July 21, 2021
On a day known as "Super Tuesday" at the 2021 ICAST Show in Orlando, Fla., Mossy Oak public relations manager Jake Meyer rarely quit moving as he walked around the On the Water product demonstration booths situated along the southern shore of the ponds outside the Orange County Convention Center’s north side.
There was much for Meyer to do, from supervising filming and content creation for the Mossy Oak brand, checking in on Mossy Oak Fishing licensees to see if they had everything they needed to make the day a success, and running into business colleagues, some of whom Meyer had not seen in person since the 2020 SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
But the thing that the likable Meyer did on Tuesday as the 64th ICAST Fishing Trade Show prepared to open its doors for a July 20-23 run this week, was to smile a lot.
His predecessor at Mossy Oak, Tim Anderson, undoubtedly taught him to do that often, because Anderson is known around the industry for being an easy-going, always smiling kind of a guy, too.
But Meyer had additional reason to smile on Super Tuesday, for reasons well beyond any instruction he might have received upon taking his job a few years ago. And that’s because a year after the 2020 ICAST show—technically known as the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show—was canceled in the middle of a world-wide shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the big mid-summer fishing party is ready to begin this week in the shadow of Mickey’s Magic Kingdom as the outdoor world opens for business again.
And a good portion of that business belongs to Mossy Oak, a company that got its start in the hunting world back when Ronald Reagan was president. But all of these years later, Mossy Oak is increasingly making its presence felt on the water, too, with fishing patterns appearing on clothing and lifestyle items, rods, and reels, and even boat seats.
While the company’s presence was growing at recent ICAST shows, all of that momentum threatened to grind to a half a year ago as the coronavirus made its deadly presence felt across the globe.
Last summer and fall, as one trade show and outdoor gathering after another was canceled, there were some in the fishing industry who quietly wondered whether or not the age of the outdoor trade show would ever be the same again after the cycle was broken and many companies discovered that they could do business remotely, such as over Zoom meetings, and without getting on an airplane.
But Meyer indicated that he wasn’t one of those who thought that the ICAST show would be diminished in the future, or even be shuttered completely somewhere down the road.
"I can only speak for myself," he said. "What we’ve seen, and what I’ve seen, is that we value face-to-face relationships (at Mossy Oak)."
Meyer, who very much epitomizes the persona-relationship business model, expounded on the company’s commitment to doing business the way it has been done for generations, almost as long or longer as it took the famed oak tree in the company’s iconic logo to grow to full maturity.
"Ever since Mossy Oak was conceived in 1986, it was built on that handshake and that face-to-face relationship, from Cuz Strickland doing all of his media events and things like that to in-person events with Toxey (Haas) and Mr. Bill (Sugg) going and shaking the hands of those dealers, retailers, and licensees.
"There’s just something about a face-to-face and eye-to-eye conversation that we value and what brings us all together to live our best life outdoors. We want to do it together, in person, and you just can’t build those relationships at a (high) level through a screen (like) you can in-person. I think that’s what has us back here (at ICAST this year)."
As for what had Meyer and his Mossy Oak Fishing colleagues at the On the Water product demonstration day on Tuesday, it was a mixture of business interests as well as just having a deep love for being outdoors on the water and getting near critters.
"Specifically, here today at On the Water, we’re here to check out some of the best new fishing gear here at ICAST," said Meyer. "And then we’ve also got a presence at On the Water with Mossy Oak Wellness (products) and we’ve also got Mission Cooling Technology here as well (in Mossy Oak Fishing accessories). In addition to that, we’ve also got other licensees here demonstrating their new gear."
Walking through the booths at On the Water, Meyer and his buddy Jeff Shelby were part Mossy Oak cheerleader, part support team for business partners, and part enthusiastic anglers who love the sport that keeps many of the camo company’s enthusiasts occupied between hunting seasons. And for some, it’s the other way around, that hunting keeps them occupied between fishing season.
Either way, Mossy Oak is an integral part of the outdoors lifestyle for many, and Meyer and his teammates at ICAST hope to keep it that way well into the future, pandemic or not. In fact, in some ways, the pandemic has brought a bit of an unexpected silver lining for many outdoor companies as millions of Americans with a sudden surplus of time on their hands over the past year have turned to the outdoor sports, purchasing hunting and fishing licenses, and buying gear by the truckload.
Since license sales and gear sales went up in a huge way over the past year, Meyer is hopeful that the company he works for will continue to work hard, work smart, and find itself at the forefront of putting all of these new faces in great camo and fishing clothes, as well as pointing them in the right direction for good gear as they seek to enjoy their time in the woods and on the water.
Part of that process of moving forward and harnessing momentum is being played out here at ICAST this week as Meyer and others go back to work.
"I think a win this week for us would just be feeling the pulse this week that we think is beating at a good rate (in our industry) and (making sure that we are) heading in the right direction," he said.
The company has been heading in that direction for most, or all of, its history. And even during the pandemic that rocked the globe since early in 2020, there’s ample confirmation that Mossy Oak is doing things in a sound way.
"Mossy Oak has fared well (during the pandemic)," said Meyers. "Our partnerships have continued to evolve and grow, from a retail level to a licensee level. (And that’s) all of our brands, whether it’s the camo side, Mossy Oak camo in hunting, and all the way to our Mossy Oak Fishing patterns."
Already prominent in recent years, the brand will develop even more clout within the fishing industry over the next several years after Mossy Oak Fishing and Major League Fishing announced just a few days ago on July 15, 2021, that the two companies would extend their relationship for several more years to come through the 2024 season.
"We’re super proud of that," said Meyer. "(It's) really exciting stuff and we're really excited about the Major League Fishing partnership."
Specifically, that partnership will see Mossy Oak Fishing be the exclusive camo pattern sponsor of MLF, which is quite a feather in the cap for a company that got its start when founder Toxey Haas brought a fistful of dirt, twigs, and leaves into a textile mill so that he could get some innovative camouflage clothing made and get the Mossy Oak dream off the ground.
It’s well off the ground these days, and is in fact, well off the water, too, as one of the world’s leading camouflage makers and outdoor lifestyle brands keeps growing and making friends, something that Meyer and company intend to keep in motion no mater how many more challenges life and society want to throw their way.
Because if the past year and a half are any indicator, even in the middle of a global pandemic that has rocked the world, then expect to see Meyer’s smiling face at many more ICAST trade shows in the future as the camo maker refuses to rest on its laurels.
And you can take that to the bank, the fishing bank that is. Because that’s simply the Mossy Oak way, in the woods or at On the Water.