Industry Health Check: Early Vital Signs Looking Good

It may only be the second month of the year, but early indications bring promise that 2019 will be one to remember for the fishing tackle industry. But how can I, merely a humble fishing writer, make such an audacious claim? No, it’s not because I possess a crystal ball and no, my middle name is not Nostradamus – you just have to open your eyes and ears and check the industry vital signs. One of those key vitals, I have always found, is the exhibition.

Whether that’s a trade show or consumer show, you can get a real feel for the vibe of the industry, consumer confidence and the general direction things are heading in from these events. So far  in 2019—on an international scale—that feel seems more good than bad.

The French connection

Rapala’s Booth at Clermont Ferrand. Photo by David Guest

One of the first major pilgrimages of the year for fishos in Europe is the Peche & Loisirs Show in the picturesque town of Clermont-Ferrand in central France. It took place from 18-20 January and attracted more than 25,000 angling consumers to spend time with 160 different exhibitors. Impressive figures given that January is the month where traditionally enthusiasm and funds are short for the average man. One firm that has exhibited at this show for the last 30 years is global superpower Rapala, and with good reason according to its VP of Digital Marketing, Chris Beldon.

“Our primary aim [at this show] is to bring visibility to new season products, and explain through live demonstrations, videos and person-to-person interactions how the new products will help anglers to improve their angling experiences,” says Beldon. “Clermont-Ferrand, being one of the first major public fishing tackle events of the calendar year, serves as a suitable launch platform for France and many other neighboring markets. It’s an opportunity for the brands and the personalities connected to them, to make a memorable impact in the minds of the angler as well as through their social networks.”

If it’s good enough for Rapala, it’s good enough for all of us right? Well yes, especially when this year appeared to be such a strong edition of the show. Beldon also remarked how the show had a decidedly larger number of young attendees walking the aisles, which can only be positive for the future of fishing. He also indicated that this show is a great indicator for the enthusiasm of the French angling market, which seemed very hungry for new fishing toys to play with.

The Japanese Fishing Show in Yokohama. Photo by David Guest

A rising sun

Transport yourself from rural France to the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Japan, and a similar story was found at the two major consumer shows in this country, too. The Japan Fishing Show in Yokohama and the Fishing Show Osaka took place in late January and early February respectively and were awash with people and positivity. An estimated 40,000 attended Yokohama’s show over its three days and almost 60,000 walked the aisles in Osaka – with both reporting an increased number of young anglers visiting. 

This vibe was certainly backed up by exhibitors – Yao Yukitoshi who represents rod guide giant Fuji told me: “In terms of visitors, we had almost the same as last year in Yokohama, but a slight increase in Osaka and there was a big increase in the number of visitors who are of high school age, thanks to initiatives by the Japanese fishing tackle industry. This is a good tendency for the industry in the future.

“Some exhibitors at the Osaka show thought that the international attendance was down a little as the show was so close to Chinese New Year, but I’m not sure.”

Having hit both of these shows myself in the past, I can tell you that nothing will boost your enthusiasm for the business more than seeing anglers treated like rock stars and fishing brands given the same kudos as the likes of Apple and Samsung by the gushing attendees.

Go Dutch

For my last vital health check, I had to see what the atmosphere was like at one of Europe’s biggest carp fishing shows, Carp Zwolle in the Netherlands (yes, a show wholly dedicated to carp fishing – we are a strange bunch over here in Europe). The show is the who’s who of carp fishing and again attracts an insane attendance given it takes place in mid winter from 1-3 February. Pat MacInnes, Marketing Manager for UK tackle firm Leeda, was at the show and explained: “The show seemed its usual self; busy and full of varying brands. The show is always something of a spectacle, simply because of the numbers that attend and the scale of the show. That fact that it continues to attract exhibitors from around Europe, and draws visitors from countries that aren’t just a quick drive away illustrates its power. To hear of people driving through the night to get there with a gang of friends, that’s something else!”

“It’s one of the only consumer events we attend year-in, year-out, so that says something. To show a wide range of products and also talk to visitors about how the brand does (or does not) fit in with their own style of fishing, that’s a massive part of why we keep coming back. Feedback and fact-finding is a big part of the reason our UK staff attend and the Dutch and German anglers in particular are very, very honest with their opinion.

“Europe isn’t currently our core market, although it’s where we are looking to develop more sales over the next few years as we continue to grow. Zwolle is important for that awareness to new potential customers. I’d assume that for the biggest brands who are already dominant in Europe and rely on European sales, then it may be a much bigger indicator of whether they’re in for a good year. For us, 2019’s show was good and we’ll be back next year for sure.”

So there you have it. The international tackle shows have spoken. They’ve started with a bang, which I can only hope bodes well for the rest of the year. It will be intriguing to see if the North American events follow suit…

Keep an eye out for news from these other tackle shows throughout the year.

China Fish

Beijing, China, 16-18 February. The show for the makers. You know a heck of a lot of fishing tackle is manufactured in China, well this show brings many of those companies together under one roof. Serious business is written at this show and many use it as a launchpad to visit Chinese factories in the same trip.


Brussels, Belgium, 13-15 June. The European ICAST – well, it’s a little different to ICAST, but it is certainly the main trade show to hit in Europe. You’ll see all the big names there, and there is increasingly more and more exhibitors and visitors heading here from North America.

Pesca Trade Show

Sao Paolo, Brazil, 28-31 August.South America can still be a tricky market to penetrate, but this major trade show in Brazil could help. It is not the cheapest to attend and there’s not a huge array of companies exhibiting, but it is a relatively untapped market for many.

AFTA Trade Show 

Gold Coast, Australia, 15-17 AugustThe number one trade show down under – this event is small but productive, much like the Australian market itself. You will see names you recognise and names you don’t – many smaller, family-owned Australian companies show here and not anywhere else.

IWA & Outdoor Classics

Nuremberg, Germany, 8-11 March.No doubt you’ve heard of SHOT Show, well this is the European equivalent. It’s not quite on the same scale and obviously it’s primarily a hunting show, but it is worth a trip for those retailers who sell fishing and other general outdoor products. It’s a slick event.