Offseason meet and greets

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Here are some of the pros who attend Gary's Annual Customer Appreciation Day. Included (L-R) are Peter Thliveros, Pat Pierce, Jeff Fitts, Tony Davis, Darrell Pons, Wayne Black, Terry Scroggins, Shaw Grigsby, Gary Simpson and yours truly.

When you hear an Elite Series angler mention the phrase “offseason,” don’t be fooled. There’s really no such thing. Even when we’re not on tour, we’re prepping and planning for the tournaments ahead … that is, if we’re not fulfilling an obligation to a sponsor or making public appearances.

During the holiday season, many pros are asked to attend in-store promotions for various retail tackle and marine dealers. If you’ve ever attended one of these promotions, you probably met a touring pro there. Maybe I was there and was lucky enough to meet you.

Some of these promotions are grand openings. Others are annual events. And while both can be fun, it’s the perennials that I like best. They provide an opportunity to reconnect with people you’ve already met and perhaps developed relationships with — particularly at those events that have been held for many years.

This offseason, I attended two such events in my home state of Florida, and both were rewarding for different reasons.

Gary’s Tackle Box

Every year on Black Friday, my hometown tackle shop hosts its “Annual Customer Appreciation Day.” Although the event is intended to recognize and reward customer loyalty, it’s actually much more than that. It’s a homecoming.

Anglers from across North Florida gather at this event to share their stories and reconnect with old friends. Included are some of the sport’s biggest names. Guys like former Elite Series pros, Peter Thliveros, Terry Scroggins, Preston Clark and Shaw Grigsby, as well as up-and-coming pros Tim Frederick, Tony Davis and Jeff Fitts. Saltwater redfish pros Bryan and Greg Watts also attend. It’s a who’s who of Florida fishing personalities.