It’s called ICAST by people in the “fishing industry” because it’s too hard to remember for what the acronym really stands: International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades. What’s that?
Other than being a cumbersome name, it’s the largest fishing oriented trade show in the world. I could find the exact statistics, but it’s something like a quarter million booths with about a half million vendors peddling and showing off something like a bazillion different products to a gazillion attendees. The show itself is held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL and covers about a hundred acres of (thankfully) well air-conditioned floor space. Simply said, it’s more than big, it’s huge, and anyone who is anyone in the fishing business is there.
I was there for three days and if I’d been wearing a beanie with a propeller on top, it would have been spinning like the blades on Marine One hovering over the White House. Some observations for those of you doing different or better things in mid-summer, like going fishing or camping in a shady location.
Kayaks are hot. A few years ago there was only a couple of serious players in the fishing kayak business. Now, names associated with other watercraft, such as Old Town canoes are putting more marketing resources into kayaks than in their other product lines. More evident is the dozens of companies building and selling their own brand and models of kayaks. Even more evident are product lines nearly everywhere designed and targeted specifically for kayak anglers – from special kayak tackle, storage boxes, lights, clothing and electronics.
I’m not a retailer, but common sense should tell you there’s big bucks to be made selling clothes. Walk into a Bass Pro Shops store or Cabela’s for the first time and you will be amazed at the amount of space given to apparel. Sure, some warm camo-coats, waterproof boots or garb specifically made for outdoor sorts to wear while recreating makes sense, but a quarter of the store? At ICAST it’s the same. There were multiple dozens of different clothing companies on display – established ones like Columbia and HUK – as well as many more upstarts hoping to become established.
The hottest clothing items are lightweight gloves, face shields, pants and particularly long sleeve shirts made from lightweight materials with UPF (ultra-violet protection factor) of 50 or more. A UPF 50 shirt blocks 98% of the harmful UV rays when fishing (or golfing or hiking or….). Even more apparent are those high UPF shirts and shorts decorated with “sublimated” patterns featuring wild, whacky and wondrous patterns. My favorite was a white shirt with bluish looking octopus apparently draped around the neck and shoulder.
If I’d been writing this column last year I’d have included how many companies were attempting to jump on the YETI cooler bandwagon. No doubt an ice cube will last longer in one of the high tech, heavyweight plastic coolers but I always questioned if the ten-fold increase in price between a roto-molded model and the injection-molded coolers outdoorsmen used for decades is worth a few pounds of frozen water? Some would say yes, but enough have said no the abundance of Yeti-clones on display was greatly down this year. Even more was the Yeti-clone stainless steel drink-cups. Evidently more outdoorsmen are doing what I do – drink the cold beverage or hot coffee quickly enough it doesn’t get too cold or warm.
SHARK TANK ITEMS
A few of the hundreds of booths are manned by entrepreneurs and inventors who are sometimes betting it all on their innovative idea of a new or improved product. Perhaps a few will become the new Yeti Cooler Company or Rapala Lures. Most won’t, but what they are betting on is fun to see. One guy has made and is marketing the ultimate five-gallon bucket. Thicker, stronger, better handle, better lid, you can drop a concrete block on it. Will it sell?
I’ll let you know next summer when I come back with the other gazillion people to walk the miles of aisles at ICAST 20