The Facebook message from local Farmville, VA friend, Nash Osborn, came in the day before I left for Florida, "Are you going to ICAST? Do you know Ken Andres? He runs the show and is a friend of mine from Hampden Sydney."
Nash is co-owner of the Fishin' Pig Restaurant here in Farmville, a place everyone at Appomattox River Company frequents. Ken Andres had attended HSC back in the day, as did Nash and they'd met and become friends some years ago.
Ken tookÂ over as ICAST Show Director 5 years ago, and has helped propel the trade-show into the beautiful showcase that it is now.
What has ICAST accomplished recently?
"Each year, TSE ( Trade Show Executive) honors the 50 fastest-growing trade shows in three categories:Â net square feet of paid exhibit space, number of exhibiting companies and total attendance.Â ICAST was one of only 16 trade shows that were the fastest-growing across all three categories." - Fishing Tackle Retailer, Feb 2015.
I headed down to Orlando the next day, knowing that even if I ran into Ken Andres at the show, he'd be extremely busy, and probably wouldn't have much time to glad hand a random guy, from FarmVegas, who knows a guy that knows him. Boy was I wrong. I ran into Ken the first morning, Tuesday, as he finished filming an ICAST launch video in front of the convention center.
As I rolled up to him, he looked down at my badge, " Farmville! What's happening brother?!"
He knew all about Appomattox River Company and even had friends who worked in our old Roanoke store. "Any friend of Nash's is a friend of mine."
I ran into Ken on a couple of occasions, and each time had that same down home Virginia feel. The FarmVegas connection was a good one.Â I'll come back to this theme at the end of the post, but let's get to some of the fun product stuff!
This Hello Kitty themed fishing rig was the first thing I saw when I walked in this year.
Followed by the GoPro ninja with their new backpack.
I made it over to Truth Reels to see some of our Virginia family. Made In Virginia fishing reels for crushing Large and Small Game.
I met up with Tom, our GM, and we headed over to the Hobie booth for their big announcement about the Mirage Drive 180, which now gives all their pedal kayaks the ability to go in reverse.
The Mirage Drive 180 retro fits your Hobie, and will come in all 2017 models, including this new Camo Pro Angler.
So, who else has a Pedal drive with reverse? Well, the field is stocked with a ton of options, and rumors of more on the way.
Wilderness Systems debuted their Radar 115 Pedal Kayak and Perception unveiled their Pescador Pro 120 Pilot at ICAST. Both of them are still in prototype phase, but they looked good so far. The Radar has a Helix PD with an auto raising mast and kick pedal activation. The Pedal Drive has a 6:1 gear ratio.
The Pilot has a quick key pedal system that allows you to go zero draft very quickly. at 12'5" and 74lbs, this $1799 kayak is going to put people in a pedal boat for a very economical price.
Native Watercraft, who's been in the pedal game for a while, released their Manta Ray Propel at ICAST, adding to their already ample line-up. It looked good.
And of course Old Town had the Predator PDL in their booth. The PDL is due out in a month and the work / research that OTC has done is evident. Look for the Predator PDL to hit the market with a head of steam, especially after taking Best In Boat category at ICAST this year.
FeelFree Kayaks showed their new Motor/ Pedal Drive unit called the Overdrive, and it was a hit, instantly. The unit will retro fit the Lure 11.5 and creates the ability for kayak fisherman to go effortlessly from pedaling to motoring. The Overdrive has a plug and play design, that allows the user to just push in the motor power. It looks to be a winner.
FeelFree also released the Dagon, an offshore style kayak for those who want to paddle the miles and fish the big water.
Jackson Kayak on the other had debuted the Cuda HD and the new fly fishing specific, Mayfly. The Mayfly created quite the buzz, particularly with the International Fly Fishing Tradeshow folks. It appears to be a well thought out offering brought to market with some quality influence by JK's own Damon Bungard, an avid fly fisherman and outdoorsman.
Day 2 was definitely pedal heavy, but there were a few paddling options as well. It's great to see so many kayak manufacturers represented at ICAST. This is the largest sportfishing show around and everyone from the wider fishing world shows up in Orlando to see what's going to be hot in the coming months. So, for kayak fishing to have such a strong presence, well it continues to bode well for the industry and sport that we love. Here in Virginia we are lucky. From the trout streams in the mountains, to amazing smallmouth fishing on our rivers, to an abundance of fantastic largemouth lakes, to our skinny saltwater bounty and our big Chesapeake bay coastal grandeur, we have a little bit of everything in the commonwealth. Virginia has strong ties to the fishing industry and strong ties to the man who directs the largest sportfishing tradeshow in this country.
Â Ken Andres is one of ours, a proud Roanoke Virginian who grew up hunting and fishing in the Appalachian Mountains. Â It was a great pleasure to meet the man behind my favorite show.
This year ICAST was record breaking again, with over 15,000 attendees, and over 700 exhibitors covering 650,000 gross square feet in the convention center. It's big. And as Ken alluded to in a recent interview,Â â€œAlthough the statistics are impressive, itâ€™s the business opportunities that those numbers represent that really help tell the story.â€
So, while ICAST provided a wealth of things to see and drool over, it was the people I met and networked with that made Day 2 feel like a success. I also feel fortunate that the community here in this small town of Farmville, VA has continued to impress me with it's big time reach into the outside world. It's a down home place, very unassuming, but full of grace and power. Thanks again Nash for the heads up. And thanks you Ken for the looking out, small town Virginia style, for this Farmvegas citizen.
I'll post more photos on our Facebook page. We'll also have more info on these kayaks as they get closer to hitting our stores. I'll also post a quick, shorter Day 3 recap with accessories and a few more kayaks, SUPs, etc.
Thanks for checking in and paddle safe!