Welcome to ICAST, 2018
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire
Today is the opener of the world’s largest fishing tackle show, the annual ICAST show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. (Yeah, I know–Orlando in July? In air-you-can-wear, gnats-big-as-rats July? The alternative is Vegas, where it “cools down” to 99 at night in July if you get lucky, so Florida is good, also closer to the huge southeast bass market buyers.)
Actually, today is more like some initial throat-clearing before things get down to brass tacks tomorrow through Friday.
The events for today are geared more towards getting us all into ICAST mode; there’s a bass tournament where media anglers fish with some noted pros on Lake Toho hosted by our partner publication Fishing Tackle Retailer, a golf tournament hosted by Florida Sportsman for those more inclined to chase golfs than largemouths, and a hands-on event at the lake behind the north hall called On the Water, where many of us will show our ability to throw backlashes with baitcasters or tie wind-knots in fly leaders.
More importantly, starting at 5 p.m. the annual New Product Showcase opens, the annual beauty pageant of the industry (no swimsuit competition this year–now it’s all about the talent). Getting your product named a “Best in Class” or ideally “Best in Show” means lots of sales, and so there’s a good bit of campaigning both before and during the show for the votes from the media and buyers. (At issue for all of us voting is that there are now so many entries in some of the categories that it’s virtually impossible to really give them each a careful, comparative review–but we do our best.)
And all of us in attendance will see hundreds of familiar faces, shake a whole lot of hands, spread a whole lot of industry scuttlebutt, and hopefully discover some actually new and exciting gear among all the “exciting color changes” and “brand new sizes”.
One likely bull-session topic this year will likely be the burgeoning trade war with China. Large contingents from China always attend, and if you took all the tackle built in China under American brand names out of the show, the hall would be decimated. How that high-stakes poker game plays out will surely affect not only the tackle industry but the boating industry as well in coming months.
Also important for many in the industry, there are near-continuous free seminars from some of the top names in retail and merchandising that can help the small business, i.e. back porch lure makers, rod builders, small tackle shop owners and the like, to thrive.
As Friday afternoon rolls around, the business of business will have been conducted, and the fishing tackle all of us will be seeing in the catalogs, on line and in the brick and mortar stores for the next 12 months will have been ordered.
And (at last!) the foot-weary, bleary-eyed road warriors will break down the sometimes massive exhibits–a total of more than 1200 of them–the buyers will wrap up their order sheets, the scribes will begin sorting through enough media kits to sink a bass boat and the professional angler personalities will go back to what they love doing most, fishing.
And a lot of smart attendees will be going over in their minds what worked, what did not, and what they’ll plan to do better when they come back next year.
We’ll have a closer look at some of the products that caught our eye in the days ahead.