Last Shop Standing: Hooked Up by the Bay on the Causeway

This article is from the winter edition of Mobile Baykeeper’s print quarterly, CURRENTS. The magazine is mailed to active members who have given more than $50 in the past year. To get on the magazine’s mailing list, donate here.

by Caine O’Rear

Hooked Up by the Bay bait shop, which opened in the spring of 2021, is the last standing bait shop on the Causeway. Back in November, we caught up with the shop’s co-owner and operator, Kim Grace, and her step-son Brenton Grace, about what makes the shop tick, and why a good bait shop is essential to any fishing community.

How did Hooked up by the Bay get its start? 

Kim: Hal Wallace, the co-owner, his wife and I have been best friends for 40-plus years. They had an opportunity to put a bait shop here. They live in Gulf Shores and I live in Spanish Fort. It was a business opportunity that they had to talk me in to. And we’ve been doing this since March 2021. But I love it. Love it. 

Had you ever done anything like this before? 

Kim: I had helped them through the years [at some of their other shops], if they needed some help, but no. 

Did y’all feel like there was a definite need for a new bait shop on the Causeway.

Kim: Yes. 

Brenton: Especially after Shirley’s shut down. Shirley’s was really the only bait shop on the Causeway that had shrimp on a regular basis. She was the person that everybody went to. When she shut down, we were the only one left, which is not bad for business at all. But it’s definitely put a lot of pressure on us to be the best we can be for all these fishermen. 

What has been the most rewarding aspect about working in a bait shop?

Kim: For me, I think it’s the relationships that I have formed with some of my customers. Sometimes we feel like we’re therapists [laughs]. 

Brenton: A lot of times it just feels like a big family, especially when they’ve been coming here for three years. We’re kind of like the bartender.

Kim: We get to know their families and we know them by name. 

Brenton: My favorite thing about it is seeing the kids. When they come through and are here with their dad. Some of my most favorite times in my life were fishing with my dad, my papa, and seeing the kids come through and getting that experience makes me feel good. It reminds me of when I was younger.

Kim and Brenton Grace in the shop.

I assume y’all have regulars.

Brenton: We do. There’s a lot of people that come through here on a daily basis. Sometimes just to get a couple of shrimp and go catch some bass. Some of them are old-timers that just love to fish, love to be out and about, and don’t really have much else to do. So, you know, we kind of provide them that opportunity. 

As for fishing [on the pier at the shop], they’re more than welcome to fish here anytime they want to. You know, we offer that along with the bait that we offer.

Kim: I have a lot of men who come in and say, “I’m trying to get out of my ‘honey-do,’ list. [laughs]

Brenton: And we have a lot of people come in that are charter fishermen, people that depend on us to have the bait so they can go make money themselves. And they’re a lot of our business. Early morning business, to be exact. We open at 5.30 in the morning. But typically, someone’s here usually around 5:15 a.m.

I’m sure you’ve seen some funny stuff in your time here.

Brenton: There are just a lot of characters. The many times I’ve busted my butt up here, I mean, I can’t even count. 

Kim: Because I take their money, like their own wives do, and they like to pick on me when they see me and they always say, “My bait shop’s wife’s here. Just take my money.” I crack up every time I hear that. 

Brenton: What gets me a lot of the time is the fishing stories. You know it’s just BS with the fishing stories, but you just go along with it because it’s fun, you know?

Are most people fishing the Delta, or the Bay, or is it a random mix?

It’s a mix. Some people come in here and launch and they’ll go up on Bay Minute Creek and go fresh-water fishing for bluegill and crappie. But the majority of people that launch here, they’re looking for flounder and redfish. It all depends on the time of the year.

Usually from mid-September to the end of December is our best time of the year. And I know it gets cold, but there’s some hardcore fishermen out there that know that this is the right time to fish. And they’ll get out there in that cold to catch something worth catching. And that’s a lot of redfish and speckled trout. That’s what we’re waiting on right now, actually. 

