Excitement at ICAST

This will be my sixth consecutive year of attending ICAST as a professional angler, and I’m just as excited as ever. This is the sport-fishing industry’s biggest show, and it always delivers a great opportunity for professional networking, along with a look at all the new products.

Every year, companies strive to bring out the latest and greatest in their categories. Some will be a bust, but some will truly become game changers. Power-Pole is a great example of a company that brought something truly unique to the industry many years ago and now their products are all over the industry.

I think that’s what makes this show so interesting — you just never know when that next game changer will arrive. Like any other angler, I’m curious about what will work a what will not work, so I’m anxious to get a look at the new products and then get out on the water to test them. 

As far as my role in ICAST, I will be there primarily to work for my sponsors. I’m fortunate to have the support of several great companies that believe in me, so it’s my duty to help them succeed in their marketing efforts.

I think there’s often a misconception about what it means to be a professional fisherman. Catching fish is certainly important, but so is sponsor support and that’s something I take great pride in doing.

Unlike the Bassmaster Classic Expo, which is a consumer show, ICAST is only for buyers and the media. It’s my job to interact with both for the purpose of explaining the features and benefits of my sponsors’ new products.

The goal is to promote sales and to generate media coverage that will benefit my sponsors. Doing so takes preparation and product study, so Garmin recently held a conference call with its pro staffers to give us all the details and talking points for the new trolling motor that will be introduced this week.

When it comes to building sponsor relationships, I view ICAST as my chance to give more so than to get. I’ve had some of the Elite rookies ask me what to expect from ICAST, and it seems like some might think that you can go to this show and load up on new sponsorships. But, for me, that’s not what it’s about.

For me it’s about going in there with 100 percent professionalism and representing the sponsors that have already committed to supporting me. A lot of that entails shooting new product videos and being a good spokesman for the brand.

What I tell young anglers is that our job is half fisherman and half promoter. If you can do both parts well, you’ll have a solid career.

One thing about ICAST that folks might find interesting is that planning for this show can be a lot like breaking down a new lake. When I’m trying to figure out where to fish, I start by studying a lake map because this gives me the reference I need for deciding where to go and how to get there. 

I usually work 30 minutes to an hour in each sponsor booth and I don’t have a lot of time between each shift, so I need to move efficiently. It seems like every year, the show gets bigger and more spread out; so before leaving home, I get a layout of where my sponsors are located.

These companies do a lot to keep me moving forward as a professional fisherman, so it’s important for me to be on time and do this part of my job well.