July 20, 2022
With the 65th edition of the International Convention of Allied Sport Fishing Trades (ICAST) show unofficially kicking off on Super Tuesday, the the big show is off and running with a sense of normalcy returning to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
The event-packed day included plenty of press conferences, drones flying overhead, videographers and still photographers grabbing content, and no shortage of activities keeping everyone busy the day before ICAST's official opening on Wednesday.
Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the ICAST into the virtual world in 2020, and one year after the cautious return to an in-person event in 2021, Tuesday's On the Water day for media and others to test new gear on a small lake on the north side of the OCCC seemed perfectly normal.
There was a noticeably higher number of exhibitors and participants in attendance, and energy was high as kayaks were pedaled and paddled, conventional and fly-fishing rods were cast, and lures were flung.
Not even the changeable weather of early morning sunshine and high heat giving way to afternoon thunderstorms and somewhat cooler temperatures could dampen the enthusiasm of the day as ICAST attendees participated in On the Water and the ICAST Cup fishing tournament on nearby Lake Toho in the morning, and the New Product Showcase opening on Tuesday evening.
Hotels are crowded this year, masks are scarce, and the mood seems fun and enthusiastic as construction workers let their machinery and skills build the show sets in the Convention Center, as trade show guests enjoyed the wonders of Disney World and other theme parks nearby, and attendees scanned the voluminous ICAST trade show guide to plan out the next three days in Central Florida.
All in all, if the calm-before-the-storm events of Super Tuesday were any indication, ICAST and its attendees are in for big success this week in Central Florida.
Early Numbers Look Big
As Super Tuesday ran its course and ended with the New Product Showcase, once again sponsored by Fishing Tackle Retailer, an American Sportfishing Association (ASA) news release indicated that a sizable crowd is expected this week at the OCCC, which has 2.1 million square feet of exhibit space.
While perhaps below some of the previous crowd numbers generated when both ICAST and the International Fly Tackle Dealers show were held together until 2018, this year's numbers appear to be a good bit more than the figures produced a year ago as ICAST visited Florida, often billed as the "Nation's Sportfishing Capitol," thanks to a myriad of big-bass lakes, the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Florida Keys.
"I want to thank our exhibitors and sponsors for their commitment to ASA and to the ICAST Show," said ASA President Glenn Hughes in the news release. "The booth fees and sponsorships go to support ASA’s efforts to help ensure clean water, abundant fisheries and access to both."
"This year's show floor is going to be electric," he added. "More than 12,000 industry professionals and 20 percent more exhibitors are excited to participate in the greatest – and largest - fishing tackle trade show in the world."
Attendees Mourn Bass Fishing Legend's Passing
The bass fishing portion of this year's ICAST crowd received some somber news on Tuesday when word started getting around that legend Dee Thomas had passed away the day before in California at the age of 85.
Thomas, whose full name was Bayless Dewayne Thomas, had battled lung cancer for several years, according to a BassFan.com story by Pete Robbins. The late angler is widely credited with starting the flipping revolution back in the 1970s, a bass-catching staple today that helped fuel the careers of angling legends like Denny Brauer, Tommy Biffle, Hank Parker, and Gary Klein.
The legendary innovator was a member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, and the California Outdoors Hall of Fame. News of his death brought immediate reaction on Tuesday evening from some of the sport’s most famous names.
"Dee was the pioneer of the flipping technique that changed bass fishing forever!" said two-time Bassmaster Classic champ, Bass Fishing Hall of Fame inductee, and International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame member Hank Parker on his Facebook page.
"Dee was my hero, my brother in Christ and a dear friend. The whole fishing world will miss this true legend. I will miss a great friend!"
Gary Klein, who will be inducted into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame this year and is a Bass Fishing Hall of Fame member and the co-founder of Major League Fishing, was also grieving the loss of Thomas, someone he was especially close to.
"The fishing community is grieving the loss of a good friend and mentor,” Klein posted on his Facebook page Tuesday evening. "Last night, Dee Thomas, who is known for the creation of the flipping technique, passed. He was an inspiration to anglers across this country and beyond. I, along with many anglers, will miss Dee, but we will never forget his contributions to our sport, as his legacy lives on. #Legend #Mentor #FatherFigure #Family."
ICAST Cup Goes to Lunkerville
The annual ICAST Cup bass fishing tournament, run and presented by Major League Fishing, kicked off things on Super Tuesday with a sleepy-eyed 6:30 a.m. start on Lake Tohopekaliga, or Lake Toho as most anglers know the lake not too many miles from Disney's Magic Kingdom.
