of fish. We are confident that is happening at Pelican Bay and that things are quickly going to get better. In the meantime, anglers returning from trips there are urged to file reports. We hope to have an on-site report soon.

It is worth noting in all this that the Pinder brothers appear to have made a bit of history here. Amidst all the hoopla about the independent guide movement in the Bahamas, no one to our knowledge has mentioned seriously the possibility of guides foregoing the role of freelance entrepreneur and becoming owners of their own bonefishing business – lock, stock and barrel. Indeed, word reaching us is, all of the shares of Grand Bahama Bonefishing are owned by the Pinder brothers themselves, who got startup cash from previous clients. Maybe this is the start of something important in the Bahamas? Stay tuned….

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