Marine News from the Great Lakes

Sport Show Seminar Savvy

Published: Friday, January 10, 2020
By: Dan Armitage

For most Great Lakes anglers this time of year, the closest we can get to wetting a line is doing so vicariously with a visit to the local sports show – which is one reason the consumer boat and sport shows are conducted during the winter months. Another is so that show attendees in the market for a new boat can see the new models and place an order with the options they want in time for the boat to be built and delivered to the local dealer in time for the spring fishing season. Most of us, however, attend the annual shows to get out of the house and rub elbows with fellow fishermen, check out the new equipment, and pick-up tips from speakers who lead talks on various subjects.

Before cable TV brought fishing programming into our living rooms, the only way you could see celebrity anglers of the day like Jimmy Houston or Bill Dance or Babe Winkleman share their angling experiences and advice was in person by attending the nearest major sport show. Today, most pro and celebrity anglers – and plenty of wannabes – have their own programs, blogs, and websites and catching their talks at sport shows doesn’t hold the same appeal.

That can actually be for the better. I’ve been on both sides of the sport show fence, having produced my own paddlesports show, being in charge of hiring the speakers for a major market sport show, and being a seminar leader myself.

Instead of spending half the show’s speaker budget on a big name angler, who may never have even fished local waters, producers now can spread the wealth, bringing in more local, and less expensive, fishing experts to present programs for show attendees. Unlike professional celebrity experts flown in for the day, these guides, tournament anglers, outdoor writers, and just plain good fishermen and women can share local knowledge and experiences while referencing area waters that show attendees actually fish themselves.

That’s much more useful to anglers looking to learn how to be more successful on the water rather than be entertained by a famous fisherman. That’s not to say the celebs don’t have good information to share, it’s just that it may be so generic or watered down in an attempt to appeal to a broad market that it has limited application locally. The messages may also be sponsor-driven, resulting in too many unjustified references to a particular product.

To take full advantage of the sport show speaker opps, celebrity or otherwise, find out who is speaking on a subject of interest to you, where, and when. Most show producers offer a website listing the seminars, subject, speakers, dates, and times so that you can plan your visit around attending the talks you want to hear. Most also offer a schedule in the show program you receive upon entry. And, while some show hosts announce the start of seminars throughout the day via the venue’s public address system, don’t count on that. Exhibitors are known to complain to producers who pull customers from their booths with such last-minute announcements that can cost them potential sales, so overhead announcements may not be offered.

Make sure you know where the talk will be given and how to get there. The major sport shows around the Great Lakes may offer several venues, from closed-door classrooms to stand-alone stages to bleachers facing fish-and-water-filled fishing demonstration tanks. It may take several minutes to get from one to the next on a busy weekend show day, and you want to arrive early to get a good seat.

Once there, break out your pen and paper or switch on your recording device, and document the wealth of angling advice offered at your local sport show.

About the Author

Dan Armitage is a popular Great Lakes-based outdoor writer and host of the Buckeye Sportsman show (, syndicated weekly on 30 radio stations across Ohio. Dan is a certified Passport to Fishing instructor and leads kids fishing programs at Midwest boat and sport shows, and is a licensed Captain with a Master rating from the US Coast Guard.


This article first appeared in the Winter Issue (Jan/Feb) 2020 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

tags: Boat Show, Education, Events, Fishing

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