LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Shortly after 4 p.m. West Coast time on Day 2 of the 2010 ICAST convention, a raucous cheer swept the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center. In the 38-year history of the American fishing industry's biggest trade show, a major news event like the following had never been announced over the loudspeakers: BP had closed the cap on the 85-day Gulf of Mexico oil leak.
It was the obvious highlight of a convention that, despite a feeble economy and the spectre of a multi-billion-dollar natural disaster looming, opened under a cautiously optimistic spirit and came close to setting a show-attendance record.
"It's been a good, positive vibe all week, but the BP announcement added a little extra jump to everybody's step," said John Mazurkiewicz of Catalyst Marketing, a longtime member of the American Sportfishing Association's (ASA) communications committee. "We had a surprisingly good attendance with roughly 7,200-plus people and over 2,200 buyers, which tracks really well with stronger show trends. It felt like a good show."
ASA CEO and president Mike Nussman had echoed those thoughts throughout the week, cautiously describing increases in participation of exhibitors outside the nuts-and-bolts fishing categories (sunglasses, apparel, etc.). Mazurciewicz, attending his 23rd ICAST, saw the same trends.
"Look at the kayak stuff: the "Best of Show" in 2009 was a kayak, for cryin' out loud, so it's pretty clear that some of the categories outside rods, reels, line and lures are becoming bigger parts of this show," he said. "Sunglasses are big here. Apparel is big here. Rods, reels and line will always be the meat-and-potatoes of ICAST, but the other categories are extremely important now."
Don't be surprised if future conventions are heavier on fur and feathers, too.
With a recent change in the structure of the national fly-fishing shows, Mazurciewicz noticed a significant increase in the number of fly-related attendees, including several specialty fly shops — "These aren't people with a small fly section in their shop, but individual shops specializing in fly-fishing," he said — and many more fly-friendly product lines under the banners of traditional fishing brands.
"I saw 38 different exhibitors with fly-related products in their booths," Mazurkiewicz said. "I also saw a whole bunch of some major fly brands not represented in booths, but walking around the venue to get a feel for the show. If they decide that this is the venue for them, ASA and ICAST will be ready to work with them."
Light, lighter, lightest: The unveiling of G-Loomis' "Best of Show" NRX rod line was the most obvious example of a trend toward light, lighter, lightest in almost all categories. Show attendees saw several new rods with micro guides, new micro-braids and setups designed to throw lighter baits.
"Absolutely everything is going lighter this year, in both salt and freshwater," Mazurciewicz said. "We don't see this every year, but it seemed to me that there's been a big push for lighter — but more durable — gear in several different categories."