Each year, the American Sportfishing Association hosts the fishing industry's largest trade show, called ICAST. From across the globe, manufacturers, sales reps, buyers and dealers all meet at a given location to work toward a common goal, and that's to bring new products and services to market.
This year's show was held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. More than 100,000 square feet of showroom space was packed to the rafters with everything imaginable related to fishing. Rods, reels, lures, electronics, clothing, sunglasses — you name it, it was there.
In addition to the many media types who attend, a large number of touring pros were also on hand — some representing their sponsors, others shopping for new ones. It was a hectic time, as attendance was way up. So much so, in fact, it was touted by many as the best show in 15 years! Every aisle stayed busy throughout the three-day event.
For all the regulars who attend, ICAST is not only a great place to catch up with old friends and industry contacts, it's the place to see what's new.
Throughout the show, I represent my sponsors by working directly with the buyers and media, relating design concepts and practical applications for their newest products. Having worked the show for so many years, I've developed strong bonds with many of the reps and buyers, and media too — including contacts in TV, radio, the Internet, and a variety of print publications. All of them serve an important role in spreading the word on new products and services, and my job is to help them deliver the message.
The first day was crazy. From the time the doors opened till they closed again, I was bouncing from booth to booth showing off all the new stuff. Amazingly, several Internet sites were publishing photos and info on these new products as fast as I could describe them. Talk about real-time reporting!
Some scheduled appointments, others just winged it. It was nonstop. And at ICAST, busy is always good!
Although I had almost no free time, I did manage a brief visit to the New Product Showcase, where manufacturers enter their latest creations hoping to gain additional exposure. As part of the Showcase, awards are given to those products that best represent their respective categories, such as Best Freshwater Rod, Best Saltwater Reel, and so on.
Among the standouts was this year's Best New Marine Accessory, the Power-Pole Drift Paddle. Introduced by JL Marine Systems, the Drift Paddle is designed to slow your boat's drift speed by as much as 50 percent — eliminating the need for cumbersome drift socks. Even more impressive is how they managed to make the paddles so user-friendly. By pulling a simple pin, the paddle adjusts to seven different positions, which enables the user to control the direction of his drift. Pull another pin and the entire unit is easily removed for storage.
That makes two in a row for Power-Pole — they also took top honors last year with their Signature Series Blade, a wireless 10-foot Power-Pole with increased response and control.
Another item that caught the eye of the judges was Costa Del Mar's new 580P Sunrise lens. This super-lightweight, impact resistant lens allows maximum light transmission and enhanced depth perception to cut glare and allow anglers to see through the water more clearly under low light levels. It also provides added impact protection against flying objects, such as heavy flipping weights.
The next time you're dealing with low light levels, brighten the view, safely, with Costa's 580P Sunrise lenses. They're available in a multitude of frame styles.
Among my personal picks for best new products was Rapala's BX Swimmer and Minnow. Talk about technology! Their design engineers discovered a way to encase balsawood inside an impact-resistant, clear plastic shell.
The BX Swimmer features a slow sinking, jointed body and shallow diving lip, which force the lure to swim in an exaggerated side-to-side motion. The BX Minnow offers the same diving lip, but in a one-piece body. Both are beautifully detailed in a variety of lifelike finishes, and there's no doubt they'll be an instant hit with swimbait fans.
Speaking of cool lures, wait till you see the new PsychoDad soft-plastic crawdad by Kinami. Designed by western "punching" guru, Bub Tosh, the PsychoDad is a small crawdad designed for flipping in thick cover. It features enhanced, round claws that actually paddle as the lure swims. It's also the only craw with a built-in rattle chamber big enough to hold a 7mm rattle — designed so that it won't fall out. The PsychoDad is molded with additional plastic at the "tail" to match the diameter of larger flipping weights and for secure rigging to straight-shank flipping hooks that utilize the new-style keepers.
For rod builders big and small, Fuji finally brought out their highly anticipated KR Concept Guides. Designed to accommodate both spinning and baitcasting style blanks, these new guides are the product of more than two years of development and testing.
To aid rod builders in the application of these new guides, Anglers Resource (Fuji's North American Distributor) has developed tutorials and animated software which can be accessed free of charge on their website.
If this year's show is any indication of what lies ahead, I'd say the fishing industry is in pretty good shape. Not only did ICAST set new attendance records, it showcased some of the most innovative products brought to market in years.
Throughout the show, there was an obvious air of optimism. Manufacturers and reps were glowing from the attention of buyers, and the media captured it all.
Considering the increased interest and demand, I'm sure manufacturers are now left with the task of ramping up production. And that's a very good thing. The fishing industry needed a shot in the arm.
Leaving ICAST, I experienced the same renewed feeling I had after the Green Bay Elite Series event — finally, things appear to be back on track!