The Good the Bad and the Ugly of ICAST 2015

I always enjoy ICAST. Part industry trade show, part reunion, part mixer, it has something for everyone in the world of sportfishing.

The Good

This was the biggest ICAST ever — hundreds of exhibitors, greater attendance than ever before. The fishing industry seems to be coming out of the recession/depression a little faster now. All of that is great news.

A lot of business was done on the show floor this year, but in recent years ICAST seems to have become less of a “selling” show than a “media” show. It’s a great opportunity for manufacturers to show off their latest stuff and get it seen by consumers. If it catches on and anglers show interest, the orders will come. If not, they won’t. There needs to be some demand before the supply will be created in most cases.

I didn’t see many of the “GoPro-on-a-Stick” media types at this year’s show. To me, that means ASA’s plan of charging media to attend in order to eliminate some of the folks who really don’t have meaningful outlets is working. With fewer “illegitimate” (GoPro-on-a-stick) media on site, it’s easier for buyers and “real” media to get time with the exhibitors. I like that. And if you’re a media person who wants to complain about the fee, I have to wonder how resourceful you are regarding your business. If that fee is the difference between your attending or not attending, you need help with your business — not the fee.

The inaugural ICAST On the Water presented by FTR took place a day before the show opened. Although attendance was a little lighter than I would have liked, I’d call it a success. The smart companies who know what they’re doing had a good experience and made hay with it. The less savvy struggled.

The ICAST Cup presented by FLW was fun (though I didn’t get to fish). I loved the fact that Bill Dance was on the winning team (along with Cody Detweiler and Dave East). It seems somehow fitting that bass fishing’s first superstar wins the first ICAST Cup.

The weigh-in needs to be tightened up, though. It went on for a few hours when media and pro staffers really needed to be working the show and talking with manufacturers. After all, that’s why we’re here. Hopefully, that will be worked out next year along with some other rough edges.

The Bad

Every year I hear the same complaints at the show.

“I didn’t see any buyers.” (They were there.)

“Attendance was terrible.” (Actually, it was record-breaking.)

“I’m never coming back to Orlando/Las Vegas/Mars again!” (Will you promise?)

icasthallI suppose that the complaints may occasionally have merit, but the problems are usually the result of user error — exhibitors or media who don’t work hard enough or smart enough to have a successful ICAST.

For these people I have no sympathy. If you had a lousy ICAST, take a look in the mirror and understand what the show really is, not what you want it to be.

ICAST is a platform, an opportunity. It brings the industry together for a few days and affords those who attend the chance to bridge the gaps and make the connections that are so difficult to accomplish across great distances.

And that’s it!

If you expect ICAST to parade the industry’s biggest buyers past your booth and for them to be impressed with what you’re offering, you’re crazy. If you expect the audience to “get” what you’re doing when you’re not very good at explaining it or displaying it, you’re going to be disappointed. And if you expect to meet everyone you need to know and to make all the meaningful connections you’ll ever need at one show, you’re going to fail.

I’ll say it again: ICAST is a platform, an opportunity. If it didn’t work for you, I can almost guarantee that it’s your fault. Unless the products for your booth didn’t arrive because of a shipping error or you were mugged in the parking lot by competitors, if you came up short at ICAST it is your fault. Own it and do better next time.

I’m not saying that ICAST is perfect; I see plenty of room for improvement. I am saying that it’s what you make of it.

The Ugly

What if LeBron James decided to head for the locker room with five minutes left in the final game of the NBA Finals?

What if Tom Brady decided to beat the crowds by taking off his shoulder pads and uniform with time left on the clock in the Super Bowl?

We know exactly what would happen. The announcers would make a big deal about it. The fans would boo loud and long and the entire sporting universe would be in uproar.

So why does most of the industry do exactly that at around noon on the final day of ICAST? Instead of doing business until it’s time to break down the booths, people act like they can’t wait for it to be over! It’s the most important and most valuable show of the year, and they can’t wait for it to end!

I truly don’t get it.

There were about 500 exhibitors on the floor this year and the vast majority was breaking down with more than four hours left in the schedule. Key people were already on planes headed home … or to the Orlando theme parks.

The industry meets just once a year in the U.S. Why can’t you stick it out until they shut the doors?

We can do better. We wouldn’t support a power forward or quarterback who left the NBA Finals or Super Bowl early. Why do we do the same thing ourselves at our biggest event?

Let’s take a cue from the New York Stock Exchange. ICAST is an opportunity, a platform. We should be thrilled to be there. If it closes at 3:00 on a Friday, I’d like to see everyone there put down their brochures and notebooks, cameras and camcorders, and loudly applaud the fact that we gathered to benefit ourselves and our industry.

And if we can’t do that, we should stay home.