A Look At The 2023 ASA Sportfishing Summit

The American Sportfishing Association’s annual business meeting—the Sportfishing Summit—underscores our desire to bring together the association’s members along with others from the sportfishing community to provide a productive meeting that is timely, useful, and a good business investment.

2023 will mark the third consecutive year that I have attended the Sportfishing Summit of the American Sportfishing Association, better known as the ASA Summit or simply the Summit, on behalf of Fishing Tackle Retailer. That might not seem like much as there are attendees who have been going since before I entered the fishing industry, but you must start somewhere.

Prior to my first Summit attendance I was aware of its existence, but I had not attended for a variety of reasons. While I didn’t necessarily need a hand-written invitation to attend, no one outside of the ASA itself had ever really tried to sell me on it and I kind of perceived it to be reserved for those much higher on the totem pole than I. That all changed with one of the first conversations I had with Ken Duke after joining the FTR team. Ken and I discussed a bunch of things that come up when you first start a new job, and at one point in the conversation he pointed out a bare minimum three events that I should consider must-attends annually: the Bassmaster Classic, ICAST, and the ASA Summit. I already considered myself an ICAST veteran, and despite bass fishing not being my primary angling interest I was still aware of and excited about the prospect of attending the Classic; but the Summit caught me off guard as I wasn’t all that familiar with the meat and potatoes of the event. As the ASA describes it,

“The American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA) annual business meeting—the Sportfishing Summit—underscores our desire to bring together the association’s members along with others from the sportfishing community to provide a productive meeting that is timely, useful, and a good business investment. Along with the general business sessions, all those in attendance are encouraged to attend the board of directors and committee meetings to gain a better understanding of how ASA’s staff and your industry colleagues work on your behalf. The breakfasts, lunches, hospitality suite, and evening receptions offer informal ways to get to know your colleagues and grow our industry’s “spirt of community.” Since 1933, the association held board of directors, leadership, and member meetings where the core business of the organization was discussed, and future actions decided. Breaking nearly 70 years of tradition, in 2002 the annual business meeting was revamped and given a new name—the Sportfishing Summit. The impetus behind the name change was to transform the annual business meeting into a more meaningful and productive venue for big-picture and long-term thinking, inviting our wide community of partners to participate as well. We know that attending the Summit is an investment of your time and resources. However, it’s one of the best investments you can make in your business and our industry. In 2023, ASA will celebrate 90 years representing the sportfishing industry as well as the broader recreational fishing community.”

While that all seems solid and worth the price of admission, it was Ken who really sold me on attending, so much so that I questioned him at least once as to how many beers Glenn Hughes had promised to buy him at the event as a thank you for his effort. But there was no greasing of the palm going on here; Ken simply believed in the importance of the Summit on both a personal and industry level. He described it as perhaps the one place annually where the who’s who of the fishing industry could be found under one roof, in a setting where they are not only willing but able to converse candidly. This all sounded like a fantastic opportunity, and I quickly made plans to attend later that year in Naples, Florida.

I won’t rehash all the details of the 2021 event as I covered in print and online in A Look Back At the 2021 ASA Summit, but the short version is that I was thoroughly impressed by the Summit from top to bottom and immediately made a note of the following year’s date when it was announced at the General Membership Meeting on the final day of my inaugural Summit. 2022 was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, and more than two hundred sportfishing industry leaders came together to address critical issues impacting recreational fishing. While I didn’t get a chance to put pen to paper on the subject upon my return, it was once again memorable, and I was happy to have attended.

Fast-forward to 2023, and the ASA Summit is scheduled to take place October 3-4 at the Hilton Sandestine Beach Golf Resort & Spa in Miramar Beach, Florida. The ASA has lined up a tremendous slate of social, educational, and networking activities that you and your team won’t want to miss. There is a spa and golf course on site, and being on the coast of Florida, I am sure there’s some fishing to be had (drop me an email at toby@fishingtackleretailer.com if you have any intel you can pass along!)

One of the highlights of each year’s event is the great lineup of guest and keynote speakers secured by the ASA, and this year is no different. While there are still names to be finalized as of the time of this writing, those already on tap are certainly not to be missed.

Speaking Wednesday will be Sid Dobrin of, well, a lengthy list of accomplishments and credentials including co-owner of Inventive Fishing, Chair, Department of English, University of Florida; Adobe Digital Thought Leader; and Host, The Fishing Professor Podcast. He’s doing an expanded version of his Lunch & Learn session from ICAST targeted specifically to the industry on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI). These are hot topics in the outdoor recreation industry—and everywhere else, for that matter. The media explosion about how GenAI can be used to create content across platforms is raising everyone’s awareness of the pros and cons of this technology. This session will introduce some fundamental explanations about how AI and GenAI work and how they are being deployed in the recreational fishing industry. This talk will address GenAI in relation to content creation and marketing, as well as the role AI is playing in consumer engagement and other aspects of the industry. Sid’s a great guy and someone I have known for several years; you do not want to miss his presentation.

On Thursday, Patrick Luce of ITR Economics will lead off the keynote speakers in the morning. There is an extraordinary amount of noise concerning the status of the economy today and what the future will look like. Using an analytical approach, Patrick Luce will take a dispassionate look at the trends that define the economy up through 2025. He’ll examine key industries to determine which phase of the business cycle they are in and what the future looks like for each. Some industries are faring better than others; it is important you know which industries/markets they are in order to potentially mitigate the impact of business cycle decline. Management objectives consistent with his forecasts for inflation and interest rates will provide actionable takeaways for attendees.

The second keynote speaker on Thursday is Don Unser, president of Thought Leadership for Circana, formerly NPD, and he will share Circana’s observations on consumer spending from their rich data assets of over $3 trillion of U.S. consumer spending. Don spends time with the CEOs who represent the largest players in the U.S. retail sector. He will highlight the most important trends in consumer spending and what can be expected for the future, including the sporting goods categories and recreational fishing.

Perhaps one of the upcoming Summits will take place in my neighborhood; I know of a couple good locations in Connecticut that could comfortably house the event’s festivities, and the fishing in October in Southern New England can be downright amazing for everything from tuna to striped bass and anything in-between. Until then, hopefully I will see you at the 2023 ASA Summit this year in Miramar Beach, Florida; be sure to say hello and introduce yourself when you see the guy in a Fishing Tackle Retailer shirt! I am a member of the PR/Media Committee, so you’ll be able to find me at our annual meeting, and I also plan to sit in on a few of the other committee meetings including Saltwater East Subcommittee, Trade and Consumer Show, and others. Of course, you will also see me front and center for the keynote and guest speakers, and I’ll be at the front of the line when the dinner bell rings each night!

For a complete look at the venue, schedule of meetings and speakers, and an overview of all the event’s festivities, visit asafishing.org.

This story originally appeared in the 2023 September/October edition of Fishing Tackle Retailer.