The Summit, Sevierville, and El Salto

For many of you, being on the road for nearly three weeks is no big deal. For me, it’s a classic example of a blessing and a curse.

My road trip started close to home at Clearwater Beach in Florida — about an hour and 45 minutes from Orlando, where I live. That part of the trip was for the ASA Summit, the annual meeting of the people who work to keep the sportfishing ship headed in the right direction.

The Summit is what you make of it, which basically guarantees it will be good and bad, thrilling and frustrating. If someone tells you something else, they’re trying to sell you something … or maybe they just weren’t paying attention.

After a night at home, I had an early flight to Tennessee where I attended the Pitman Creek Wholesale fall show in Sevierville — one of the best dealer shows anywhere. Work demanded that I skip the Sunday bass tournament, but I made time to give a presentation to PCW’s top dealers on Sunday night, handed out the Best of Show awards on Monday and saw once again why PCW is growing so fast. Their customer service is as good as it gets.

Mike Ortego (TackleWebs), Pitman Creek Wholesale COO John Johnson and Justin Sward (NetBait) talk about the business of fishing at the PCW fall show.

After one night at home, I had an 8:00 a.m. flight to Mazatlan, Mexico, for an Abu Garcia/Berkley media trip at Anglers Inn on Lago El Salto. Abu Garcia and Berkley have some terrific new products coming out, and I had a chance to put new rods, reels, lines and lures to the test against some of the strongest bass on the planet. Being a Florida guy through and through, I caught most of my bass on soft plastics (keep an eye out for “The General” and the “Kingtail”), but the hard baits were equally impressive, and the rods, reels, lines and hooks stood up to every challenge.

“Impressive” is just the first superlative for Billy Chapman Jr. and his Anglers Inn. The service is unmatched. It’s a “bucket list” destination that exceeds expectations at absolutely every turn. Soon I’ll be writing about ways retailers can act as outfitters to take groups to extraordinary destinations like El Salto, Bienville Plantation or the Bahamas. You work a deal with the host then sell the package (and the requisite fishing gear) to your group while you take the trip at no charge to you. What could be better than that?

The blessing of my extended road trip was the chance to meet and talk with old and new friends, business associates and industry movers and shakers. I was witness to a terrific dealer show and got to meet some of the people who make FTR possible. I also got to fish one of the greatest bass lakes in the world and stay in the best fishing resort I’ve ever seen.

The curse was the time away from family and computer. Meetings and functions ate up the days and nights, and there was no internet service in Mexico. I’m paying for that now … and for the next few days.

But I’m home now, and that’s perfect.