The fishing world reeled in millions of new anglers in 2020, and one mission of ICAST 2021 is to help assure they do not go away, said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association that puts on the show.
ICAST, the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, brings industry representatives together each July for the world’s largest recreational fishing convention in Orlando, Fla. There are manufacturers, retailers, buyers and media, all working to bring the latest innovations to consumers.
Due to COVID, last year’s show was virtual, and Hughes was excited to get the gang back together this week. Although down a small percentage, there will be 10,000 attendees, 450 exhibitors, more than 2,200 retailers and 500 media members.
“We were thrilled to get together at the Bassmaster Classic — loved seeing the crowds,” Hughes said. “So this is the first trade show in two years to get together, and everybody is very excited. There’s huge opportunity for growth in all segments.”
ICAST’s presenting sponsor is Takemefishing.org, and the major mission this year is to keep people fishing. During the pandemic, throngs discovered boating and fishing as a perfect social distancing activity. License sales boomed and shelves emptied. As awful as the pandemic was, it was actually a boon for the fishing industry.
“We surveyed our retailers, and 80% said fishing business was up 40% in 2020,” said Hughes, noting it would have been better if some states hadn’t shut down stores and fishing longer than others. “The federal excise tax collected from all the sport fishing manufacturers in fiscal 2020, ending Sept. 30, increased 54% over 2019. The revenue collected by the federal government for the Sport Fish Restoration fund was $209 million, a huge increase. That gives you an idea of how much more fishing tackle was sold in the U.S. in 2020.”
Excise taxes of 3% to 10% are placed on most all fishing items, and that money is targeted to improve fishery projects and boating access. There were some 55 million who fished in 2020, Hughes said, including more children, women and multicultural families. And they needed to gear up. They bought tackle. Lots of it. Demand outstripped supply and/or the supply chain.
“They’re catching up, finally,” Hughes said. “Manufacturers are doing well. The business is still doing well. Business was so good that what they are doing might not be 2020 good, but it’s still better than 2019.”