By Kirk Deeter
The wait is over. Today, for the first time since the 1980s, we saw what a fly-fishing trade show and an all-tackle trade show look like under the same roof at the same time. And from my vantage point, they both look pretty good.
ICAST (the all-tackle show) is visibly bigger than I remembered. IFTD (the fly tackle dealer show) is swarming with foot traffic from retailers and media from around the globe. In sum, the exhibit hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center is packed wall-to-wall with all things fishing, and the energy on the floor is palpable. The new product buzz is strong. But perhaps most significantly, it there is a new sense of cohesion and collaboration in the air.
That kicked off early this morning at the Industry Breakfast Event, where American Sportfishing Association president and CEO Mike Nussman made a point to welcome IFTD and the American Fly Fishing Trade Association into the ICAST fold; AFFTA chairman Jim Klug followed with reciprocal comments of gratitude and optimism that the two organizations would continue a long and prosperous relationship to benefit the sport.
And we saw data in the 2013 Special Report on Fishing and Boating that suggest the worm may be turning on what had been dwindling participation, and that fly fishing may be on the vanguard of exposing new aficionados to the fishing pastime.
Some of the findings (from the report prepared by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation and the Outdoor Foundation) are as follows:
Total fishing participation stood at 47 million people in 2012, marking the second consecutive year of growth after a dip to 45.4 million participants in 2010. Those 47 million people accounted for one billion outings, an average of 21.3 each, which is up from 18.2 average outings in 2011. Though nearly two-thirds of fishing participants are male, but females now represent more than 46 percent of those interested in trying fishing.
Fly fishing, it seems, is key to driving first-time fishing participants. Fly fishing participation grew in 2012 to 6 million anglers, and of those, 20.5 percent were first-timers. This is up from 14.4 percent in 2011, and it underscores the importance of future retention efforts to keep anglers active and engaged.
By no means is anyone at the shows in Vegas suggesting that all challenges are tackled, and sure, there are still some apparent logistical issues to be resolved to further optimize the co-location of the shows.
But the general “vibe” is positive, and I think more conventional and fly manufacturers and retailers are optimistic now than they were at their respective events last year. We will keep you posted as things evolve…