It’s 1975 and the best selling car in America is the Oldsmobile Cutlass with 324,000 units. Roland Martin is the all-time B.A.S.S. money leader with $47,000, and Lee Sisson is attending his first AFTMA—the forerunner of ICAST.
Forty years later, FTR Managing Editor Ken Duke caught up with Sisson — the creator of hundreds of baits, including the original Bagley DB3 crank bait — at another first, the inaugural ICAST On the Water event, in Kissimmee, Florida to ask the lure design legend how fishing’s largest trade show has evolved over the years.
According to Sisson, the name isn’t the only major difference between the industry’s largest trade show then and now.
In the interview, Sisson breaks down how not only ICAST, but the fishing industry as a whole has become more corporate, more competitive and more engrossed with yearly innovation. Duke, meanwhile, appears to be on safari.
“I’ve watched this industry grow up,” explains Sisson. “I came into it, and I was just really blessed. You had people like Jim Bagley, Lew Childre and Cotton (Cordell) and Ray (Scott) and they were really active, but it was all kind of a mom and pop … you’d compete against each other at a show and then you would go out and have dinner with them…. Now, it’s gotten corporate.”
2015’s ICAST featured record-high attendance, as officials from the American Sportfishing Association reported over 12,000 attendees. The show, according to Orange County Convention Center Manager Lex Veech, had an estimated $26 million impact on the local economy.
Corporate or not, it appears that ICAST is on the grow. “There are still good guys in the business now, don’t get me wrong,” noted Sisson. “Every year they come out with something new. Every year I say they can’t come up with something better, and then they do.”