ORLANDO, Fla. — Any way you want to slice it, the 55th annual ICAST show was a success.
"The last time we were in Orlando was 2009," said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. "Despite an ailing economy, we had a good show.
"But this year, we had a great show. Show attendance, overall, was up 23 percent and buyer attendance was up 25 percent. We had 9,000 show attendees with more than 3,000 buyers and more than 760 media in attendance to cover the show."
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ICAST (International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades) provides a showcase for new products that won't be available to the public until later this year. It also serves as a barometer for the overall health of the sportfishing industry.
"Business is healthy. Retailers are very upbeat," said Jeff Marble, ASA chairman of the board and CEO of Frabill. "We will always have challenges, but we feel confident about the future."
The two previous years, ICAST was held in Las Vegas. The show will return to Las Vegas in 2013 before coming back to Orlando's Orange County Convention Center in 2014 and 2015.
"I like the East Coast ICASTs because it seems like the people are more interested in fishing here," said Marc Mills, a regional marketing manager for Shimano, who was participating in his 11th ICAST. "There is a different group of dealers that you don't see in Vegas.
"Every evening at six o'clock when the show is over, the only reason people leave here is because they're turning the lights off. Otherwise they would be here until eight or nine o'clock. It seems like everybody is real into fishing.
"You get a lot more guides at this show, which I think for us, as a manufacturer, is a good thing. I really like the Orlando show. I don't think it should be here every year. I like that back-and-forth between Orlando and Las Vegas."
David MacDonald, founder of Lunkerhunt, a Toronto-based company, was ecstatic about taking home an ICAST "Best of Show" award for his soft plastic lures, Bento Baits. When MacDonald first began making fishing lures in Canada, he envisioned doing business in the U.S. market.
"If you're in the fishing business, this is the Holy Grail," said the 40-year-old MacDonald. "The fishery here is phenomenal; it's really diverse from coast-to-coast.
"And, if you are doing business here, the resources that are out there for you are phenomenal as well. I built my product line from scratch with the goal that one day I'd be doing business in the U.S."
ICAST expanded its business seminar at the Orlando show. It provided an educational forum as well as another avenue for networking within the industry. It was another source of the favorable reviews from this year's show.
"Our aim is to continually enhance the show for the benefit of our exhibitors, buyers, media and other attendees, who now view the show as a 'must attend' event," said ICAST director Ken Adres.
"We look forward to seeing everyone in Las Vegas in 2013."
(Mary Jane Williamson, ASA communications director, contributed to this story.)