Published: Thursday, January 4, 2018
By: Dan Armitage
Winter boat and sport shows are great places to discover new or noteworthy fishing tackle and accessories that you may not see anywhere else.
Or ever again.
Through the years, attending a half-dozen shows a winter, I’ve accumulated a closet full of odd tackle that never made it beyond the local sports show exhibition aisles. On the flip side, I’ve got a boatload of gear that I first saw at a show and has since earned a place in my boat or tacklebox — as well as on outdoor retailer shelves nationwide.
I’ve got an advantage over paying customers in that if I see something that I think is interesting, whoever is offering it will usually give me a sample if I ask. They hope I will use it and like it enough to recommend to readers and listeners (I host a radio show in Ohio that airs weekly on 29 stations) and that the exposure will net them additional sales.
As careful as I am to make sure I request sample items that I really think might work, so as not to give anyone false hopes, I still get a white elephant now and then. If the item is truly odd, (like the self-casting CO2 powered fishing rod, or Uncle Booger’s Bumper Dumper portable toilet seat that fits in a vehicle’s trailer hitch, to name two) it earns space in my closet of shame. Like the latter from Booger, it may also win a share of fame, if not always fortune, for its inventor.
Despite the occasional blooper, most of the gear that makes it to the local boat or sport show is worth a second look. And these items can be hard to find, as they may be peddled from an obscure booth by an inexperienced exhibitor, set back in a corner and overshadowed by the larger exhibitors’ spaces, or the accessory that may be perfect for your particular need might be hidden among other gear. The fun is in ferreting it out.
The other advantage of shopping a show for outdoor gear is being able to see, touch, and use the item first hand. As informative as it can be to scroll through a website or page through a catalog, you never really know what you’re going to get until you have the product in hand. That is possible — and the point, really — when shopping at a boat or sport show.
The downside is, it can be tough to return a faulty item purchased at a sport show. For one thing, you probably won’t have the chance to really use the item until fishing season and, by then, the show and the exhibitor have folded their tents for the season — and in the case of some exhibitors, perhaps forever if the item doesn’t generate enough sales to continue to offer it. So, you need to bear that in mind; you’re not dealing with a purchase from a big box retailer or your local tackle shop where returns are more easily accepted.
On the other hand, the shows usually offer the chance to actually talk to the person who developed and/or made the lure, rod, rig, or accessory you are considering buying — or at least a qualified rep with hands-on experience using the product. Sure, you have to weigh the fact that they want to sell you something, but it’s much easier to see through a sales smokescreen when you have the product in hand and are talking to the person directly and eye-to-eye.
That’s really what boat and sport shows offer: the chance to give that new boat, bait, or gear the all-important eye test. So, this season, visit your local boat or sport extravaganza and take time to consider the obscure exhibits as well as the opulent. You just might find that enigmatic piece of gear that allows you to catch fish or answer nature’s call when you need it mos
See you at the shows!
This article first appeared in the Winter Issue (Jan/Feb) 2018 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.