It would be easy for me to sit down and write a “state of the industry” piece to wrap-up Texas Fish & Game’s experience at ICAST. In fact that was my original intention but after staring at the screen for a few minutes, something stirred from deep within.
I remembered the first time I saw Roland Martin on television. I could not have been older than nine and I distinctly remember him catching a ridiculously large bass and being super impressed.
Flash forward 28 years and I was speaking with him in person on the floor of the ICAST show. Our brief conversation centered on redfish and his fishing one of my very favorite spots during a tournament a few years back.
Had you told nine-year-old Chester that one day he would be talking fishing with Roland Martin, he would have had a smile the size of Texas. And if you told him he would get to work as a professional at a show where virtually the entire fishing industry showcased their latest products, the smile would have been permanent.
So instead of the standard issue, “attendance was up, innovation was great” story here is my take on ICAST through the eyes of a nine-year-old. That is me at nine, fascinated with fishing and at a point where my interests could have went anywhere.
When I was nine Shakespeare reels were an important part of our angling repertoire. The first time attempting to throw one of their bait casters, I had a backlash that required a knife to correct. This year Shakespeare highlighted a reel that promises to be backlash free.
For a nine-year-old that is like the leap from the wheel to the Ferrari.
We used to use cinder blocks as makeshift anchors when times were tough. And although they got the job done, the Talon an automatic anchor debuted by Minn Kota makes it look beyond primitive. That is kind of like a leap from walking to time travel. Push a button, the anchor goes down. Plus it has remote control.
How cool is that?
I got my first frog bait somewhere around nine and it looked kind of like a frog. Well, at least it was shaped like one. This year I got to see the Koppers Green Walking Frog made by Live Target Lures that I wanted to skin and deep fry (…and yes I am Cajun). They even felt like frogs.
On the same note, Xcalibur had the Xr50 Real Gill, crankbaits with a finish virtually indistinguishable from real perch and Dahlberg’s Clackin’ Crayfish not only had a taxidermy-real look but featured combined hard and soft plastic to create a crawfish (sorry, we don’t have “crayfish” in Texas) that moved and sounded like the real thing.
Bomber Saltwater Grade had a slow-sinking version of their Badonk-A-Donk topwater. The name alone would have impressed me at nine but the top-class finish and ability to sink super slow would knock the socks off of any savvy salt.
One of my last interviews of the show however is the one that struck home with me most. It was with Larry the Lizard. That is not just the product, but also a guy’s name.
Larry moved down from Colorado to Texas with a dream of producing lizards that caught big bass and he has done that in spades. At Lake Fork he caught a 13-plus pounder and has such a positive, inspiring vision for Fork and Texas’ overall bass fishery, the state should hire him to promote tourism.
His product, designed by his own hands, looks absolutely amazing and at both nine and 37 would have intrigued me. It is easy to relate to Larry’s enthusiasm and the fact his big, realistic-looking lizard that features small rattle chambers that should help anglers fool super-sized bass.
You see Larry was not the only little guy at the show. We met with Ultimate Bucketmouth Baits also from Texas and a variety of upstart companies looking to pursue their dreams.
That to me is a sign that things are looking good for the fishing industry. People do not go into debt and spend their personal income to invest in their dreams if they expect the sky to fall.
It does not take a genius or any kind of market analyst, to tell when people are up, in a positive mode and ready to move forward and that is exactly what ICAST 2010 showed me.
I am a far cry from nine-years old physically but in spirit the little boy who looked up to Roland Martin, Bill Dance and Jimmy Houston came back to life, looked at the industry that surrounded him and was blown away.
And maybe better yet the 37-year-old left the show with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for the business he has worked in since a teenager, knowing that not only is the sky not falling but innovative minds are creating more effective ways to catch fish.
Isn’t that what it is all about anyway?
The author interviewing 2008 Bassmaster Classic winner Alton Jones at the 2010 ICAST show.