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Three big reasons for manufacturers to be at ICAST


The thread of America’s fisheries is weaved into the fabric of the American Sportfishing Association – the organisation tasked with protecting access and providing clean water for the country’s $148 billion sportfishing industry.

In early summer in the offices of the ASA on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. you will find a constant hum of chat about fisheries across the United States. But as summer comes into view, no topic looms as large as ICAST. It is the premier event for the industry in the United States, and its appeal stretches worldwide.

Last year, more than 13,000 attendees representing 80 nations met in Orlando for ICAST. The collection makes ICAST the world’s largest sportfishing trade show, a can’t-miss opportunity for any business serious about sportfishing.

But what continues to draw thousands of people back to Florida each year? The ASA – and the show’s exhibitors – have narrowed it down to three key factors.

1. Meeting the best buyers

Director of Marketing at St. Croix Rods Jesse Simpkins has been attending ICAST for more than two decades. As a manufacturer, an ASA board member and the brother of a Montana fly fishing guide, Simpkins has a complete picture of the impact of ICAST, from the water to the production floor. “ICAST is foundational for me as an angler, because I want to catch fish,” Simpkins says. “But it’s even more foundational for me as a business person to ensure the health of the resources we have and to ensure access to those resources is being protected.”

Simpkins adds the product development teams at St. Croix Rods operate with ICAST as a year-round goal. Product cycles are designed for launch at the show, where they will generate the most impact among media members and buyers. In 2023 St. Croix made a huge statement in Orlando by launching into the reels market with its SEVIIN range. Simpkins explains why it went to such great lengths at the show. “To use a hunting analogy, if you’re hunting the biggest game, you want to be in the field that game is in. At ICAST, all of the biggest buyers are there. The very largest buyers are there. The specialty shop buyers are there. The best independent dealers are there. So if you want the opportunity to showcase your products and who you are as a company, ICAST is a great place to do it.”

2. Expanding industry knowledge

Rob Southwick’s name has become synonymous with industry insight since founding outdoor industry research firm Southwick Associates in 1990. For more than 30 years, he has helped manufacturers and retailers better understand the trends impacting consumers in sportfishing. And each year, Southwick is a featured speaker at ICAST’s series of education seminars, dubbed Lunch & Learn.

“There’s so much more you can learn at the show, besides which products you should be offering,” says Southwick. “There’s insight to be gained on how to better run your business, how to better service the customer and how to better understand the customer. At ICAST, you gain more of the knowledge you need to really know what to offer as a business.”

Last year, Southwick’s industry analysis was joined by other seminars including a social media panel, a breakdown of the future of artificial intelligence in fishing and an annual breakdown of how federal excise taxes are impacting the sport.

3. Fostering connectivity

Tackle Direct CEO Patrick Gill, whose New Jersey-based dealership stocks around 100,000 SKUs, says ICAST is the place to go to expand connections in the fishing industry.  “When you’re on Zoom or a conference call, you usually have a set agenda,” Gill says. “At ICAST, it’s different. When you bump into somebody on the show floor or meet them casually over a beer, you get to know them more. There are people at these shows that my family and I have known for 20 years, because it goes a lot further than just the product or the business deal.”

ICAST features a week’s worth of events specifically designed to help business leaders connect with others in the industry. From activities like the ICAST On The Water Demo Day – which puts new products directly into the hands of dealers in the field – to break-out seminars like those hosted by Southwick, the show leaves plenty of room to balance the business side of fishing with social time in Orlando.

Registration for ICAST 2024, set for July 16th-19th, is open now at ICASTFishing.org. Qualified attendees can register for free and find convenient show guides and schedules to help plan their trip. Orlando International Airport (MCO) offers direct flights from locations like Panama City, San Salvador, Mexico City, San Jose, Sao Paolo and Santiago. A new Brightline high speed rail service now operates to Orlando from Miami International Airport (MIA) as well.

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