Usually the speckled trout are here a little bit earlier, but the fish that have been caught have been really small compared to the actual size that they need to be. So we’ve been waiting for this weather to cool down a little bit and for the water temperature to come down. And hopefully these bigger trout will move on into the river. The redfish are here, though. Same with the sheepshead. You can’t hardly wet a hook without catching the redfish right now [in November]. 

Where are people catching them?

Kim: We try, but they don’t always tell us. 

Brenton: That’s the secret. They don’t always tell us. It’s a little harder to speak it; it’s better to show it. And I can do that with a map. But it’s not that hard, man. You get out there and you learn these waters a little bit and it starts to come naturally. 

How do you feel like the fishing has been this year?

Brenton: We had such a hot summer and a lot of people attributed [the downturn] to that. That was the biggest issue for us this year, because that week that we had so many above-90 degree days … Fish were still being caught, but nobody’s willing to go out there in that heat to do it. So yeah, the fishing was a little worse this summer, but it’s definitely picked up since the weather’s cooled off. 

So in terms of the live shrimp, how many guys do y’all have catching shrimp for y’all? 

Kim: Three guys. And they’re bringing the shrimp in in the mornings. 

Brenton: Usually it’s in between nine and 12 o’clock depending on what time they launch. They can’t drop the nets before daylight. So they get out there as early as possible, and they do what they can do to get us what we need. Right now they’re out in the Blakeley River, right next to us. 

So are they mainly catching white shrimp right now in the late fall?

Brenton: There might be some mixes in there, but it’s mainly white as far as I know. I haven’t seen any other ones. The brownies start off when we start our season in spring and go through the summer.

Is there any difference, you think, in terms of a better bait?

Brenton: Personally, I like the white shrimp better. To me, they tend to stand out a little bit more in the water. But as long as it’s alive, it’s a good thing. If it’s moving, it’s worth having. 

Talk to me about your frozen bait selections.

Brenton: We have a lot of competition when it comes to frozen bait. I mean, you can go to Walmart to get it …  But one thing that we can promise is that it’s not flash-frozen.

When you get flash-frozen shrimp, they tend to break apart. They get soggy and mushy and they don’t work as well in the water. And I’m pretty sure the fish can smell the difference.

Kim: We also sell frozen squid, finger mullet, pogies, cigar minnows, and a lot of times, fresh whole mullet. 

Why is a bait shop important for the community, and why should folks shop here?

Brenton: I mean, you should see how many young kids come through here duck hunting. I mean, if that’s not keeping them out of trouble, I don’t know what is.

Kim: And the memories being made.

Brenton: This place right here is a good place to start if you’re looking to to have fun with your family.

Kim: We have people that launch here that are not going to go fishing, but are going to go up to Gravine Island, or the Bluegill or Oyster House. They like coming here too because we have security cameras, and a lot of the public launches don’t have that. And we know most of these people. And they know they can trust us with their vehicles and everything is going to be fine. 

As you know, our organization is focused on things like clean water and litter reduction. Is litter pollution and clean water something you think about it when you run a bait shop?

Brenton: Yes. One thing that I would like to see us get away from here in the next year is plastic bags. They destroy the water and they get in there without trying. I can’t tell you how many bags I’ve picked up in this parking lot. And it’s not good for anybody. So, hopefully, within a year, we will be able to get rid of that. It shouldn’t be that hard of a process to do.

We’ll switch to the paper bags. Other than that, we’re just trying to be pro-active about the trash, and we make sure that it gets in that dumpster.

We’re definitely on board with this because if we don’t take care of this water, we won’t have this business. And I’m looking for my kids and their kids to be able to enjoy this.

This interview was condensed and edited for length. 


Read More Stories


To receive your copy of CURRENTS every quarter, become a Baykeeper today. Members who give $50 or more are automatically subscribed to our magazine. Just go to: