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Record ICAST show bodes well for marine industry

By Craig Ritchie

A record turnout at the 2015 ICAST show, held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando from July 15 to 17, bodes well for the marine industry, according to manufacturers exhibiting at the event.

More than 12,000 dealers, retailers, reps and distributors had pre-registered for the world’s largest fishing tackle trade show, the highest attendance ever in the event’s 58-year history. Mary Jane Williamson, communications director for the American Sportfishing Association, said the number of boating-related exhibitors is also at a record level.

“Retail has changed over the years, and a number of fishing tackle dealers also sell boating equipment,” said Williamson. “This year’s Best of Show award for the most innovative new product was won by a fishing kayak. Certainly with the cross-integration in electronics, for example, we now see fishing tackle dealers selling product that at one time might have been of interest only to a boat dealer. That is no longer the case.”

Boating products were clearly prominent throughout the show floor, with a total of 535 different companies exhibiting in 1,726 booth locations – not including a lineup of offshore fishing boats displayed outside the main entrance.

Indoors, Smoker Craft Inc. displayed a brilliantly finished lime green and black Starcraft STX 2050 aluminum fishing boat with fishing accessory manufacturer Bert’s Custom Tackle.

“We’ve been at the show with Bert’s for about seven years,” said Smoker Craft’s Greg Yarborough. “It’s a perfect opportunity for Bert’s to show their product lineup installed on an actual boat, and it’s a great opportunity for us to directly connect with an important customer segment.”

Boat accessories represent a growing component of the annual ICAST show, with exhibitors like Scotty, Gator Guards, Boat Bling, MotorGuide, Johnson Outdoors and Mustang Survival displaying new product lines.

Raychel Brown, trade show coordinator for Torqeedo, says the strong recreational fishing market represents a growth opportunity outside of traditional boating channels.

“This year’s ICAST has been very good,” she said. “Our opening day was phenomenal, we had several qualified dealers visit the booth and subsequently place orders for product. We met some additional new dealers on the Thursday who also placed orders, so we’re quite pleased. The crowds have been steady, it feels like we’ve been a bit busier than last year.”

Electronics manufacturers have also been busy, with a number of new product launches over the first two days of the show. Navico drew a particularly large crowd with the official launch of its new StructureScan 3D system.

“Our Lowrance and Simrad brands obviously have long and deep connections to the fishing market, so ICAST is a perfect venue to introduce these new products,” said Lucas Steward, product manager at Navico. “Fishermen are boaters, and they’re particularly passionate about spending time on the water.”

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