by Carmen Macdonald
For most anglers the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, or ICAST show, has very little meaning or recognition. It's very odd when I think about it, because anglers like you are the sole focus of the show.
The ICAST show is the fishing trade's annual gathering where new products for the following year are put on display. Retailers, from sole-proprietors who own the local shop, to large entourages representing huge chain stores, work the show floor to finalize decisions about rods, reels, lures, terminal gear, accessories and clothing that you'll have access to in the coming year. Meanwhile, representatives from every known media form describe why and how their vehicle is the best to connect products with you, the angling consumer, while editors and bloggers search for those products they feel will have a strong connection to their audiences.
Everyone is looking for winning combinations that will produce growth, profits and a sound future. The competition is fierce, and in the end, you are in the driver's seat.
Though you don't attend the show, you're represented through your collective purchase history. In every sub-category of fishing, your past and recent purchase volumes, mixed with measurable variables as well as gut instinct and hard-earned experience, determine the selections you'll be offered in the future. Good performance of salmon products begets more salmon products. Tuna purchases create more tuna gear opportunities. You vote with your dollars for high-end, low-end or somewhere in between. Where there are opportunities, both large and small, there's a host of companies seeking them out.
The cynical consumer might view the show as a display of what will "catch" anglers and not necessarily fish. For sure, an angler could put together five or ten core items and catch fish for the rest of their lives, but that's not how you behave.
Anglers are internal optimists. The pursuit of fish, the exploration of techniques, the dabbler's spirit, these qualities are equally important to the results of a day on the water. Either that, or simple boredom sets in from doing the same thing every trip out no matter how productive it is. In both cases, your interests, as dictated by your purchases, ebb and flow like the tide, heading off in one direction for a period, then at some date returning.
How many proven techniques from the past have you seen resurface as the new hot thing? Quite a few as time goes on.
Advancements in gear can drive these resurgences. In the early 1980's I thought I'd purchased my last spinning reel. I now have more spinning rods than baitcast reels in my boat when steelhead fishing. It certainly helps that the spinning gear of today makes the old stuff look like relics, both in feel and performance. Similarly, in the age of side-drifting, I found myself again plug fishing more this year than any time in the last decade. Side-drifting doesn't get them all, and watching a rod fold and a summer steelhead explode out of the water with a K11, Wiggle Wart or something else in its' mouth is a great change of pace.
To the cynic I'd say, rest assured, as a lot of people have your back. Nobody walks on to the show floor to fail. From the manufacturers to the retailers to the media, the over-hyped, over-promised and under-performing are rooted out quickly. If the collective "you" doesn't like a product, it's altered, changed, fixed or eliminated quickly. The environment is simply too competitive.
So what made this year's show so great? You did. Through the recession, there's been fear at all levels, coupled with poor weather nationally. A highly cautious environment has ruled. You've purchased guns and ammo like they're going to stop making them, but cut back on your fishing.
This year, however, you've gone fishing at a good clip. Could be fuel prices that rose and then fell back to acceptable levels. Could be great spring weather (everywhere outside of the Northwest!). Could be an improving economy. Or maybe, it takes a little break to realize just how nice a day spent on the water really is. Whatever the reason, inventories moved, pressures eased and folks actually allowed themselves to smile.
Great things can be achieved in threatening environments, but oftentimes the coolest innovations are the product of confidence and having some space to dream a little. An upbeat show is how it begins, and this year was solid.
Every day, your purchases are driving the future selections manufacturers will create. How and where you make your purchases will directly effect what those retailers will carry.
About the images:
1. You can find just about anything related to fishing on the show floor, even the stuff you'll never see in stores.
2. Luhr-Jensen has a new fleet of Kwikfish colors on their way.
3. Okuma released two spinning reels with carbon fiber frames and rotors beginning at just 6.8-ounces. Pictured is the top-end Helios ($139.99), but the real mover might be the RTX with a sub $100 MSRP!
4. Do tuna like rattles? Anglers are going to find out. An X-Rap series with Rapala's Clackin' Cadence Chamber is LOUD!
5. Tuf-Line released two new lines, a sinking braid as well as a new entry to the premium handling category.