BY MIKE STEVENS
ORLANDO, Fla. – The International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) is the world’s largest sportfishing trade show, and while 2021 was the 64th running of the annual event, there was something special about this one in particular after it was unable to kick off the new-fishing-tackle launching season in 2020. Last year
featured the unprecedented combination of a dramatic nationwide spike in fishing participation and supply chain issues trickling down to empty pegs in retail shops and manufacturers tactically holding back on products they had planned on unveiling last year. WON’s overall takeaway from the 2021 ICAST show was the industry is quickly moving to once again fire on all cylinders and even take advantage of opportunities that presented themselves during a 2020 that brimmed with enormous question marks.
ICAST is accessible only industry players including manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, buyers and lucky for us, media. Western Outdoor News had General Manager Brad Van Zyl, WON BASS Tournament Director Billy Egan and myself rockin’ the “Media-Editorial” badge on the spot in Orlando, each with a different hit list in Orlando’s Orange County Convention center but all aimed at improving the multi-layered WON package wherever possible.
Visually, picture a floor plan that could eat the Long Beach Fred Hall Show where the more impressive booths might feature – along with their newest products – pro staffers, TV personalities, a bar (happy hour at 4 p.m.) live music, off-site after hours parties and even a second story for high-level meetings. Costa actually sported all of those.
A major component of ICAST is the New Product Showcase in which manufacturers submit products in a wide range of outdoor categories for buyers and members of the outdoor media to vote on the for each category, and out of those, vote for the highly-coveted Best of Show. While WON readers can check out the full list in next week’s issue, but it’s no fun without an early look.
The Berkley Powerbait Gilly not only took home top honors by winning Best of Show, it also stands as the first lure to ever win the award that usually goes to exponentially-higher price-point items like electronics, kayaks or high-end boat accessories. But in 2021, word of this new soft bluegill imitation was buzzing throughout the arena for the entire show, so it was no surprise to those taking part.
Pure Fishing, the parent company of Berkley that also has a long list of some more of the most well-known brands in sportfishing, absolutely cleaned house in this year’s New Product Showcase. Plano, Abu Garcia, Frabill and Greys are a handful of legendary brands under the Pure Fishing umbrella, and those four teamed up win in the following nine categories: Boating accessory, Cooler, Fly Fishing Accessory, Tackle Management, Freshwater Soft Lure, Saltwater Hard Lure, Freshwater Rod, Rod and Reel Combo and Fly Reel. The details on which products won each category will be included on that list in WON next week, but it was too big of an accomplishment to not touch on it now.
Along with the winners, WON staffers were on the lookout for products specific to our primarily West Coast readership that will make waves in our part of the world in the near future. Some appeared in the New Product Showcase, but many did not, and those will appear in seasonal if not species-specific lists in WON’s weekly newspaper, new website (the latest round up updates actually went live during ICAST 2021), special supplements or even talked about on the WON podcast. A huge portion of the value of ICAST is its residual effect on the rest of the year and into the next in terms of how and when it’s shared with WON’s fishing following. Dropping it all in one shot would take up way too much space, and many of the products unveiled at ICAST won’t even be available to purchase for upward of nine months.
Southern California-based AFTCO also had an impressive showing sweeping the apparel categories (Lifestyle Apparel for men and women, Technical apparel for warm weather and cold). SoCal headquartered Daiwa also hit it big with wins for both Saltwater and Freshwater reel.
The show is also the ultimate way to get the pulse of the industry and the outdoor activities that stand as its foundation. A recurring theme one ran into when visiting each booth was an effort to to support this new massive crop of new anglers that arrived last year. One that came up a few times was new-low price points on stuff like braid and fluorocarbon designed for easy handling and solid performance to help usher these new fishing license holders into the next level and make sure they hang around a while. Such efforts were apparent all over the show from that kind of thing to rod-and-reel combos that punch way above their price tags, just a laundry list of competitively priced overachievers from wall to wall.
As for the Western Outdoor News team, it was definitely a successful ICAST, and you will definitely see the fruits of our visit as well as from the follow-up meetings already on the books throughout the paper, on the website, throughout the WON tournament, charter and derby schedules and on the podcast.