A fish story still growing

ICAST has doubled in size over the past five years and this year’s show promises to be even bigger
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About 50 exhibitors displayed rods, reels and other gear at last year’s ICAST On The Water event at Big Toho Marina in Kissimmee.

About 50 exhibitors displayed rods, reels and other gear at last year’s ICAST On The Water event at Big Toho Marina in Kissimmee.

Organizers of ICAST — the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show — are expecting a record turnout this year as their collaboration with the marine industry strengthens.

“This is going to be the biggest and most relevant show we have ever had,” says Kenneth Andres, director of the show, which is owned and operated by the American Sportfishing Association.

ICAST will be held July 12-15 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., simultaneously with the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show, produced by the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. ICAST is the largest sportfishing show in the world.

Communications and brand strategist and avid angler Ken Schmidt, former director of communications strategy for the Harley-Davidson Motor Co., will deliver this year’s keynote speech at the state of the industry breakfast on Wednesday, July 13.

During the past five years the show has doubled in the number of attendees and floor space, says Andres. In 2011, 6,900 people attended. “We’re shooting for around 14,000, which would be up 1,250 from last year, and last year, I should mention, was a record year, also.”

This year, the show includes 650,000 gross square feet of floor space — up from 350,000 since 2011. That includes space used by ICAST, as well as IFTD and the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “As the show has grown in size and become more relevant we’ve been able to attract a more diverse buying group, which includes the marine industry,” says Andres. “Boating and fishing go together. The idea is to grow boating and fishing industries in this trade show. We’re better together than apart.”

Frank Peterson, president of the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, will talk about his group’s initiatives to attract more people to the sport.

Frank Peterson, president of the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, will talk about his group’s initiatives to attract more people to the sport.

A symbiotic relationship

The ASA has partnered with the NMMA to have about 50 exhibitors in its Marine Accessories Pavilion. “Our relationship with the marine industry simply makes sense, considering that more than 50 percent of boats are used for fishing,” says Glenn Hughes, ASA vice president of industry relations.

The NMMA is describing the pavilion, which will be near the New Product Showcase on the show floor, as “a must-visit for buyers, dealers, retailers and distributors seeking the newest and most innovative marine aftermarket accessories and components.”

“The Marine Accessories Pavilion provides marine accessory manufacturers an opportunity to directly connect with buyers at a key time when they are making their buying decisions for the upcoming year,” says NMMA president Thom Dammrich. “With NMMA’s vast experience producing marine trade and consumer shows and ASA’s guidance and support, the Marine Accessories Pavilion will offer an exciting new element to ICAST, giving attendees access to the latest boating products and exhibitors a unique sales platform.”

Exhibitors will include SeaStar Solutions, Attwood Corp., Michigan Wheel Marine, Tohatsu America Corp., Taco Metals and Soundings Trade Only.

About 750 exhibitors will participate in the event. “Back in 2007 we were in the 400s for exhibitors, so we’ve almost doubled here, too,” says Andres.

There will be about a half-dozen boats displayed outside the exhibit hall, including models from Yellowfin, Hell’s Bay and Skeeter. (There also will be some boats inside used as platforms to display products.)

“We have a Hell’s Bay display in the show, and we place boats in the entrance and normally also with the Coastal Conservation Association of Florida’s display,” says Hell’s Bay Boatworks president and owner Chris Peterson. “I will take as many boats as they will let me bring. We also participate in the bass tournament put on by ICAST at Lake Toho. We participate wherever we can.”

Hell’s Bay builds only fishing boats, so Peterson considers his company a part of both the fishing and marine industries. “We are a natural fit with other fishing equipment manufacturers,” says Peterson. “And as a fishing-boat manufacturer, everybody attending or exhibiting at ICAST is a potential customer. Also professional fishermen attend ICAST in droves, and they are a big part of our sales.”

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Outside activities

International appeal has grown, too, says Andres. “Make no mistake, it’s not a regional show,” he says. “It’s not a national show, but an international show with attendees from Europe, Central and South America, South Africa and Australia.”

This year, more will go on outside the convention center. Last year was the first ICAST On The Water event, where 50 exhibitors displayed products at Big Toho Marina on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, 30 minutes from the convention center. This gave media and buyers the chance to demo product in its natural environment.

At the same time FLW (Fishing League Worldwide) held the inaugural ICAST Cup industry bass fishing tournament. In 2015 there were 61 teams made up of pros, media and industry competing. Last year legendary pro angler Bill Dance was on the winning team. All proceeds went to support Keep America Fishing. The boats are a mix of bass boats, technical skiffs and other small craft.

“We expect as many as 100 teams will participate this year,” says Hughes.

This is the third year for the Bass & Birdies Classic, which includes four to six holes where one of the golfers tries to catch as many bass as possible, says Hughes. “Golf course ponds are a haven for largemouth bass, and our golfers catch a bunch of them,” he says. Seventy-two golfers participated in last year’s event.

The New Product Showcase opens Tuesday (July 12) with a reception. There were 880 products last year, and organizers expect about the same number this year.

Country music singer Cole Swindell will kick off ICAST with a concert.

Country music singer Cole Swindell will kick off ICAST with a concert.

There will be about a dozen business development seminars on the following day, covering topics that include the outdoor industry’s impact on the fishing industry; the efforts of Keep Florida Fishing; results of the 2016 fly-fishing dealer survey and fly-fishing market status and trends; and the use of video to market and promote companies and products.

“If you are in the fishing or boating industries — whether you are a mom-and-pop business or a mammoth big-box company — you should be at this show,” says Andres. “You will take away product information, education on running your business and have access to the best networking opportunities in the fishing industry.”

This is all true, says Hell’s Bay’s Peterson. “Many of my good personal friends today are also in the fishing industry, and the contacts and relationships that are formed are priceless,” he says. “The relationships will tend to work into cross-marketing opportunities or somebody you can call to shoot an idea by.”

Peterson met an attendee at last year’s ICAST who “said he loved what our company was all about, and if I ever had an opening in sales he would like to have that opportunity.” A few months later, Peterson was looking to fill a position and the attendee immediately came to mind. “He is now our newest Hell’s Bay employee — to me that exemplifies the importance of ICAST. It was good for him and Hell’s Bay.”

The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation uses ICAST to advance its agenda of increasing participation in recreational boating and fishing. “The focus on the floor is all about the people who are already fishing and in the fishing business today,” says RBFF president Frank Peterson. “ICAST gives us the opportunity to focus on the future of the sport, particularly in promoting fishing to youths, families and the Hispanic population.”

The seeds of new relationships can be planted at ICAST. For example, last year the RBFF began collaborating with Wal-Mart Stores, South Bend and Fishing League Worldwide on a series of events during National Fishing and Boating Week.

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Events hosted at more than 1,000 Walmart locations across the United States in June provided an opportunity for newcomers of all ages and skill levels to learn tips on fishing tackle and techniques firsthand from expert FLW anglers. “We were able to forge this team effort at ICAST,” says Peterson. “We all have very similar objectives.”

RBFF, which is sponsoring the state of the industry breakfast on Wednesday (July 13) at 7:30, will also be talking up its new “60 in 60” initiative, which aims to achieve 60 million anglers ages 6 and older in the next 60 months, or by 2021. Forty-six million Americans — 15.8 percent of the U.S. population age 6 and older — participated in fishing last year.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue.

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