Thoughts from ICAST 2017

I am still recovering from ICAST. As usual, it was a long week with lots of meetings, lots of early breakfasts, late dinners and very little sleep. I made three trips to the airport and shuttled friends to and from restaurants and hotels. To say that the week gets tougher each year as I get older would be an understatement.

I also leave ICAST feeling energized and reminded of why I love our industry so much.

The New Product Showcase sponsored by Fishing Tackle Retailer was a highlight for me — as it usually is — because it reduces the show to its core. At FTR, we’re proud to sponsor the New Product Showcase, and we’ve done so for decades. Clem Dippel, our Senior Consultant, is fond of saying that you can’t sell an angler something he already has, and it’s a great point (though he should take a look at my garage for a different perspective).


New products are the lifeblood of our industry and a proper focus of ICAST. In my opinion, the Showcase displays looked better than ever. One day, I hope the voting bias will be fixed. That will put all Best of Show entries on a level playing field, and the awards will take a giant leap forward. I’ve ranted about the issue before, and will again until it’s fixed. More on that soon.

ICAST is also a reunion of sorts. After decades in the sportfishing world, I know a lot of people in our industry, but there are hundreds that I only see at ICAST … often for just a minute or two. I don’t know how to describe these relationships. Some of these people are my mentors. Some are mere acquaintances. Most I truly count as great friends for whom I have much respect. Unless you’re an ICAST regular and have been coming for years, you may not have a similar frame of reference, but many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I see the show very differently now that I’m the Managing Editor of FTR. I used to focus on products and see the show by looking down at displays of lures, rods, reels, lines, hooks, sinkers, electronics and apparel. Now I often go for hours without looking closely at any product. Instead I am conversing with manufacturers, PR staffs, reps and friends.

I sometimes miss looking at all the new gear, but I know the items that really matter will eventually find me, and that the time spent in conversation with key people is ultimately more valuable and rewarding.

The New Product Showcase was the scene of an unfortunate intellectual property controversy between Steve Parks of Strike King Lures and Shanghai-based Headstream Tackle. It was a reminder that fishing is business, and business isn’t always fair.

I saw a lot of young people in tournament jerseys on the floor — too young to be media, buyers or exhibitors. Their presence is controversial. Some want them there because they’re the next generation of anglers and industry pros. Others think they have no place at ICAST. I’m not sure and offer no hard and fast rule because I think their attendance should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Nevertheless, I realize there’s an issue and think it should be addressed formally.

I heard praise and complaints from the usual suspects.

“The Showcase looks great!”

“The Wi-Fi is too slow.”

“On the Water was poorly attended.”

“I need another day to see everything. The show is so big!”

I’m certain each statement was correct for the person who said it.

There were lots of new faces at ICAST. Some will continue to attend for decades. Others will never come back. As I met them, I felt I had a pretty good idea which ones would fall in the former group and which in the latter. When you’ve been to a few rodeos, you develop that sense.

Ultimately, ICAST has the impossible task of needing or trying to be all things to each of the 15,000 who attended. Of course, that’s too much to ask … too much to expect.

ICAST is what you make of it — success or failure.

If you were there, I hope you were smart enough, savvy enough and prepared enough to make it the best week of your year.