July 21, 2022
Whatever analogy you might want to use—fireworks like the nightly shows at nearby Disney World and Sea World, thunder and lightning like the daily cycle of sunny dawns and stormy afternoons, or even the American Sportfishing Association's own "reunited and it feels so good"—the 65th edition of the International Convention of Allied Sport Fishing Trades (ICAST) show kicked off on Wednesday as the doors open, the crowd rushed in, and the National Anthem was sung.
While official numbers won't be available until after the 2022 ICAST Show runs its course this week at the Orange County Convention Center (Link: www.occc.net ) in Orlando, a sizable crowd returned to the show following two years of COVID-19 pandemic effects.
Despite yet another new wave of the super bug making headlines, it was clear that thousands of show attendees believe that the worst of the pandemic is behind ICAST after the virus forced the event into the virtual world in 2020 and allowed for a cautious in-person return last summer.
This year, hardly any masks have been seen on the show floor.
Now, with supply-chain issues flattening out and lots of new anglers returning, the fishing industry has turned its attention back to innovation, product development, making participation in the sport more effective, and keeping new anglers from leaking out the backdoor.
Here's some of what caught my attention at ICAST 2022:
Upward Trends in Numbers and Enthusiasm: Let's start with exhibitors, a group whose numbers are up according to tweets from the host American Sportfishing Association, the ICAST Show itself, and many of those attending.
But numbers don't tell the full story—last year's ICAST show featured 400-plus exhibitors and more than 10,000 attendees, but the show felt considerably smaller and quieter than in previous years. You really need to get out there and see what this year’s show floor vibe is to gauge the direction that things might be going.
On Wednesday, the show floor was busy from start to finish, aisles were congested with people moving about, companies that sat out last summer were back and doing business again, plenty of big and robust booth build-outs were obvious once again, and there was none of the empty space that characterized parts of the show last year.
Take the aisles of the show, for instance. Several times, I had to pick my path forward or even duck elsewhere to get to where I wanted to be, a problem that rarely surfaced in 2021. Once I made it where I wanted to be, the person I wanted to see was often tied up in a meeting or discussing business. And almost everywhere you went, the energy was noticeably higher and what I would term a subdued and even quiet show last summer was noisy and robust this time around.
And at multiple points throughout the day from one side of the show floor to the other, I encountered smiling business people, happy customers, angling pros and celebrities engaging their fans, and palpable energy.
I made a point gauge the reaction, and in every single instance, I got a positive report, if not a glowing one, about how things are better and apparently back to normal.
And for an industry that was covertly whispering about whether the show would be a part of the future, it certainly appeared on Wednesday—for one day, at least—that the good old days of ICAST have returned.
OSG Editors' Table of New Products: Ordinarily, you might call a gathering of Outdoor Sportsman Group magazine editors and a table filled with new gear and gadgets a roundtable of sorts.
Florida Sportsman editor Jeff Weakley, In-Fisherman editor Thomas Allen, and Game and Fish Magazine's own Adam Hegenstaller discussed all sorts of new products spanning the cost spectrum from more than $1,000 to only a few George Washingtons.
There was a light-emitting fish attractor for use out on the ocean blue, a new scale that uses Bluetooth technology and makes on-the-water competition amongst friends possible, tackle management systems for frogs and flutter spoons, new baits that championship anglers are liking and using, and even a simple net that solves a problem that many anglers have encountered as they run back in from a day on the salt or chasing bass in freshwater.
"The Editor’s Picks" will hit Facebook again Thursday at 4:45 p.m. (ET).
Awards Given Out, Best of Show on Thursday – On Wednesday, the second step in this year’s ICAST awards cycle was completed (Link: www.gameandfishmag.com/editorial/category-winners-at-icast-2022/46211 ). After tabulating the votes taken in during the New Product Showcase, show officials announced 30 category winners for the 2022 event.
Pure Fishing and its well-known brands came away the big winner, capturing a total of nine awards. Winners under the Pure Fishing umbrella included Berkley, Plano, Ugly Stik, and Frabill, who received their trophies at the Chairman’s Industry Awards Reception at the Orange County Convention Center. The company stands a good chance – one in three – to capture the coveted ICAST Best of Show award Thursday afternoon.
"The nice thing about these awards is that they are accolades from your peers," said Jesse Simpkins, VP of Marketing for St. Croix Rods and chairman of the ASA, in a news release. "They recognize the hard work, effort and ingenuity that goes into the product."
According to the ASA, there were more than 900 new products entered into the New Product Showcase. And many of those products represent months, if not years, of work and effort.
"One of the winners told me he spent 365 days on this," said Glen Hughes, ASA president, in a news release. "Then, he told me that he is starting on next year's tomorrow. That's how much this means to some manufacturers."