ICAST spools up for Orlando show

Posted on Written by Bill Sisson

Bill SissonSportfishing interests from around the world will converge in Orlando, Fla., July 11-14 for the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show, widely known as ICAST. If your business has any connection to the hook, line and sinker set, this is the show to attend.

The world’s largest sportfishing trade show, ICAST has been growing steadily since the Great Recession. “We are in Orlando for the fourth year in a row, and we’ve seen 50 percent growth over those four years in attendance and revenue,” says Glenn Hughes, vice president of industry relations for the American Sportfishing Association. “Florida is the fishing capital of the world, and it appears that the fishing-boat market continues to be the fastest-growing category” in terms of new-boat sales.

Last year’s show was a record, with 14,500 attendees and about 552 ICAST exhibitors spread out over the Orange County Convention Center, Hughes says. This year’s show sold out of space in March with more than 570 ICAST exhibitors, more if you count the companies in the marine pavilion and the fly-fishing section of the show. Registration, including retailers, is also trending ahead of last year, Hughes notes.

ICAST also has a new trade show director this year. Blake Swango joins the ASA from the National Association of Home Builders, where he gained extensive trade show experience with its international builders show. “Fishing has always been a part of my life,” Swango said in a statement. “I look forward to bringing more than a decade of my experience in the trade show industry to ICAST’s ongoing success.”

Highlights of this year’s ICAST include four events on Tuesday, July 11: the On the Water demo day; the Bass & Birdies Classic, a golf and fishing tournament presented by Florida Sportsman; and the ICAST Cup — Industry Bass Fishing Tournament presented by FLM. The popular New Product Showcase Preview Reception sponsored by Fishing Tackle Retailer begins at 5 p.m. Visit icastfishing.org for more details.

The state of the industry breakfast, presented by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, will be held the following morning, Wednesday, July 12, at 7:30. The keynote speaker is Convince & Convert founder Jay Baer, who is a venture capitalist, technology adviser and business strategist. The doors to the exhibition halls open at 9 a.m.

We all know there is a strong relationship between fishing and boating. Studies have shown that fishing is one of the primary reasons people take to the water in boats. More than half of the boats sold are used primarily for fishing, a figure that goes up another 25 percent when you take into account boats occasionally used for fishing.

To that point, this will be the second consecutive year that ICAST is working with the NMMA to host the Marine Accessories Pavilion, which had about 40 exhibitors of marine aftermarket products in 2016. And it will be the fifth year that ICAST has been held in conjunction with the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show, produced by the American Fly Fishing Trade Association.

Boating and fishing share a number of synergies, as well as challenges. Both industries are wrestling with ways to attract younger participants to replace their core constituencies, who are fast aging.

The RBFF is spearheading what it calls a “60 in 60” initiative. The goal is to increase the number of recreational anglers to 60 million in 60 months. There are about 45 million fishing participants in this country. A key element of the strategy is called R3 — shorthand for recruitment, retention and reactivation. Look for more on this initiative at ICAST.

“We are working closely with the RBFF and the states to engage manufacturers, retailers and media to get involved with growing participation,” Hughes says. “We must continue to expose kids from 6 to 17 to fishing. If they don’t fish by this age, there is a strong chance they never will.”

One of my early memories is leaning over a seawall, my mother with a tight grip on the waistband of my shorts, and me reaching, with all of a toddler’s might, for the small silver fish flitting in the water just out of reach.

As a boy, I fished with curiosity and excitement for cunners, winter flounder, tinker mackerel and snapper blues. None are glamorous species, but they were pathway fish — perfect for a kid. I remember catching tinkers off a town dock when one of the trio of charter boats that sailed from there returned from a trip.

The captain tossed a couple of hefty striped bass onto the docks. My friends and I circled around with a dozen questions: Where did you get them, Capt. Prent? What were they hitting? What’s the big one weigh?

You blink your eyes, and you’re 20 years older, you own your own boat now and you’re fishing the same reefs old Prent used to work. That’s the way it works, folks. Start them young.

This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue.

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