In a little less than a month, I'll be headed to Orlando for the ICAST show, July 15-17. It's an interesting event and the only time of the year where the entire U.S. fishing industry (as well as key players from other parts of the world) stops to gather in one place and do business.
ICAST is our sport's biggest trade show. It's not a consumer show, like the Bassmaster Classic Expo, where fans and anglers who do not work inside the industry can gather and buy some of the latest products. ICAST attendees are a mix of manufacturers (exhibitors showing off their latest items), buyers (who will order the products they believe their customers want) and media (who report on the innovations and developments in the world of fishing gear).
As a pro staff angler, I consider myself fortunate because I get to work with all three groups. I attend ICAST for my sponsors — many of the leading manufacturers of fishing gear in the world — and while I'm there I work with buyers and media to inform them about the latest products, many of which I've had a hand in designing and developing.
If ICAST looks glitzy, a little glamorous and fun, I suppose it is. But it's also a lot of hard work and the culmination of a lot of long days and nights trying to get everything just right before you show it to the world.
In a lot of ways, ICAST is probably like the opening performance of a play. You rehearse and rehearse, get all the parts down and the set designed. Then you open the curtains and hope the audience likes it.
There will be thousands of new products on display at ICAST, but many of them will never see the light of day in a tackle store because they don't catch the attention of enough buyers or media at the show. Just because a company spends thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars creating a new product doesn't mean that anyone else will like it or that the market is ready for it.
The tackle business is extremely competitive. To build a better rod, reel, line or lure takes ingenuity, innovation, perseverance, commitment and a big investment in time and resources. Even then, not everything will succeed, make it through the gauntlet and come out on the other side. For every great success, there are many disappointments.
In that way, I suppose it's a lot like tournament fishing. If you fish competitively, you know that you're going to come up short a lot more often than you're going to take home the big trophy. But that's what keeps us coming back for more. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
Even the products that do well at ICAST will not be available for several months. Based on what happens at the show, they may go through more fine-tuning before production begins. Most that pass the test will start to show up in stores after the first of the year.
You can follow a lot of the ICAST action right here on Bassmaster.com. Photo galleries of new products will give you an insider's look at what's coming for 2016. That kind of coverage is relatively new to the show.
When I started coming to ICAST early in my career, it was mostly just manufacturers and buyers. The media coverage has exploded with the growth of the Internet. Now I spend a lot of time talking with media, making videos for websites and posing for photos with new offerings. It's been a real transformation and one that I think benefits the consumer.
Of course, one of my favorite things about ICAST is that I get to look at all the new stuff, too. Walking through the aisles, I feel like a 5-year-old at Christmas.
And whether you're on the show floor or watching on Bassmaster.com, it will definitely get you fired up to go fishing!
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!