July 07, 2023
The 66th edition of the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades—or simply ICAST—will rev up its engines and power into Orlando at full throttle as the doors open on the 2023 ICAST Show, running July 12-14 at the Orange County Convention Center.
From most appearances, the annual mid-summer fishing trade show in the shadow of Mickey's Magic Kingdom is back to full normal again after being cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After an understandable dip in attendance in 2021, last year’s ICAST saw some normalcy with attendance and exhibitor numbers back up, as manufacturers sought to tap into the surge in fishing interest and participation during the pandemic. More than 900 new fishing items were introduced in the show’s New Products Showcase.
Fishing Tackle Retailer editor Ken Duke, proclaimed in its post-show headline: "ICAST 2022 A Booming Success.” And according to most observers, that seemed true since there was definitely a bigger footprint last July than the previous year, more show-floor traffic and a noticeable increase in energy and enthusiasm by those in attendance.
Glenn Hughes, president of ICAST host American Sportfishing Association agreed: “The (2022) show was fantastic,” said Hughes in a news release. “The show exceeded our expectations, and most importantly exceeded exhibitors’ expectations. Everyone I spoke with said how wonderful the show was and how the energy is as good as it has ever been. The fishing tackle industry is alive and well and looking strong for the future.”
So what can the fishing world expect from ICAST 2023? While not open to the public, the annual show unveils the latest and greatest products for 2023.
“ICAST is the cornerstone of the global sportfishing industry,” said Hughes a few weeks ago. “ICAST is where connections are made that create business opportunities for our industry. It’s also where most new products make their debut into the fishing marketplace.”
That idea was brought home last summer when a first-time vendor—PacBak, an upstart cooler company from Alaska—shocked the show by winning Best of Show, awarded to the top new product from more than 30 categories. Once again there will be literally thousands of products to be seen.
“We have more than 600 companies on the show floor,” said Trade Show and Membership Vice President Blake Swango in an ASA news release. “Many of them work year-round to develop and launch new products at the show to take advantage of the tremendous combination of buyers and media who converge in Orlando.”
Several things worth noting this year include the Super Tuesday kickoff event early on July 11 as attendees and professional anglers hit the water before dawn for the annual ICAST Cup Bass Fishing Tournament at legendary lunker factory Lake Toho near Kissimmee, Fla. A morning-long tournament that benefits Keep America Fishing, the fundraising derby is sponsored by Major League Fishing.
Later that day, buyers and media members will converge outside to visit exhibit booths surrounding the ponds outside the convention center for the On the Water Product Demo Day. With the latest in kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, rods, reels, lures, and more, there will be lots of new fishing gear on hand for testing. Click to see our coverage here.
On Super Tuesday evening, an expanded New Product Showcase will host hundreds of media members, all looking at what's new and voting on the "Best of Show" and "Best of Category" award winners to be announced later in the week. With people like legendary professional bass angler and longtime Outdoor Sportsman Group television personality Bill Dance in the house, the aisles will be crowded as people get a look at what’s new, including two new boating accessory categories and in six new fly-fishing categories.
ICAST has expanded its fly-fishing footprint to attract more fly-fishing vendors onto the show floor. Show attendees can watch fly-casting demonstrations at the FlyCASTing Pond, try out those products themselves and see them in the new ICAST Fly Shop booth.
"We are thrilled with our exhibitor’s response to the opportunity to showcase their fly tackle, gear and apparel in the ICAST Fly Shop booth,” said Swango. “Located adjacent to the New Product Showcase we recreated an actual fly fishing “store,” with support from Orlando-area guides and fly-shop owners, where show attendees can check out the products as well as tie a few flies.”
The Industry Awards Reception is scheduled Wednesday evening as New Product Showcase category winners are announced. The next afternoon, the coveted ICAST Best of Show award winner will be announced, an event that often draws one of the bigger crowds of the week.
There's also a State of the Industry Breakfast next Wednesday morning as Hughes and others—including keynote speaker Mike Massimino, a former NASA astronaut, a Columbia University engineering professor, and an occasional actor previously on the CBS hit comedy television show—lead the way.
ICAST will have a host of seminars, special press conferences, teaching sessions at the Lure Tank, and more. And when the day is nearly done, the famous ICAST social hour kicks off at 4 p.m. each day with various vendor booths offering cold beverages, food, live music, prizes and giveaways, and plenty of networking and social opportunities. If past shows have been any indication, there will be some fresh tuna being carved up, as well as a boat or two given away.
It promises to be a big week in Orlando as the 66th version of ICAST gets underway, a full throttle event that seems completely back to normal. And every step of the way, Game & Fish to keep you updated about what’s new in the fishing world.