As a professional angler, I have two basic jobs. The first is pretty obvious — fishing. The second is harder to see, but just as important. You'll often hear us refer to it as "the business side of the sport."
The business side encompasses everything we do that does not revolve around the actual catching of fish. It's finding and landing sponsors, supporting sponsors and understanding the needs and concerns of our sponsors' customers. This is where ICAST comes in and benefits me as a professional angler.
ICAST is one of the rare times when pro anglers get to meet face to face with sponsors, outdoor writers, reps, distributors and retailers all at the same time and place. It's unique and presents a unique opportunity to take the pulse of our industry.
Some of the best information is what I obtain from the retailers. While I learn from every retailer, it seems that the independent retailers really have a keen insight into what the typical angler and consumer wants. They hear firsthand from their customers what they want in products and services.
Sitting down with the sponsors, their sales staff, their development staff and their marketing staff helps keep me focused on how I can help them most. I am essentially an employee of theirs, and since I spend most of my time on the water or on the road to get to the next event it's hard to keep up to speed on how I can be most effective.
Meeting outdoor communicators is just as important. These are key contacts that help me assist my sponsors and retailers. They're also the conduits to share fishing knowledge with the weekend anglers and future pros of our sport. Getting to spend a few moments with these folks is a valuable part of the show.
ICAST is a must attend for professional anglers, not for finding new products but to develop the business side of our profession. One thing that impressed me was the number of high school and college anglers in attendance. Hopefully, they were there building relationships that will be important to them someday. Looking at my sponsor list, I would say that about a quarter of them are with companies I met for the first time at an ICAST show. With the next generation of pros already thinking about the business aspects of fishing, our sport is in good hands.
As for the show and the products, congratulations to JL Marine (Power-Pole) for the Best of Show award. They won for both the best Fishing Accessory and overall Best of Show as well. Their awards are well deserved. I know I value my Power-Poles every time I launch my boat.
Costa also won an award. They won Best Eyewear for the Tuna Alley glasses. Costa is another product I value on and off the water to protect my eyes.
Some other products I'd like to mention include the new TroKar drop-shot hook. This hook will be a big player for me during the final two events of the Elite Series this year. Drop shotting should be a factor at both events, and I think the new hook will be a key addition for me.
Tightlines UV introduced the new Bubba Craw jig trailer, and while I've been using it for a while, it was well received by the retailers at the show. An interesting note is the overall improvement in the response retailers are having to the Tightlines product line. Dealers are getting asked for it more and more as weekend anglers continue to learn about the advantages of UV-enhanced baits.
Mesu Baits also showcased several new products including my flutter spoon that I designed exactly like the modified one I won the 2012 Toledo Bend Elite event with. Along with the flutter spoon they showed off the new Raptor Swim jig. All in all, Mesu is coming out with some great new products that fisherman are using to catch more fish.
Lastly, I wanted to mention the Triton Boats dealer meetings going on this week. Since I'm not there and haven't heard about the new boat coming out for 2014, I'm anxiously keeping an eye on their Facebook and web pages to find out the details. Maybe I'll get a chance to report on the new boat next week, but for now I don't know enough details to share.