Visit this year’s ICAST/IFTD show in Orlando and the astute observer might notice that the Simms Fishing products booth actually straddles the line. That imaginary line that exists on floor plan schematics, the ones that show the ICAST’s conventional tackle side of fishing as well as the IFTD’s fly fishing side of things.
That’s intentional said Rich Hohne, digital marketing and PR director for Simms Fishing.
“For us, so many of the products that we make translate into the notion that all anglers need to be comfortable to experience their best days on the water, not just those who enjoy fly fishing,” said Hohne.
“If our stuff is working really well, you don’t even know you’ve got it on, regardless of which species you are pursuing out there,” he added.
Hohne admitted that Simms is often thought of as a maker of primarily fly fishing gear – Gore-Tex waders, Gore-Tex rain gear, technical clothing, lifestyle clothing, fly fishing vests, and gear bags – thanks in part to its location and corporate history.
“We’re based in the heart of fly fishing world,” said Hohne. “Montana is considered by many as the Mecca for trout enthusiasts. But our company is named Simms Fishing, not Simms Fly Fishing. And there’s a reason for that – for us, we believe that the passion for fishing is a universal one.”
Hohne pointed to the bass fishing and saltwater fishing culture that is prevalent here in Florida as well as the trout culture back home in Montana.
“There are a lot of trout guys here in our booth,” he said. “But there have also been a lot of guys from other angling groups in here too. In fact, (bass angling pro) Shaw Grigsby was just through here and we’ve seen Aaron Martens and Brandon Palaniuk come though too.”
Does such line straddling by Simms create any grumbling and friction between such distinct fishing subcultures? Hohne admitted that occasionally the answer is yes.
“Some people don’t understand that Aaron Martens needs as much protection from the elements in a bass boat in Alabama as a guide on a Montana trout stream or a salmon guide in the back of a jet boat in Alaska both need,” he said.
Martens and Grigsby - who along with Palaniuk are all Major League Fishing pros - both experienced the need for exceptional fishing gear here in Florida a couple of years ago.
That need occurred in October 2012 while they were both competing in the MLF Challenge Cup tournament held on Lake Istokpoga, a sprawling Florida bass water located a couple of hours to the south of Orlando.
When Hurricane Sandy lashed the Florida peninsula on her destructive trip up the Eastern seaboard, the black-and-orange color scheme of the Simms Fishing ProDry Gore-Tex rain suits became a familiar sight to viewers as the Outdoor Channel television cameras looked on.
“The thing is, while these anglers all have different feature set requirements, they all share the same passion for fishing,” said Hohne.
And that leads to the literal location of the Simms Fishing booth on the floor of Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center.
“In our booth space, we actually are sitting on the dividing line,” smiled Hohne. “We’re partly in the fly fishing side of the show and we also expand over that line into the conventional side of the show.
“Our booth space is symbolic in showing our company’s commitment to the passion that exists in all of fishing.”
To that end, Hohne is participating in a seminar discussion on Thursday that addresses this topic.
“We’re actually addressing this whole idea of conventional fishing versus fly fishing in a kind of ‘Why can’t we all get along?’ approach,” said Hohne.
“That discussion will look at how this idea is good for business from the different equipment needs of various types of anglers to the different price points that we can offer to the different materials we can use in our products,” he added.
“We all benefit (as businesses) when we can get people to move into fishing. And that’s why our focus at Simms is on the universal passion of fishing and not whether or not you use a spinning rod or a spey rod when you are out on the water.”
Has such a commitment translated into better business at the combined shows of ICAST and IFTD?
Hohne said yes and points to an increase in buyer traffic and the creation of more distribution channels for Simms as well as connecting with more of the company’s colleagues throughout the industry.
“It’s an important place for us to interface with our retailers, to foster relationships with the media and to get together with our friends in the industry,” he said. “And all of that so that we can continue to reinforce our company’s passion for fishing.”
Even if the Simms Fishing company quite literally straddles the line here in Orlando.
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