I have, on rare occasions, asked myself, “Is there anything else I would want to do with my life?”
Usually this question comes up in situations of duress – like when it’s 2 p.m. on a tournament day, and I only have one fish in the well, or when I’ve been living out of my truck for weeks on end.
Despite those rare instances of short-term doubt, I have never been able to identify another industry I would rather be in than the "fishing biz. "
Returning from the most recent ICAST in Orlando, my love for the sport, the industry, and the people is once again fortified, and I believe that we are once again seeing a “golden age” of fishing.
Business is Booming
ICAST has always been my favorite week of the year that isn’t related to a family holiday or a fishing tournament. To me, it's an event that's not only a platform to promote sponsors, discover new products and to network, but it’s also a barometer for the current state of the fishing industry – and from what I saw, heard and felt on the showroom floor, the fishing business is in great shape.
My primary focus for this year’s event was to help find more partners for Sweetwater, the TV show I co-host, as well as to catch up with our current partners to see how they're doing.
As part of my duties, I took part in numerous meetings and it became very clear to me that all our current sponsors were seeing exceptional growth, and that other companies too were experiencing an uptick in their sales.
Overall, the buzz I was hearing was very positive and the attitudes of most of the businesses I spoke with reflected that outlook.
I knew going into ICAST that Sweetwater was getting more popular. I was well aware of our great ratings, our social media growth and the fact that more people approach me about how much they enjoy the show, but I wasn’t sure how it was received by industry professionals until I walked through the convention center doors.
I’ll be honest, selling a new fishing show is no easy task, but going into our third season, there was a notable difference in the amount of interest that companies had in the show. It seemed like everyone had at least heard of Sweetwater, and most of them genuinely enjoyed the show.
It was a very special feeling to have people from within the industry stop me and tell me how much they like the show.
I’ve said it before, but one of the best things about going to a show like ICAST is catching up with friends and meeting new people with a similar passion for fishing.
It never ceases to amaze me how approachable everyone in the industry is. I can walk up to just about anyone, regardless of how high up they are on the corporate food chain, or how many times they’ve been on the cover of Bassmaster magazine, and we can both reminisce about our fishing adventures.
I know there are some bad apples in any barrel, but honestly, compared to other industries I’ve seen, the folks in the fishing biz are by and large the cream of the crop.
When Yaks Attack
It’s undeniable, kayak fishing is taking over the angling world and it seemed that every aisle I turned down on the showroom floor there was a new kayak, or kayak accessory making its debut. In fact, one of my sponsors, Old Town Canoes and Kayaks, won “Best Boat” honors at the show with the introduction of its Predator PDL kayak.
I’ll admit, I was a bit reluctant at first to adopt kayak fishing, but once I did I began to understand how it's changing the sport of bass fishing.
In an age in which the cost of owning a tournament bass rig is reaching the $100K mark, kayaks are offering anglers the ability to get on the water and use the same technology you might find on a high-dollar bass boat – all for a relatively low cost.
On my Predator kayak, I have everything from a Lowrance HDS Gen3 to a Power-Pole Micro, as well as a built in trolling motor. The only thing I’m missing is a 250hp outboard and a livewell.
Though many tournament bass guys will never give up their fiberglass boats for a yak, I think this excitement about kayaks and paddle boards is what the sport truly needed to get the recreational anglers excited about getting back on the water again – and that is going to reap benefits across the board.
It’s hard not to take things for granted. I know that I'm guilty of letting my goals and aspirations keep me wanting more, and at times I even forget the real reasons I love this sport so much.
It’s easy to gripe about only having one fish in the livewell with so few minutes to go. It’s easy to get discouraged about living out of the bed of your truck, spooning with a spare tire, a pile of rods and a case of bottled water.
The thing that I realized at ICAST this year was that it's also easy to remember why I will never leave this sport, and the industry that feeds it, and that I’m lucky to be part of one of the world’s greatest communities. The future for this group of dreamers is looking bright.
(Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is an aspiring tour pro and co-host of the TV series "Sweetwater." To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (SonarFishing) and Instagram (@sonarfishing).