As a board member on the American Sportfishing Association, B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin says the organization’s functions are various, although its trade show this week is most certainly its flagship event.
“The main mission of ASA is rudimentary fishing affairs and lobbying efforts,” Akin said of the nonprofit trade association that boasts 800 members. “ICAST is another part of it, and it’s more of a fundraising function.”
Basically, the ASA rallies forces behind various lobbying efforts important to its members.
“As a trade association, the ASA’s purpose is to promote the business of its members, which are primarily manufacturers, but it includes media, conservation groups and retailers. It’s really all the sport fishing world and all the things that go along with that — access, things like Keep America Fishing.”
There were more than 15,000 attendees from 71 countries at last year’s ICAST, which filled around 650,000 square feet of floor space in the North/South Building of the Orange County Convention Center. The industry-only show, which features the largest brand names alongside one-man start-up companies, returns this week, July 9-12.
“Because we bring so many in our industry to a single location, manufacturers exhibit their entire product lines,” said Blake Swango, ASA’s vice president for Trade Show and Membership. “Companies also tailor product launch schedules especially for ICAST’s New Product Showcase. It all adds up to great opportunities if you’re a buyer or a media member looking for new products and new stories.”
Besides acres of displays and business dealings, companies submit their latest products to the New Product Showcase, sponsored by Fishing Tackle Retailer. Media and buyers then review and vote on the best new products in each of 29 categories, then one Best of Show.
Companies take pride in being recognized in the industry, and winning products can create quite a windfall, somewhat similar to what happens with winnings baits after Elite events and the Bassmaster Classic.
“ICAST is the annual gathering point for the entire sportfishing industry,” ASA President Glenn Hughes said. “We bring together more manufacturers, buyers and media than any other sportfishing trade event in the world. That means more new products, more business opportunities, more media coverage and incredible networking possibilities for everyone who attends.”
Akin said B.A.S.S., which has been ASA members for years, sends a large crew to ICAST each year. Bassmaster.com has already featured a preview photo gallery showing off hot new products, and the media crew will be in full swing to report on the latest and greatest from the showroom floor.
“A lot of the people there are customers of ours,” Akin said. “Probably our biggest participation is communications. We use Bassmaster and all our vehicles to promote various announcements. We will engage our members if there’s a political issue like the Modern Fish Act. We sent out emails for all our members to contact their congressman.”
The ASA holds one of its three annual board meetings at ICAST. The others are the week of the Bassmaster Classic and the ASA Summit. While the Classic Expo invites fans to visit booths, ICAST is where the industry gets together to help decide what consumers might be buying in the coming months.
Media outlets, including the Daily Limit, work to provide B.A.S.S. fans what those products might just be.
“That’s a big part of ICAST, getting media there and getting promotion for their products,” Akin said. “In all, the ASA is all about promoting issues that affect those who are in the sport fishing business.”