As we near the ICAST fishing tackle show in Orlando, it got me thinking about what we might see there. Will there truly be anything there that is "revolutionary" or "cutting edge"? It seems like those are the most common clichés we hear this time of year; our email inboxes are full of them. I hope we'll see some groundbreaking products, but if I were a betting man, I'd guess there will be very few.
Although the fishing business is full of companies with some of the most creative minds in any industry, I wonder how many knock-off products will we see at the show this year. Each year we see more direct copies. I'm not even talking about making small tweaks and trying not to be so obvious about it. No real changes, just bold-face copies.
Honestly, that bothers me.
Generally speaking, fish are pretty dumb. Some days, it seems like they would bite a clothes pin if presented correctly. You'd think we could come up with unique shapes and products that others haven't created before. It's not necessarily easy, but it can be done.
I know of many companies that will not attend ICAST because they know they would be knocked off before they get home from the show. Some designs—and I use that term very loosely—are done right at the show.
Respect is earned
I respect companies that do it their way. The ones who use their own formulations, unique and creative designs and testing methods that they, themselves, came up with.
A worm can only look so many ways, but just maybe color, appendages and consistency of the plastic can make them different. A crankbait is a crankbait and a hollow body frog may look similar between companies, but I see creativity stifled when it takes so little time to copy. I do understand similarities in design because you can't always recreate the wheel, but blatant copies are what I have an issue with.
The size of the company doesn't matter, either. Both small and large companies are held to the same standard of having new products each year with the hope it will be a number one seller. The effort put in R&D is a differentiator and plays a huge role.
Small companies never have as much money for R&D, but they do have that individual, small business pride that comes with having their name on the products. How much pride would you have in a product that is a direct duplicate? I know my answer is ZERO!
I have never seen a knock-off hit it out of the park. Knock-offs diminish the value of the original and saturates the market with lookalikes. No one wins there. The bottom line seems to always come back to money and a fast buck. It seems as if a lot of companies have lost their zest for creativity in favor of an easy win. Again, that truly bothers me.
Let's bring back the good old days
When I first got into fishing, I read and tried to absorb everything. My mind wandered and raced when I would see something new. If I could just lay my hands on that "one" lure, I'd be catching more fish in a heartbeat.
I always dreamed of the magic bait, but the longer I'm in the sport, it seems the magic is all about marketing rather than new and creative. In the old days, each magazine, TV show and product stood on its own merit. Although there are still glimmers of that in our sport, it's not what it used to be. Each bait was unique and had its own flair. Today? Not so much.
The packaging test
I would like to see a pile of new products laid on a table at the annual ICAST New Product Showcase and instead of being grouped by genre, just have them laying there.
Pick 25 or so products and have no labels, no writing and no packaging. Let's see if anyone could name the company who made it. Rest assured, back in the day, you could tell every one of them. Today, it would be a shot in the dark. There are a few, but that number is fairly small.
Kudos to those that build their own
I have a great deal of respect and admiration for companies that are unique and don't copy. Each year, that number becomes smaller, but they know who they are. Similarly, companies that make it a practice to copy know who they are, too.
I talk to many of them throughout the year and I write this not to reprimand anyone or throw anyone under the bus, but rather to make the innovators think. To bring out the creativity in all companies sure would be cool. We may have to dig down a bit, but I know it's in there and I hope this year I'm wrong about what I'm going to see.
We have a very special sport with special folks and special companies. It would be great to see something that's genuinely "revolutionary" or "game changing" at this show—the industry needs it. There are no guarantees with new products and no one really knows if the ICAST products will sell or not, but rest assured: You know the guys and I will be looking!