This year’s ICAST show will be a virtual show with everything online. At first that seems like a disappointment. In reality, however, it’s two things — a missed opportunity for fishing industry regulars to catch up with new product development and a positive opportunity for anglers to expand their tackle.
Before we get into that, however, I want to make sure that everyone knows I’m not downplaying the COVID-19 problems that we’re facing. I know that many people have been hurt by it. Some have been hurt physically, some financially and some mentally. Those things are real. At the same time, though, I’m the type of person that looks for the positive. There are positives here for us anglers.
As most of you know I fish professionally with the Bassmaster Elite Series, but I also own Missile Baits. As an angler I’ve been frustrated that we missed a stellar spring of fishing, but as a company owner I’ve been feeling pretty darn good. Tackle sales are up across the board. That tells me people are still fishing and that they’re buying tackle.
Fishing license sales are up, too. That’s further evidence that people are fishing and enjoying the outdoors.
In truth, even if ICAST were held in person there would be a couple of issues that we’d have to address. The first is that because of the disruptions to the economy new products are behind schedule. Supply chains are backed up, people aren’t able to work in the factories or research facilities and many of the pros don’t have prototypes to test before products go to market.
Because of that an in-person show would be of limited utility. And, that’s before we even consider the health and social distancing issues that we’d have to deal with on-site. Holding a virtual show was, and is, the right decision.
A number of traditional fishing companies are going to be at a huge disadvantage by not having a physical ICAST. But, most of the modern companies that are all over social media will be fine. Companies in the middle need to step their game up to the modern level of media in order to be competitive.
I’ve already shot a bunch of new product and promotional videos for my company, Missile Baits, and also for sponsors like SPRO and Cashion Fishing Rods. They’ll be released on social media sites during and after ICAST.
If we look at the big picture, things are moving forward. New products are in the pipeline. I know that companies like Minn Kota, Z-Man, SPRO, Cashion Rods and Missile Baits all have new things coming out, and they are hot.
While that’s happening, everything I know about our industry tells me that rods and reels — especially entry-level stuff — are going like hotcakes. Some of the big box retailers can’t keep them on the shelf.
So, let’s get to the bottom line: What does a virtual ICAST really mean?
It means that for most anglers not much will change. The show is for trade representatives, companies and the media. Consumers aren’t allowed to attend. Angler knowledge comes from the internet anyway. They lose nothing. They’ll be able to buy new tackle, and catch fish with it, like they always did.
The biggest thing you’ll see is that because of the economic shutdown, there will be real delays on new product releases. At the same time, though, the increase in fishing tackle sales has kept enough revenue in the pipeline to make sure new products keep rolling out to anglers.
The bottom line is that we should all watch for more and more new fishing tackle to come out over the next year. Everyone needs to watch ICAST on their smart devices. In no time you’ll be able to stock up on the newest and best products just like always.
This year will be different, not bad.