Family time and fishing

This year is my eighth ICAST and for the past four or five, it’s been a good opportunity to blend some much-needed family time with the business side of professional fishing.

My wife and I and our three daughters flew into Orlando Saturday night and spent Sunday on the East Coast where we did some offshore fishing. We didn’t end up catching a whole lot, but the water was incredibly clear, so the girls enjoyed snorkeling.

Now, we’ve had our years where we did the theme parks during our ICAST trip and that was fun, but this year, we intentionally kept it loose and didn’t get too heavy on the scheduling. I think that’s really helping us enjoy our time together. 

It’s always important for us to have this quality time, but this year is especially important because it’s our last hurrah before the home stretch of the Elite season. In fact, when ICAST is over, my family will fly home and I’ll go directly to the Elite event on the St. Lawrence River.

I’m trying to make the most of this week because this will be the last time we’re all together before school starts. This fall, my oldest daughter goes off to college and everybody’s going to be busy with their different activities, so it’s nice to have this week to enjoy some family time. 

I’m doing my best to keep the evenings open so we can all go to dinner together each night, but starting Tuesday, I have a pretty heavy schedule of meetings with my different sponsors. We’ll hear about strategies for increasing sales in the coming years and we’ll get a look at some of the new items in the works for next year.

A lot of people may not realize it, but what the public is going to see this week, we’ve had in our hands for most of this year. We’ve been using these products in tournaments, evaluating their performance and giving our input on how to improve their performance.

A lot of these items will become available to the public this fall, but in some cases, we’re looking at products that may be two to three years from their scheduled release. That being said, I can say that, from what I’ve seen, ICAST will debut some great new products for anglers to try.

The funny thing is, after ICAST each year, people always ask me what I saw and what I liked. Well, in all the years I’ve been to this show, I probably haven’t spent 20 minutes just looking and shopping. My days have been booked start-to-finish for several weeks, so once I arrive on Wednesday, it’s nearly nonstop through Friday.

Each sponsor is different, in terms of what they need, but my ICAST schedule kind of looks like a doctor’s. I go to one sponsor for maybe 30 mins, another for an hour, then back to another one for another hour. It’s a strict schedule, so I do my best to be where I’m supposed to be at the exact time because there’s probably a film crew or a media person there waiting on me. 

Most of my sponsors try to get a lot of video and audio done for future marketing uses, so there’s not a lot of standing-around time. But I like this part of the job because it keeps me engaged and the days go by quickly so I can spend more time with my family.

Once this week is over, it’s back to tournament mode. I can honestly say that I’m truly looking forward to this northern swing because we’re heading to four of the nation’s best fisheries, and they’re all chock full of smallmouth.

The northern swing will also be a nice change from summer in the South. In Florida and back home in Oklahoma, you step outside and it’s sweltering, but during my recent trip to Michigan, I got a preview of what the next four events will be like. 

Jeans, a sweatshirt and big smallmouth — that’s my kind of fishing.