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Room for one more? Canadian canoe brand makes a big move into fishing

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Esquif has refused to allow the cancellation of ICAST in Orlando to halt its progress and will continue to ‘aggressively market’ its models for angling, says David Hadden, the man charged with growing US sales.

This year’s ICAST trade show was due to be the platform for a Canadian watercraft manufacturer to launch an aggressive sales campaign in the
fishing sector across the US. Esquif International Inc. had to put its debut at the world’s largest fishing tackle trade show on hold following its cancellation during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the lack of exposure in Orlando, Florida has not pressed the pause button on its international sales push – far from it according to David Hadden, the company’s Director of Business Development and US Sales.

Hadden told Angling International: “In 2020 Esquif Canoes decided to aggressively market its line of sporting canoes in the US. After a successful spring and early summer season we were expecting to attend the show and announce our new models. While the Esquif brand has a long tradition in the recreational, touring and whitewater canoe markets, this was to be our ‘coming out’ to the angling community. Over the last year we have
enjoyed success with our fishing canoes with dealers and anglers responding positively and sales projected to double.”

Hadden explained that the fishing canoes offer several features not offered on other canoes, including the ability to carry multiple anglers, a 49lb to 115lb weight range for ease of transport and the ability to paddle, motor or row. “The Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest has responded strongest out of the gate, but recently we have seen strong growth in the Southeast and also along the Gulf coasts. While traditionally the boats were sold to freshwater anglers, we are now seeing saltwater sales with fishermen using these as a micro-skiff for chasing redfish and striped bass.”

During the Coronavirus pandemic, which forced the closure of its factory in Frampton, Quebec for six weeks, Hadden said the company used the downtime as an ‘opportunity’ that will ultimately improve its expansion plans. He explained: “It gave us the ability to assess our weaknesses and make corrections. We have made many improvements to our digital and social platforms and playbooks. We also used it as an opportunity to contact and tell dealers who we are and what we stand for as a company.

“While traditionally the boats were sold to freshwater anglers, we are now seeing saltwater sales.”

“We have shown them that we want to be their partner and can be a profitable one for them too moving forward. The paddlesport businesses in North America is stronger than it has been for the last three to four years. We need to continue to hustle and innovate to maintain this growth and the recent opportunity we have been given. Paddlesports has always been a great and economical way for people to enjoy the water. The pandemic has reminded us of that. We, as an industry and manufacturers, must continue to innovate and bring forward product that makes the watersport experience better.”

Despite the factory closure, Hadden said that Esquif exited restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic on a positive note and with a boost in sales. “Paddlesports, along with fishing and biking, were identified as safe activities for social distancing and that helped sales. Our specialty retailers also saw a boost as a result of the closure of large chain stores. Like all businesses, we were forced to adjust and set a new strategy. As a small, mid-sized company with an experienced, aggressive and nimble team I believe we have been able to react to the changing environment better than some of our competition.”

The Esquif Mallard XL

Visitors to the ICAST trade show in Orlando would have witnessed the launch of the Mallard XL, a craft that can be used with a motor, rowed or paddled. A square-stern canoe, it is wide and stable for casting, yet efficient for all day cruising.

  • Length: 12ft 4ins; Width: 39.75ins; Depth: 13ins
  • Weight: 49lb
  • Colour: Green/camo
  • Style: Square stern
  • Hull: T-Formex
  • Seat: Webbed
  • MSRP: $1,980 – $2,080; Shipping: Now