Wholesale + Retail = Fish Tales

I had an opportunity last week to go on a different type of fishing adventure. This trip would be to ICAST, which is the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades. The event was held in Orlando FL, July 15-17, 2009. There would be over 390 exhibitors there, lots of new products, and plenty of business going on. In fact, the message being displayed was:

"ICAST - Where sportfishing means business"
Speaking of the business of fishing, check out these statistics provided by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).

"Recreational fishing is big business, generating more than $125 billion in economic output and more than one million American jobs. If sportfishing were a corporation, it would rank above Bank of America or IBM on the Fortune 500 list of largest American companies. The economic contributions of recreational fishing have grown steadily over the last several decades."

Some economic data from 2006 …


Any time you go to a new fishing locale, it pays to do your homework and also to have a clear goal. For fishing, you would need maps, and plot a course that would take you through the most productive areas. Once I downloaded the exhibitor map, I knew I better get a good game plan if I was going to see all I wanted to see. Excel provided the solution. The ICAST website provided a listing of all the exhibitors, their websites, and their booth locations. A quick copy/paste, then sort by booth. I went to each website and determined what sort of product was offered, and then placed that information in another column. That column was filtered, resulting in "category by booth location". Armed with this information, I could slice and dice this venue, covering the areas that were important to me.

MY GOAL: At this convention, the exhibitors are the anglers (trying to get a nibble) and the attendees are the fish (trying to get the "bait" by way of a good deal). My goal was to certainly witness this process, but also to seek out anything that would be of interest to our paddle angling community. Thanks to my magical spreadsheet, I would hit the "paddle-fishing" related booths first, and then broaden my search. I let my fingers do a lot of the walking.

I was up at 5:00 am on Thursday, ready for the drive over to Orlando. Once I got parked and went into the West Hall of the Orange County Convention Center, I saw this:

This is only a tiny section of the ICAST exhibit area. But wait there's more. MAATS (The Marine Aftermarket Accessories Trade Show www.maats.net/) was going on at the same time in an adjacent hall.

It was a very long day, and the drive home didn't bother me a bit. At least then I could sit down. What follows is what I deem to be an "ICAST Greatest Hits" compilation. Some items are specifically for paddle anglers, while others are nothing more than boating goods that easily transfer to the paddle fishing arena.

DISCLAIMER: My apologies to all of the exhibitors (and their products) that don't get mentioned in this article. It's very evident that much effort and expense went into each of their offerings. I brought home about 30 pounds of press material, and I'll wade through that when I can. But for now, here is a sampling of some of the great things I saw there. My apologies to you all because I'm mincing my words to make room for more pictures.

BEST OF SHOW: And it's a KAYAK! To me, this speaks volumes as to where paddle-fishing relates to sportfishing as a whole. This kayak may blur the lines between kayaking and boating, but I have no doubt that it would be a dream to fish from. Plus, it can still access the "no motor" zones, thanks to the pedal drive. Congrats to Hobie on a very nice kayak!


KAYAKING WITH A TWIST: The twist comes in the form of a propeller shaft. There were several battery powered kayaks on display.

The Viking line of boats caught my eye due to the attention to detail, and also because of the front tank well area.  Viking Kayaks (www.vikingkayak.us/)

reedomhawk had an impressive showing in their booth. Shown below is their new 12 foot model. When the outriggers are removed for transportation, the remaining hull is about 8 feet long, which makes it easier to unload/load. The outriggers are now adjustable, which result in less drag when poling (as you stand). A trolling motor mount is also offered. 
FreedomHawk Kayaks (www.freedomhawkkayaks.com/)

TRADITIONAL KAYAKS - WHERE ARE THEY? That question was answered by Shakespeare. Their line of sit-on-top and sit-inside kayaks provide the traditional paddle powered kayaker with a full range of choices, colors, in affordable angler/non_angler options.  shakespearekayaks.com/

ELECTRONIC GADGETS: Featured in the New Product showcase was the HUMMINGBIRD 385 CI depth finder, specifically designed for kayaks. It's expected to be available later in the year. In this kit, you will find everything YOU need to install an electronic depth finder on YOUR kayak. It's all in one box, sorta like a cake mix. The box includes:

  • Humminbird 385ci Combo fishfinder (with gobs of features)
  • MHX-XMK Kayak transducer installation kit
  • 12-volt (7 amp hour) battery
  • Battery charger
  • Battery dry bag
  • Quick disconnect protective cap
  • Unit cover

Hummingbird Electronics: Hummingbird 300 series products

STAYIN' ALIVE, STAYIN' ALIVE: You'll have that song in your head the rest of the day. But, if that helps you to think more about your safety while on the water, then mission accomplished. There were 2 products that are similar in function, but both of the companies deserve mention.

Scotty has been a friend to the paddle angling community for many years, providing endless options concerning mounts for rods and electronics. They also are very safety minded as well. www.scottypaddlesports.com/ 

Fox40 has a myriad of marine safety products. This offering has a lot of security packed in to a small package that will fit on ANY paddle craft. This is a safety item you simply need to make room for. The bailing "bucket" fits easily in to the hand. And the lid has a mirror on the underside - brilliant.

