Steve Bowman photo bombs a photo of Don Barone and Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens angler Jim Root.
Every year for the past four or five years there's been a poker tournament at ICAST -- mostly when the show is in Las Vegas, but I heard a rumor that they were playing last night. It's sponsored by one of the manufacturers (I won't say which one, but don't forget me next year! You know who you are.), and I used to get an invitation to play. It's a big industry event, and sometimes they get a couple of hundred players.
It's a fun tournament. The entry fee is modest and the players are all fishing types, but the poker is beyond terrible. Lots of the players have never played before and have no idea what they're doing at the table.
I love poker and play every chance I get, and while it might seem like beating a bunch of novices would be easy, it's not. In that respect, poker is not at all like fishing. A novice poker player is dangerous. He or she doesn't know enough to fold 27o -- or even what 27o means! They play it, catch a miracle straight or flush and crack your pocket aces, sending you muttering into the night.
Still, it's fun, and it's fun to interact with other folks in the industry in a different environment.
I didn't get a notice about the game this year. I'd like to think it was because of my impressive 5th place finish (just inside the money) in Las Vegas a few years ago, but it may have just been an oversight. Either way, I'll be looking forward to the next one and hope I get to play.
Friends are great ... the best. They're ready to help you at a moment's notice and you're always happy to see them, but at a show like ICAST, the irony is that friends can be your biggest obstacle to getting stuff done ... and the more of these things you attend over the years, the more people you meet and the more friends you make.
A typical ICAST encounter goes something like this as two friends (who haven't seen each other since the last ICAST or maybe the Bassmaster Classic Expo) pass in the aisles.
"Hey man, great to see you! How have you been?"
"Good, what about you?"
"No complaints. Just heading over to [insert exhibitor name here]."
"Yeah, you need to check out their new [insert new product name here]. It's great [or it sucks or you won't believe how far off the tracks they've gone this year]."
"I heard about that. That's what I want to check out."
"Well, I'll let you go. I'm sure we'll have time to catch up sometime this week. Give me a call."
But of course, they never see each other again on the floor and they won't ... until next year's ICAST.
It's a tradition.
One of the trends that's clearly sweeping the industry actually began many years ago, but it's got a full head of steam now. I'm talking about the need for speed -- not with outboard motors, but with fishing reels. It dates me, but when I bought my first casting reel at the age of 14 in 1976, a high gear ratio meant 5:1 ... and you needed a special after-market kit (from Gator Grip, I think) to get that! My first casting reel was an Ambassadeaur 5000D. It was (is) green, and the "D" stood (stands) for direct drive. If you cranked, it overrode the drag system and became an honest to goodness winch. I still have the reel, and it still works great, but at 3.5:1 it's excrutiatingly slow.
Abu Garcia and their Ambassadeur series was the first to crack 5:1, and I think Daiwa was the first to break the 7:1 "barrier" in the 1980s (they blistered right past 6:1 like it wasn't even there -- now it's more or less the default among anglers). Today's reels, and most particularly the flippin' and pitching models, are almost universally faster than 7:1 and they're climbing toward 10:1 -- a ratio almost three times quicker than my beloved old green Ambassadeur (which I keep clamped to an original fiberglass Fenwick Flippin' Stik, if anyone's interested). Where does it end? I'll have a story for you on that in the next few days.
First, though, I need to walk a few miles of exhibitor booths at the ICAST show.
Les Douglas has been manufacturing fish pins for 25 years, all out of his studio in Bremerton, Wash.
“Pins are the No. 1 collectible in the world,” said Douglas. “People often buy our pins as souvenirs from different fishing trips.”
All the pins made by Creative Pewter Designs are 100 percent made in the U.S.A., a fact that is proclaimed on all of Douglas’ promotional pieces.
Russ Lane shows off his Big Bite BB Kicker.
Ott DeFoe show his new Terminator colors.