ICAST: BEYOND THE “NEW STUFF”
Story by Matt Pangrac
Moore, OK – With the 2012 ICAST show in Orlando, Florida now in the books, The BASS ZONE caught up with three people in the bass fishing industry who attended ICAST with very different goals and objectives.
The International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST), which was held July 11th through the 13th, is the largest fishing trade show in the country, where exhibitors show off the newest innovations each year to potential buyers and media outlets.
For the weekend bass angler, reading about or watching clips from the ICAST show is a way to get the first look at baits and tackle that will soon be available for purchase, or learn about products that just recently hit the market. For industry professionals, ICAST is a yearly opportunity to make meaningful connections and establish relationships with other people in the fishing industry.
The BASS ZONE caught up with three industry insiders who all attended ICAST for very different reasons, but all had a set of goals heading into the week in Orlando:
Clark Reehm, an Elite Series pro currently in his fifth year on tour, attended ICAST representing one of his sponsors, Kicker Fish Bait Company.
Dan O’Sullivan, Managing Editor of the website Advanced Angler, flew from California to attended ICAST as a media representative, reporting on new innovations and tackle to his readers on AdvancedAngler.com.
Fred Contaoi, who competed on the FLW Tour for 2007 through 2009 and is currently a product designer, attended ICAST to catch up with the sponsors that he still has relationships with, meet with companies he’s working with from a product design standpoint, and observe overall trends in the industry.
Clark Reehm – Elite Series pro representing Kicker Fish Bait Co.
“I was there working for Kicker Fish Bait Company. That was the first sponsor that I ever had and I’ve been with them since the mid 2000’s. Kicker Fish hadn’t been to ICAST for several years, and the purpose for going this year was to try and get the baits in more stores and get some more press out to people who may not have heard about the company.
“I was there representing the Bassmaster Elite Series, and Cody Bird was there as the FLW Tour representative. Either Cody or I was in the booth the entire show. It just gave credibility to people who stopped by, be it a writer, someone doing video work, or an on-line retailer. If someone needed a pro aspect or explanation, that’s what we were there for.
“Another thing about working in the booth is the fact that I already have several relationships with members in the outdoor media. I know a handful of writers, so I was able to stop them and they came over and did some material with us.
“It also helped to have pros there because a lot of us have ‘ins’ with people who were there representing retailers. One of the guys that I used to hang out with in college is a buyer for a big retailer now. He stopped by for a while and we talked about working something out. It’s all about having set relationships and maximizing those during the show.
“The main thing is that it comes down to credibility. Most of the retailers know, to some degree, who the pros are. If you can say, ‘I use this product at the top level,’ it really helps. Instead of talking with someone that a buyer has never heard of or seen before, I’m able to articulate the benefits of the bait over anyone else.
“For me personally, the day started before 8:00. I did as much grunt work as anybody, pumping out the dirty water in our aquariums and filling it back up with fresh water before the show opened each morning. We’re not above doing the grunt work that a lot of other people do as well. I vacuumed carpet and organized the baits.
“It seemed like a lot of the buyers and media were there within the first few hours of the day. Our booth location wasn’t the best this year, so when I wasn’t in the booth, I would walk around and bring people back.
“ICAST also gave me an opportunity to walk around and see all the new stuff. I spent some time looking for potential items that might give me an edge in the future. It wasn’t always the highlighted items that won an award that were the best. There might be a subtle little product hidden in a small booth that got overlooked in the product showcase.
“There were baits and products that I may have overlooked because not many people carry it, or a product from Japan that I’d never seen before. It gave me an opportunity to enhance my own fishing.
“In the end, it all comes down to building relationships - talking with the outdoor press and talking with potential buyers for stores to get the Kicker Fish brand in. I’m a talker, so I love doing that part and there’s no mental stress doing it all day long.
“I went through a whole bottle of hand sanitizer. I can’t even begin to count how many contacts I made and people I talked with. A lot of the people that I talked with are people who I already had prior relationships with, and that goes a long way.”
Dan O’Sullivan – Managing Editor of AdvancedAngler.com
“I looked at things on a business side and a personal side when I went to ICAST. The primary focus was to generate content for the readers of Advanced Angler. I know that a lot of other media outlets go to ICAST to stockpile material that they’re going to use over the next several weeks to a month or longer, but I just tried to cover as many things as possible during the three days that I was there.
“The first thing that I wanted to get out of the show was the make sure that my readers got a lot out of it. I was also at ICAST to gather leads for advertising and create partnerships with some of the pros for content for the future. I set up several calls and interviews for the future which tied into what we do at Advanced Angler, which is also ‘how to’ articles.
“On the personal side of things, ICAST was a chance to get together with your friends and people that you don’t get to see but two or three times a year. To get the chance to be there and reconnect with people was great on a personal side.
“When you cover a tournament like the Classic, there’s no time for catching up with other people. The way that ICAST is set up, there’s always a little bit more time to catch up with old friends.
“I typically have spent a month to a month and a half before ICAST making appointments, so I will have a calendar that’s basically on a 15 minute schedule once the show opens. If it’s an editorial visit with a company or an angler, then it’s about a 10 to 15 minute visit. If it’s a current advertising partner, then it’s a sit-down meeting to review the year and make sure that they’re getting what they need to be getting out of the site.
“I’m usually booked from when the show opens to when the show closes. This year, I was fortunate enough to have Jason Duran there with me who helps with Advanced Angler part-time. I turned him loose to go film videos, and when I came across something that needed to be covered, I’d just send him over there.
“At 6:00, I finished up my last meeting and then there was a dinner meeting each of the first two evenings. Typically, those start around 7:00 and last until around 9:30. After getting the remaining content and videos up, it was bed by around midnight.
“I really like seeing the industry on display at ICAST. Each company really tries to put its best foot forward, and it’s always encouraging to see that. You go into the show knowing that it’s a lot of work, but you exit with some encouragement because you see what companies are trying to build.”
Fred Contaoi – Product designer and former FLW Tour pro
“ICAST is the perfect opportunity for business and social networking. It allows me to strengthen my ties within the industry, because a lot of serious guys go to that show.
“It’s a sizable expense to go to ICAST, but I feel like it’s an important part of the business. I had several reasons to attend the show this year. I met with some people who I’m working on some design projects with, I supported and met with the sponsors that I still have relationships with, and I also just wanted to catch up with the anglers who are still on tour.
“ICAST really helps me get a feel for what the year has been like and what the trends are. That helps me with the stuff that I do back home from a design standpoint. Trends change and brands change. Being able to sit down with pros and companies at ICAST is really important.
“On the first day, I try to walk the entire show. This year, I think that I made it about halfway through on the first day, so I spent the majority of the first two days walking the show in between my meetings. I wanted to see the new products, what they are, and why they’re there.
“On a personal level, there are some guys that you haven’t seen for several years. It’s a perfect opportunity for networking. I’ve probably attended close to 20 ICAST shows, and my goals and objectives have changed over the years.
“Now that I’m not fishing on the Tour, I’m not tied to a particular booth. I can get out and see what everyone has to offer. When you’re promoting something, you’re somewhat relegated to that booth. The week really comes down to time management. It used to be an ‘order writing’ show, but the business has changed a lot. This is the opportunity for companies to showcase the new product and then bring it into the market place through whatever distribution channels that they have.
“The thing about ICAST is that it’s either held in Orlando or Las Vegas. There are tons of restaurants and a lot of after-hours meetings. On the first night I was there, I walked into a steak house and over half the restaurant was filled with people from the ICAST show. Most guys don’t just go back to the hotel room after the show closes – they go on with business.”