It's that time of year when there are boat and tackle shows all around the country. If you haven't kept an eye on the industry closely, a good sized show can be overwhelming. New boats, motors, tackle, apparel and every kind of accessory you can imagine will be there. I have some advice for visiting the show as a consumer and as an up-and-coming angler looking to advance in the industry.
There are some great things about a show for just about every level of angler. For people looking for or considering buying new boats, it is a great place to meet all the dealers from the area without driving all over the place. You can visit with each of them, check out the latest and greatest boats and motors and start to build a relationship. Be sure to research the boats and motors beforehand so when you get there you will know what to ask and which boats and dealers to check out.
Visiting the show twice is a great idea not only for new boat seekers, but also for anglers wanting to improve their abilities. Most shows are chock full of great speakers, and you can learn a lot from them. I know I have some great memories from shows in the past, listening to guys like KVD, Brauer, the Hibdons, Mark Davis and David Fritts. I was lucky because the Kansas City Boat Show always featured either the reigning Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year or Bassmaster Classic champion every year. This year I am excited to be a featured speaker at the Kansas City show. Many of the things I will be talking about will be things I learned sitting in the same building many years ago.
The one thing I'd like to warn consumers about is trying too many new things at once. I suggest after leaving the show with all the latest and greatest products, put some of them away for a bit. Pick out one or two and get out on the water and really spend some time getting familiar with them. Heading out on to the lake with a boat full of new stuff and trying to figure it all out in a single outing never works well. I've done it, and I am sure some of you have as well. It's an easy trap to fall into because we are all excited about new techniques, new equipment and new bait types, but overloading on new may be detrimental to a recreational angler's fishing. To get really adept with a bait, a technique or anything for that matter, you need to take the time to figure it out and learn the intimate details of it.
Up and coming pros
As an angler who wants to make tournament fishing a career, trade shows offer some great opportunities. While I advise against presenting résumés and asking for sponsorships at the show, it's a great way to meet a lot of people within the industry in one place. It's a great time to check out a company's products and get to know the vision of the company. Understanding a company's product and what they want to do with it is very important. It's nearly impossible to represent a brand or company without knowing, using and liking their product and their people. This is where you can begin that process.
It's also a great opportunity to devote your time to help some companies. I think if you took all of the pros on tour —past and present —we've probably totaled hundreds of thousands of hours working at trade shows. It's hard to imagine how much work is being done to make these trade shows happen. Check with your local boat dealer and see how you can help. I've done everything from delivering the boats to the halls to wiping them down and making them look good on display. By stepping up and helping the exhibitors, you can create relationships that will help you in the future. Obviously, be sure to offer the help before you start actually helping.
The best part about trade show season is that it means fishing season is just around the corner. Many of us have been cooped up in the house or out in a tree stand for months, and getting out there and talking fishing gets us all fired up to get back out on the water. I'll be speaking at several shows this year starting this week in Kansas City. Hope to see you there!