Ken’s ICAST 2018 Report Card

When I pulled into the driveway after my 25-minute commute at the conclusion of ICAST 2018, I had the feeling that I had been to the best ICAST ever. Not nearly perfect, of course, but the best I’ve seen … and I started attending back in the days of AFTMA (American Fishing Tackle Manufacturer’s Association).

For one thing, the show was in Orlando — my hometown and a city that always draws the best crowds for ICAST. There were about 15,500 people at this year’s show, up about 500 from last year. That’s very modest growth, but it’s still growth.

If the show were to go back to Las Vegas (another city I love), we might not crack 10,000. Orlando is the place for ICAST. Florida is the fishingest state in the country, and “The City Beautiful” (with syntax awkward) knows how to host a convention.

The exhibitors I talked to — and I talked to a lot of them — said they had a good show. Media attention was good, business was brisk, and I saw a lot of new and interesting products on the floor. The industry dresses up well for this event, and for four days in July it feels good to work in fishing … even in Florida’s stifling humidity.

There was a little drama at the show. A new company “invited” the general public to a closed industry event. Was it an innocent mistake or guerrilla marketing? I don’t know, but I hope it is dealt with accordingly by American Sportfishing Association officials.

There was the usual controversy about this company copying that company and accusations of patent infringement. If good artists copy and great artists steal (a line often attributed to Pablo Picasso), then we’re covered up with good artists and have too many great artists. It’s an unfortunate truth that’s been around a long, long time.

ICAST On the Water still falls short of what it should be … at least in my opinion. We could involve the marine industry to a different, larger venue. The retention ponds behind the Orange County Convention Center are picturesque but hardly an “on the water” opportunity.

ICAST On the Water via DJI drone and Raymarine Axiom

And the ICAST Cup presented by FLW is a great event, but it pulls pro staff and media away from On the Water. Ditto for the Bass & Birdies golf tournament sponsored by Florida Sportsman. There’s a better way, and we should work to find it.

Kudos to the New Product Showcase staff and to the ASA Trade Show committee for the best NPS in history. After two years of prodding by FTR, the committee finally saw fit to correct a big problem with the voting procedure. The result was more votes than ever before and a more level playing field for the products in the Showcase.

Garmin’s Overall Best of Show award for the Panoptix LiveScope is a bigger deal than some realize. It’s the first time in seven years that something other than a boat or boating accessory took top honors, and that probably wouldn’t have happened without the procedural change.

There’s still work to be done to the voting process, but the new bifurcated system is a big step forward, and one of the reasons we had such a strong ICAST.

In the end, if you had a great or terrible ICAST, it’s really on you. The people I heard complaining are the ones who do a poor job at the show. They don’t put in the time, energy or thought required to be successful, and that’s something that’s needed whether you’re an exhibitor, a buyer or media.

ICAST is what you make of it, and this year the opportunity was there to make it the best ever.