Carnival of Perspectives

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be at the Big Rock Sports show in Nashville. As you may know, Big Rock is combining their East (Raleigh, North Carolina) and West (Las Vegas, Nevada) shows, and I’m looking forward to being there.

Dealer shows like this or the Pitman Creek Wholesale show in October, are always enlightening for me. They’re just about the only venues where retailers, manufacturers and distributors get together without the pesky interference of consumers. (I’m kidding … mostly.)

Plus, there’s the fact that I’m usually the only media/editorial person there, and that Big Rock and Pitman Creek give me a microphone during their New Product Showcase awards presentation. (A device that will amplify my voice so that everyone in the building will hear it? Yes, please!)

The result is a stripped-down look at our industry from those who best understand it at a grassroots level — a “cash on the barrelhead,” “let’s move some product out the door” perspective that’s simultaneously fascinating, enlightening, encouraging and frightening.

There will be macro talk about tariffs and taxes, lobbying and legislation, and even the changing roles of retailers and wholesalers. And there will be micro talk about trends in small markets, changes at mid-level companies and the spread of invasive species to fisheries I’ve never heard of.

You can learn a lot at these shows because there are so few distractions. The lights and the pomp and the circumstance are less bright. People are less frazzled, more focused and have more time than at other shows. There’s less hype. Guards are down. Tongues are looser. Opinions — not just strategic posturing with brochures and flash drives — are flying. I think (though it’s impossible to say for sure) there’s less out-and-out lying.

I spent decades in our industry without ever attending a distributor show. I was only vaguely aware of their existence. Now I think they offer the best crash course on the health and welfare of sportfishing than you can get anywhere else at any price.

The industry’s largest trade show — ICAST — is an education. One of our largest consumer shows — the Bassmaster Classic Expo — is an event. But a good distributor show offers insiders an advanced degree and behind-the-scenes perspective on what makes the industry tick and how well it’s ticking. There’s nothing else like it.

And I look forward to it, but that doesn’t mean it’s always fun. Part of the attraction is hearing so many opinions — positive, negative, neutral and apocalyptic. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that youth tournaments were our future or that youth tournaments would be our undoing, that ICAST is essential or that ICAST is a waste of time, that tariffs would change everything or that tariffs would change nothing, I’d have a lot of dollars.

But I’ll have to settle for the information and the perspectives. They’re invaluable and easily worth the price of admission.

Maybe I’ll see you there.