It's been a while since the last Elite Series tournament, and there are still a couple of weeks before the next one. You might think of this month as a "down time" in my world, but that's just not true. It's actually one of the busiest times of year for me and other bass pros.
A got to spend the weekend in Memphis at "Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid." The place is so big and so amazing that words don't do it justice. And although I've put a couple of photos with this column, they can't really give you an idea of the scope of the place. If you ever find yourself near Memphis, you need to check it out.
When I arrived at the Memphis airport, I was picked up by some folks at Bass Pro Shops and went straight to the Pyramid. I spent the next four hours there and didn't see even a third of it. When you walk in the door, it seems like there's water everywhere. A lot of the customer aisles are boat docks and piers. You can step onto pontoon boats that are floating in the middle of the store.
I saw a 7-foot sturgeon and a 6-foot paddlefish. A school of sand bass swam by under my feet as I walked. There was a longnose gar cornering a school of bluegill next to a 100-foot-tall cypress that's inside the store! I even saw an alligator in one pool. It was amazing.
And everywhere there were people. The Bass Pro folks told me that 30,000 would come through the store that day. But the crowd was different from most tackle stores. Not all of them were there to pick up plastic worms and crankbaits for their next fishing trip. A lot of them were dressed up and obviously out on dates. They were there for the spectacle of the Pyramid … and with good reason.
Next stop: ICAST
On Tuesday I fly to Orlando for ICAST, sportfishing's biggest trade show. I look forward to the show, but for a lot of people in the industry — including my sponsors and other exhibitors — it's a hectic and crazy time. More than 500 companies will exhibit their latest products in hopes that media will find their stuff worth covering and that buyers (wholesalers and retailers; ICAST is not open to consumers) will place big orders.
By now, I think everyone reading this has an idea of what fishing pros do at ICAST. We talk with media and buyers about the new products and try to offer insights into why the products we promote are worthy of their attention. But for me, ICAST is a lot more than that and a lot more interesting.
The show is one of my few chances each year to spend time with some of my sponsors. Yes, we're busy at ICAST, but there's usually a little time to catch up or talk shop at breakfast, dinner or between appointments. It's some of the most enjoyable time of the year for that reason.
I'll be splitting my time between Megabass, Lowrance, Wiley-X, Wild River and Mustad. In fact, the Lowrance folks are picking me up at the airport and taking me straight to a private lake that's supposed to have some giant largemouths. They'll be showing me the latest in their electronics before we show them to the world at our Wednesday morning press conference.
The rest of my sponsors have their own product launches, most of which you'll be able to follow right here on Bassmaster.com. I'll start the show in the Megabass booth (#2649) with Megabass USA vice president Yuskei Murayama. He's the company's bridge between the great products Megabass makes in Japan and the tremendous bass fishing market here. It's a critical role, and he does a great job.
Next I'll get to spend some time with Ray Hill, Director of Outdoor Sales for Wiley X (#923). It's easy to promote products that are as good as the eyewear made by Wiley X, and I'm proud to be part of the team.
From there, I'm headed to the Lowrance press conference. Then, on Wednesday afternoon, I'll be in the Wild River booth (#2379) with my friend Steve Phillips, VP of Sales and Marketing. Wild River makes the latest in tackle storage, including tackle bags that will play your iPod or charge your cell phone. Steve and I have become great friends, and I keep telling him I'm going to take him fishing because he lives not too far from me in Missouri. I haven't done it yet, but I will. Steve, I promise!
Late Thursday, I'll be with Steve Tagami, Sales Director for Mustad. We've got some great hooks coming out for the bass market that I know are going to be a big hit. They're already a big hit with me.
If you're coming to ICAST, I hope to see you there. And if you're not, maybe you can follow along through Bassmaster.com.
By the way, bidding opened this week for my next "Healing Heroes in Action Tour" trip. This one will take place on St. Francis Lake (part of the St. Lawrence Seaway) on July 25. Bidding closes at noon on July 20. The top bidder and a friend will go out on the water (in the bidder's own boat or one arranged for at the site) and compete with me and the selected veteran on Saturday, July 25.
The prize package for the winning bidder is pretty impressive. It includes a Lowrance HD Elite 7, a $200 gift card to Bass Pro Shops, a tackle bag and solar pack (to keep your cell phone charged or your iPod playing) from Wild River, a selection of Megabass, Zoom and War Eagle lures, some Mustad hooks, a pair of Wiley X sunglasses, a Pelican cooler and some Antler King products. The prize pack alone would retail for well over $2,000, but you get a great on-the-water experience, too. Best of all, you're doing a great thing for our veterans. You can place your bid on my Facebook page.