Chances are, you've never heard of the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST), the huge trade show that takes place every year, usually in Las Vegas. But it's a veritable guarantee that most of the tackle now in your boat or garage was initially debuted at the show.
That Sebile Magic Swimmer you've been hearing so much about got its first formal introduction to the U.S. at ICAST. Tru-Tungsten's Denny Brauer Flippin' Weights? Yep, ICAST. G.Loomis' Jig & Worm rods. Right again ICAST.
So, as you might have guessed, the show you hear very little about plays a huge role in the selection of tackle you have access to each year.
For 2009, the show will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., from July 15-17, marking the first time the show has been held in Florida in a decade.
But while the location may have changed for 2009, don't expect much to change.
The good folks at the American Sportfishing Association, the organization that produces the show, expects nothing but positives from the change.
"We're really excited about the show coming to Orlando," says Maria del Valle, ICAST director. "The show is always a good time for the industry."
Indeed, it's unlikely that you'll see this much buzz associated with fishing outside of the Bassmaster Classic. Big name pros will be working sponsors' booths; lure designers will show off their latest creations; and media folks will swarm, all eager to write about the hottest new lures and tackle. While the show is not open to the general public, it's an annual magnet for manufacturers, outdoors media, retailers and wholesalers.
But for all the buzz and excitement that comes out of the show, maybe the larger purpose the show serves is to highlight trends.
It's here that companies debut products, gauge the fanfare around those products, then decide which, if any, to bring to market.
And one of the best ways to judge the general direction of the market is to look at the items displayed in the New Product Showcase, which is sponsored by Fishing Tackle Retailer(FTR), part of the BASS family of publications and the trade publication of record for the sportfishing industry.
For the Showcase, companies submit new products to be judged by media members in 17 categories, including rods, reels, electronics, soft baits and hard baits, with the ultimate goal being to win the overall "Best of Show" award, a distinction that singles out a product as the best of the entire event.
And while the prize does not guarantee the product will be a favorite with anglers, manufacturers have come to see the event as a good indication of whether or not they are on to something.
"Even if your products don't win an award for the category it's judged in or the Best of Show award, just gauging people's receptiveness to your products is important," says Debi Duplechain, national sales director for Megastrike Fishing, a company bringing several innovative products to the show this year. "We'll use it to help us decide which direction to go in 2010. And if we win, well, that's a sure sign we're in line with consumers' thinking."
As you might expect, big companies such as Shimano and Pure Fishing get most of the attention and win many of the awards each year. For example, Shimano took home five awards in 2008, including Best of Show, while Pure Fishing took home three awards.
Based on the products FTR has had a chance to get a sneak peek of in advance of the show, this year's strongest finisher is anyone's guess.
For what I've seen, Z-Man's UltraFrogZ will get some strong looks, but so, too, will LaserLure's new Ike's Beatdown-colored lures.
From what I can glean, the strongest trend going into the show is that of companies creating soft plastic versions of popular hard baits. Yum's new Money Hound is an example. The lure looks just like a Heddon Super Spook, but can be fished weedless with a single hook. Word on the street is that at least three other companies are following suit with soft versions of their hard baits.
Another dominant trend sure to be on display at the show is that of rods getting lighter and sporting a more Japanese look: bright-colored paint, lots of snazzy graphics and being light as a feather.
Several rod companies, including Abu Garcia, are following this path, and likely others will too.
"We have something very special to show at ICAST," says Ric Hawthorne, head of marketing for American Rodsmiths. "I think a lot of eyes will be opened."