Reel Time: Trade show features fishing gear

On Wednesday, July 11, I attended ICAST, the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades held in Orlando, Fla. I made the trip with Steve Traves, owner of AMI Outfitters, and Capt. Casey Lamb, of Longboat Key. The convention which is the largest fishing trade show was held in two mammoth conference halls at the Orange County Convention Center. The event held over four days showcased the latest innovations in fishing gear, accessories and apparel.

Open to qualified members of the sportfishing trade, which included retailers, exhibitors and media, it was an excellent opportunity for me to get some hands-on experience with new fly rods, reels, clothing and accessories that wouldn’t be available to anglers until after the show, and, in some cases, not until the 2019 season. The show is roughly divided between companies aligned with fly fishing and those whose main focus is conventional angling.

I spent the majority of the day in the fly fishing section with forays to visit Mark Nichols, of DOA Lures, and to ogle some of the extensive offerings of clothing, sunglasses and other unconventional tackle.  I took the opportunity to test and compare new fly rod designs. Over the course of the day, I cast rods by Hardy, Sage, Orvis, Thomas and Thomas and RL Winston.

I made a point of casting each company’s high-end fly rod to compare their claims and determine which I considered the best. There were many impressive designs, but Hardy’s new Wraith and Zephrus rods impressed both Traves and me. In addition to casting the new rod, I was able to learn about the technical design from Hardy Rod Ambassador and friend Andy Mill. The new rods feature strong, ultralight, slim blanks designed to help reduce fatigue and slice through the wind.

While casting with the rods, I tried a number of fly lines. Two standouts were by Rio and Cortland’s. Both companies have numerous lines designed for different fishing scenarios such as short accurate casts and wind.

I had the pleasure of once again spending some time discussing fly line designs with Cortland President Jim Wilson and Regional Sales Manager Frank Catino. I remembered last year when Wilson had personally demonstrated the Cortland line and was eager to share with them my experience with a Cortland line this tarpon season.

Reel Time AMI Outfitters
Steve Traves, of AMI Outfitters, casts a Hardy Zephrus fly rod with Andy Mill, Hardy Ambassador and winner of five Gold Cup Invitational Fly Tournaments. – Rusty Chinnis | Sun

During the day, I once again sat in on a couple of meetings with Traves and enjoyed learning about some new and innovative products coming this year and next from Simms Fishing Products, an industry-leading company that has a comprehensive line of fishing products including clothing, waders, packs, boots, and accessories. Other standouts were Fish Pond, a manufacturer of innovative travel packs and accessories; Tibor Reels, a small Florida based company that produces exquisite hand-tooled fly reels, arguably the industry’s best; and Renzetti Vices, another Florida-based company that manufactures the industry leading rotating fly tying vice.

I spent the majority of the show in the fly fishing arena but made a point of previewing some innovations in conventional tackle. It was an eye-opening experience as I went row after row through hundreds of exhibitors. The products ran the gamut from boats, motors, tackle, accessories, clothing, kayaks, paddleboards, chairs, destinations and included a drone that can lift an 8-pound bait and drop a sonar unit to locate fish.

One of the other pleasures of attending the ICAST trade show was the opportunity to reconnect with old associates and acquaintances. I ended up running into a number of friends and colleagues I hadn’t seen in years.

We left as the show closed for the day. It was a delightful and productive day, one that resulted in new contacts and exposure to a wealth of new products.

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