Darwin’s mega tackle store, Fishing & Outdoor World, is celebrating a 50-year stint catering for the fishing and hunting needs of Territorians.
The father and son team of George and Ronald Voukolos has long played a significant role in the evolution of fishing in Territory waters. It’s not unusual for Outdoors sports stores to start out as partnerships; this is an oft repeated common theme of established stores.
Erskine’s Tackle in Cairns grew out of a partnership between game boat skipper, George Bransford, and tackle guru, Jack Erskine. In Melbourne, Jim Allen of Compleat Angler fame started in partnership with Bob Roles in 1967. Roles and Allen went the way of many partnerships and failed, so Jim went out on his own and started up the Compleat Angler chain of tackle stores.
It’s not so different in Darwin. In 1972, George Voukolos was working in a sporting goods store, Keith Kemp Sports, while across the road in another sporting goods store, Davies Sports Depot, Col Stringer was working. The two men were in retail competition, but that didn’t stop them fishing together.
Eventually they decided to start up their own business. George’s son Ronald is full of admiration for his dad: “George and Col were not well-educated and went off on a whim.”
The two men had a vision to open a tackle store and stuck to it, opening Fishing & Outdoor World (FOW) in Cavenagh Street in March 1972.
There are many tales about the shop during its early years, and perhaps no story better demonstrates the depth of feeling George and Col held for Darwin and its people than the events following Christmas Eve 1974 when Darwin was ripped apart by Cyclone Tracy. No one knew if Darwin would ever survive or even be rebuilt. Colin and George opened the shop doors and basically gave away all the camping gear, eskies, stoves, gas bottles; anything that might help people get by. Just gave it away.
Darwin was rebuilt, and those involved in its reconstruction bought lots of fishing gear. The 1975 Runoff was a ripper for obvious reasons and FOW never looked back. Col, who is now a pastor, is no longer in the business, selling out to George in 1978 after finding another calling in life.
George kept going alone. The boom in fishing tackle through the ’80s saw the need for bigger premises, and with the RSL expanding and creating shopfronts out of the walkway through to the carpark, FOW moved to 27 Cavenagh St. Five years ago version three of FOW opened over the road from 27 Cavenagh St. The shop features 600m2 of floor space, 400m2 of warehouse, and instead of a 25-pounder field artillery piece, the new shop features a pair of big barra fronting the awning facia.
Ronald said the latest FOW shop is twice the size of version two, but was already bursting at the seams, and reflected the size and popularity of the recreational fishing and shooting industries.
“It was a ballsy move by George to buy the building,” he said.
“George is 72 years-old; he should scale back a bit, but he can’t take his foot off the accelerator.”
Ronald pointed out that recreational fishing in the NT was a healthy industry that attracted thousands of tourists annually, but it seems that some states still insist on ignoring the value and size of their recreational fishing industries.
“Don’t get me wrong, the NT still has matters to resolve,” he said. “The big issue at present is negotiating with traditional owners to open more areas to fishing.”
Ronald said FOW traded strongly through Covid as more people stayed home and went fishing. This year the Territory is welcoming back visitors from interstate.
“We want people to come back but we are struggling to spread out due to many areas being closed to fishing.”
The Territory has endured a poor wet season. Ronald said a La Nina event was blamed for this: “Our wet season has been close to the worst ever, and in some areas, rivers are drying up,” he said.
In tackle terms the biggest trade is in soft plastic lures, which continue to go from strength to strength with the introduction on live scope technology.
“Still, the Classic Barra range of lures continues to sell strongly, as do Reidy’s and Bombers, but much of what we sell is technology led,” Ronald said.
Yeti products still sell well but Ronald said overall, FOW is a testament to living in the NT where fishing is a past time that almost ranks as a religion.
“This has contributed to the longevity and success of FOW. Again, the 50 years of being in business is all about George, and has nothing to do with me,” Ronald said.
(08) 8981 6398
36 Cavenagh Street, Darwin NT 0801
Shop online at www.fishingandoutdoorworld.com.au