I was very excited to visit this booth. Anchors are bulky and often noisy when deploying, which negates our stealth advantage. Typical stake out poles can damage scuppers (if used that way) or simply don't hold well. Enter the "Perry Pole". It weighs only 2 pounds, but extends to 6 feet. I examined the hardware very closely, and it's built like a tank, yet is very versatile as far as how it can be positioned. Since I have several kayaks, I'll merely get the mounting bracket for each boat and simply install the Perry Pole on whichever boat I'm in for a day. If you do any shallow water angling (which is ALL that I do), then this is a must have.

At first glance, you might not think it would work for you. But, I can see 2 valuable functions. As a paddle while fishing it could come in handy if you're working some tight quarters and need to keep your drift straight, etc. But, I can also see it as a safety item. If you were to lose your paddle somehow (shame on you for not using a paddle leash), then this product could really get you out of a jam. www.rodoarpaddle.com/

Some products are so simple you wonder why it took so long to see it come to market. Worse yet, "why didn't I think of that?". This product simply keeps a rod from sinking. When you figure what a rod/reel combo costs, this accessory more than pays for itself the first time it's needed. Plus, this will snug up the rod in a flush mount rod holder, which might prevent a rod from needing a rescue in the first place.

KAYAK TACKLE BAG: One of the biggest challenges that paddle anglers are faced with is storage. Often, our gear must serve several purposes. This tackle bag has rod holders, tackle storage, and even an area to be used as a cooler. It's also wrapped in reflective material. For me, it would be ideal for situations where I beach my kayak and then fish from the shore. I'd remove it from the kayak and have my cooler, my tackle, and most importantly, a rod holder. This product was very well built, and the company has a wide range of products for anglers, with many products designed specifically for us paddle anglers. www.precision-pak.com/

I heard a lot of buzz about this product prior to the show. Buzz is only buzz until you see one. It seems to be well made, affordable price points, and most of all, the theory behind how it actually works makes sense to me. The claim is that the notches reduce tangles and also allow for longer casts due to less drag/contact between line and spool. I haven't tried one yet, but I'm anxious to give one a spin (pun intended).

Of the 394 exhibitors on my spreadsheet, I deemed 107 of them to be lure companies. That number excludes lure companies that specialized in offshore applications. As I walked the floor, I merely glanced at those booths because I knew that I didn't have the time to see each one. The day I was at the show also happened to be my 32nd wedding anniversary, so at one point I stopped my travels to give my little bride a call. I walked and talked for a while, and when I stopped I was at the Yo-Zuri booth. My eye was immediately drawn to the hard baits there, because they had circle hooks instead of treble hooks. Circle hooks will be featured on the Sashimi line of baits, expected out in November. The Sashimi baits change color in the water, and the circle hooks ensure a higher survival rate while maintaining performance. 

As of this writing, these baits are the only ones on the market that have been designed specifically to perform with a circle hook. These baits are of special interest to the paddle angler though. Treble hooks can easily find their way to your flesh, your clothes, nets, you name it. So in the confinement of a cockpit, the notion of fewer rogue hook points sounds great to me. There's no info on these yet on Yo-Zuri's website, but keep an eye out for these baits. I've already added a "shopping list" tab on my spreadsheet for these. www.yo-zuri.com/

But wait, there's more! Yo-Zuri will soon offer scented softbaits, expected sometime in October. These baits are colorfast, biodegradable, tough, and "rechargeable". But for me (as a married guy of 32 years) there is another reason for wanting this product. THEY DON'T STINK. Fishing with artificial baits shouldn't make you smell like you've been bait chucking all day. They do leave behind a pheromone scent trail though. They will offer these in bags that are even specially designed to spread the "juice" more efficiently. Plus, they will have more baits per bag than their competitors in the same price range. The shapes and patterns will appeal to fresh and salt water anglers.

Millions of dollars are spent trying to get people on the water in "X" boat, fishing with "Y" paddle, and "Z" rod/lure/line. So what happens if everyone actually does it? The resources will take a pounding. Too many fish will be chased, caught, kept or improperly released. Habitat will be pressured and possibly damaged. Once the fish are gone, everybody loses. Luckily for us, there are numerous agencies that are looking out for us. I encourage you to follow these links and see what's being done to ensure future generations can continue to enjoy this sport.

Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation
The Snook Foundation
Fish Florida

WORLD FISHING NETWORK: Imagine a TV channel that is nothing but fishing shows, 24/7/365. Now, THAT got your attention, didn't it? That station would be WFN, The World Fishing Network (www.wfn.tv/). Check out their line-up. Some familiar faces along with some new ones. But, you'll need to contact your cable/satellite provider to encourage them to pick up this station. But gee, wouldn't it be nice if their line-up included a kayak fishing series?

Prayers answered: The Kayak Fishing Show: with Jim Sammons Your eyes don't deceive you - paddle fishing now has a TV series. Starting in January 2010, 13 episodes will air on WFN. The 30 minute shows will capture adventures from Alaska to Panama. This series is proof positive that the fishing industry has finally recognized paddle fishing as more than just a passing fad.

"The Kayak Fishing Show: with Jim Sammons is the result of two years of production investment," explains Ken Whiting (Paddling.Net contributor), Producer of the show and President of Heliconia. "We've been shooting the show in conjunction with the ExOfficio Presents Kayak Fishing: Game On movie series for the past two years with the hopes that it would evolve into a TV series. Needless to say, we're ecstatic to see this dream come to life and are very optimistic about what this means for the continued growth of the sport."

I can hardly wait to see what next year's show has to offer. Next year, I'll wear better shoes.

See you out on the water!

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after"
~ Henry David Thoreau

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