While lots of fishing fun and plenty of smiles were the morning's goal, raising funds that will benefit the ASA’s angler advocacy program, Keep America Fishing, was another.
Harkening back to some of the events earlier in the decade, the 2022 ICAST Cup field had a roster filled with 58 teams. By the time the morning's weigh-in was over, Team Jenko Fishing had claimed top honors for the day with anglers Coleton Jennings, Matt Hinman and Harbor Lovin combining to bring a three-fish bag limit to the stage weighing a record 21 pounds, 11 ounces.
"It honestly didn't come easy, today," said Jennings in a Major League Fishing press release. "The first place we stopped didn’t have much, so we left there with 7 or 8 pounds and made a run down the lake. I picked up a new prototype topwater bait that we've been working on for three years – it's my pride and joy and my favorite bait that I've ever worked on – and you can see the results first-hand."
Those results found the Team Jenko Fishing limit anchored by a 9-pound, 12-ounce kicker fish, a lunker bass anywhere and on any day. Big bass were common at Toho on Tuesday with an 8-pound, 2-ounce bass being weighed as well, joining other big fish that tipped the scales at 7-6 (twice) and a fish 6-1.
"This isn't even real life – this place is like Jurassic Park," Jennings added with a laugh to a Major League Fishing reporter.
Overall, 42 teams that competed in the three-hour event weighed in at least one bass. What's more, some 41 teams weighed in three fish bag limits.
For an event being contested in July, the 2022 ICAST Cup results were impressive at the site of the 2006 Bassmaster Classic won by current Bass Pro Tour angler Luke Clausen. To put Super Tuesday results in perspective, consider that Clausen weighed in a three-day total of five bass each day in 2006, fish that weighed 52 pounds, 6 ounces en route to his Classic title and $500,000 payday.
What's more, he was competing on the 22,750-acre water body near Kissimmee, Fla. in late February, the Sunshine State’s annual spawning season known to produce some Florida giants. Also keep in mind that Clausen is one of the angling sport's all-time greats, winning the Classic in 2006, the FLW Tour’s Forrest Wood Cup Championship in 2004, and more than $2.5 million in career earnings.
With ICAST Cup teams consisting of a mix of exhibitors who sponsored boats filled with up to three competitors, there was a collection of business professionals, media members, and professional bassing talent out on the water. Notable names in this year's ICAST Cup event just south of Orlando included Shaw Grigsby, Andy Montgomery, JT Kenney, and more.
Even better than the fishing, the teams competing on Tuesday raised a total of $12,000 to benefit the Keep America Fishing program. In its seven-year history, the charity fundraising ICAST Cup event has now raised more than $72,000 for the ASA’s Keep America Fishing program.
Jalaba and Wesley Qualify for USA Pan American Bass Team
At the ICAST Cup on Super Tuesday, big news was made with the qualification of two female anglers for the 2023 Pan American Bass Fishing team.
That took place thanks to USA Bass partnering with MLF and Keep America Fishing in an effort that awarded the qualification status to the top-finishing women’s pair at the ICAST Cup. Tuesday, anglers Michelle Jalaba and Hannah Wesley secured that honor and earned a spot on Team USA Bass thanks to a three-bass total weighing 10 pounds even.
They will fish at the Games next year alongside Bass Pro Tour anglers like Jacob Wheeler, David Dudley, James Watson, Mark Rose, Fred Roumbanis, and others.
New Product Showcase Voting Opens
Tuesday evening, media members descended on the New Product Showcase portion of the show floor to dine on snack foods including smoked salmon and ahi tuna—what else would you expect at a fishing trade show?—and to fill out ballots for coveted Best of Show Awards trophies. Voting continues on Wednesday and results will be announced on Thursday.
Again, there was a noticeable increase in attendance and energy at the event, something confirmed by the early data.
"One of the most talked about and anticipated ICAST events is the New Product Showcase," said ASA Trade Show and Membership VP Blake Swango in a news release. "This year, more than 900 products are entered, all vying for one of 30 'Best of Category' awards and the coveted 'Best of Show' recognition. The showcase generates year-long media content for all who enter."
Did You Know?
As the 2022 ICAST Show begins, the mid-summer event serves as a symbolic face for the multi-billion-dollar recreational fishing industry in North America. And that industry is huge with the ASA noting on Tuesday that recreational fishing has a $128 billion impact on the U.S. economy each year, supporting some 825,000 jobs.
And in Florida, known for its freshwater bass fishing and for saltwater angling opportunities for species ranging from snook to permit to tarpon, anglers and boaters have a combined $13.8 billion economic output in the Sunshine State, an effort that supports 119,678 jobs.