Western New York fishermen and women should be excited by the changes and additions that have been made as the Greater Niagara Fishing and Outdoor Expo enters into its fourth year at the Conference and Event Center Niagara Falls Jan. 20-22.
After all, sport shows around the country have been struggling to re-invent themselves. Starting up a new event in this day and age isn’t an easy proposition. Expo organizers needed to find a niche that will attract anglers and outdoors enthusiasts of all ages and they did - through education.
The Niagara Fishing Expo has become a teaching machine when it comes to the popular sport. No other three-day sport show offers this much education on the Great Lakes, and the challenge has been to create a better awareness for what the event is trying to accomplish. It’s a one-two punch that brings in an excellent mix of local, regional and nationally recognized sportfishing experts combined with a corresponding mix of retailers that will be offering “show special” pricing.
“We have 130 different seminars being offered by some 70 different speakers,” says Joe Yaeger of East Amherst, an avid angler and president of the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association (LOTSA). “The Expo has everything from beginner fishing seminars to in-depth instruction for the most intense anglers out there.”
Yaeger was responsible for putting the seminar schedule together and securing the speakers -- Mark and Jake Romanack with Fishing 411 television show, Mark Menendez with Bassmasters, Lance Valentine with Walleye 101 and many, many more. It all began with the LOTSA Salmon School.
Ten years ago, the LOTSA group started a monumental “Salmon School,” offering an in-depth full day of detailed instruction for Great Lakes trollers clamoring for more information. The following day, LOTSA held a fishing flea market of sorts, offering the general public an opportunity to purchase fishing tackle, talk to local charter captains and celebrate the local salmon and trout fishery. The first thing the Conference and Event Center did when they were thinking about putting a fishing show on was to contact Yaeger and LOTSA to bring them into the fold in Niagara Falls.
“The timing was good because we simply ran out of space in Lockport,” said Yaeger, referring to the 4-H Building at Cornell Cooperative Extension Niagara. “The Conference Center has been great. We’ve doubled the size of our Salmon School (ready to sell out again with just a few seats left), and the Expo as a whole has become something we can all be proud of. It’s not just salmon and trout. Some of our most popular seminars include perch and walleye.”
Yaeger’s vision included much more than education. He wanted to attract quality exhibitors who would be able to deliver unique and innovative products, as well as the basics, to fishing-hungry sportsmen and women. Top name manufacturers are in attendance, and next week’s Expo will be the biggest ever, hands down. At last count, they had secured more than 125 vendors with some stellar booth offerings that included large space sections of product and top-notch educators.
At the top of the list this year is Clam Outdoors, the largest name in the world of ice fishing. Many of the group’s ‘Ice Team” will be on hand to share insight into the world of hard-water angling with the “Northeast Region Ice (Fishing) Jam,” starting with the Godfather of Ice Fishing – Dave Genz of Minnesota, a living legend.
In addition to the education and display, the Clam Outdoors folks brought along Thorne Brothers, one of the biggest retailers of ice fishing products in the Midwest. If you are a diehard ice angler or want to learn the basics of getting started, there will be something for you to learn … and purchase.
“Our goal was to create a multifaceted event, like the spokes of a wheel,” said Melissa Gearhart, show manager for the Conference and Event Center. “We’ve built up a winter attraction that brings people into Niagara Falls in the winter time. Our show hotel (Sheraton) is already sold out and we are seeing this really starting to grow. At the same time, we are educating people on fishing – especially here in Western New York. Many of these people from outside the area will come back to literally sample the waters. The people that live here will be more successful on the water and they will share their knowledge with family and friends, buying more fishing gear and other related purchases along the way. This is an investment in our community.”
Figuring out the best way to market this unique event hasn’t been easy. Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Erie and Southern Ontario are all prime markets. So far, the Expo has been only scratching the surface but the word is getting out. Like with fishing, patience is required.
“This Expo isn’t like any other outdoor show,” says Yaeger. “You can very easily get a three-day pass for $20 and get your money’s worth by attending seminars by some of the best in the business. For example, if you were looking at making an electronics purchase like a fish finder, we have speakers like Lance Valentine giving tips on what to buy and how to use the equipment you already have. We also have Lowrance, Raymarine, Humminbird and Vexilar as electronics exhibitors so you can check different products out at the show to see what’s best for you – fishing-wise and pocketbook-wise.”
Show hours for the three-day show are: Friday – 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday – 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit the website for all of the details at www.niagarafishingexpo.com. While you are visiting, make sure you print out a copy of the $5 parking voucher that can be used in several of the lots around the Conference and Event Center, 101 Old Falls Street, Niagara Falls.