ORLANDO, Fla. — ICAST is upon is. In what has become an annual tradition, more than 10,000 fishing tackle manufacturers, retailers, and media members have descended on one of America’s great convention cities to display, order, and salivate over new products.
It’s an impressive display of commercialism that grows larger each and every year. And, even as the fishing industry scrambles to recruit the young anglers who will determine its future, it’s a showcase of what this industry is capable of when it is unified in a goal. The show floor doesn’t officially open until Wednesday, but we’ve compiled a short list of things to keep an eye on this week.
The Exhibition Hall – I passed the concrete, boxy husk of the Orange County Convention Center’s West Concourse on an evening walk. Devoid of what has become its customary ICAST garb–a flotilla of offshore boats, a field of trade show banners, and a swarm of event workers—the West Hall seemed to stare hauntingly across International Drive towards the show’s new home. That home, the North/South Concourse, is the bell cow of the OCCC. Seen above in shimmering glass and modern LED lighting, the new home of ICAST is not only larger than its former digs, it’s much more elegant. Here’s a shot of the facilities, for comparison.
Signage — By the looks of things, someone at the American Sportfishing Association discovered CNC routers this year. That’s not a knock. It’s a nod to an apparent signage upgrade that corresponds with the show’s new concourse. A trade show predominantly identified by banners now appears to be moving into a more expensive, and much more eye-catching, medium to brand itself. This year, there’s also a new slogan: “Great Fishing Starts Here.”
Here’s a look at the signage upgrade and the slogan:
Super Tuesday — ICAST Super Tuesday is a low-key contender for the most enjoyable day of the show. More than an excuse to arrive a day early, Super Tuesday has grown into its skin with a handful of signature events: the ICAST Cup presented by FLW at Lake Toho; ICAST On the Water at a pond outside of the North Concourse; The Bass & Birdies Classic presented by Florida Sportsman; and the New Product Showcase Preview Reception sponsored by Fishing Tackle Retailer. It’s an exciting lineup that gives anglers, golfers, media members, and curiosity seekers something to do outside of the show floor.
Seminars — Speaking of outside of the show floor, one of the most valuable aspects of ICAST is often one of its least talked about—the daily schedule of business seminars open to attendees. This year, topics include sustainable angling, federal excise taxes, how to pitch your business ideas, California Prop 65, bringing women to fly fishing, and more. These really are valuable classes, and they not only provide a chair to get off of your feet, but some critical info to business owners.
Millions of dollars trade hands each year at ICAST; but I think the ideas spawned from seminar rooms could be even more valuable than many of the contracts negotiated in back rooms and booths.
New Products — This is a beyond obvious recommendation, but it’s the ICAST raison d’être. If you’re not paying attention to new products this week, you’re not someone who cares about fishing tackle. ICAST week is the busiest time of the year for new product information, and it flows in a constant stream of press releases, image galleries and videos that leave a wake for another week after the show. This year, an important change is happening to the way ICAST Best of Show awards are handed out. A re-designed voting system means category awards will be presented Wednesday evening, and the Overall Best of Show will be determined by a second vote pitting category winners against each other.
On Thursday that winner will be announced. And for the first time in years, a lure or rod or reel might take the crown over a watercraft.
Stay up-to-date all week with FTR. We’ll be bringing you video updates from the floor on our Facebook page, and continuous coverage here at FishingTackleRetailer.com.