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Outdoors event unites writers, sponsors to celebrate WNY fisheries

It started in 1996 when Mark Davis, the marketing guru with Shakespeare/Pflueger at the time, planned for a media event to promote his company’s rods and reels. He invited other corporate sponsors to help share the costs, worked with local fishing guides like Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls, Capt. Terry Jones of Tonawanda and a handful of others, and brought in some other outdoor industry fireplugs to help make it happen. Everything jelled. They knew they had something special.

It’s been 23 years and the Greater Niagara Spring Outdoor Media Event is still going strong, usually set for the first week of May, give or take a few days. Weather is always a consideration and last year it was tough. This year, the group was greeted with a light snowfall on the first morning they were supposed to hit the water. There will be challenges all week, but everyone knows that it’s best to make the most of what’s available – a story that can be told time and time again by people who are successful. Make lemonade out of lemons so to speak. In fact, that was the title of a TV show put together by the folks at Mid-West Outdoors when they couldn’t get out fishing on the final day … so they went turkey hunting. Do whatever it takes to make it happen.

A lot of has changed over the two-plus decades. There are new media folks and fresh sponsor companies participating with a good mix of long-time participants to help create a special comradery.

“Next week I travel to Australia followed by trips to Louisiana and Costa Rica,” said Davis, now the host of the award-winning “Big Water Adventures” television show. “I will always make time for a May trip to Western New York. I fished the Lower Niagara River this week and caught a 12 1/2-pound walleye with a swim bait while I was fishing for bass. That’s the kind of fishery this is, catching a variety of fish from essentially the same waters. Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are also very special fisheries.”

Robert Briones of Ottawa shows off a Jackson Kayak fishing in the lower Niagara River. He also caught some nice bass.

One new company this year was Jackson Kayak out of Tennessee. There’s no question that kayaking is an up-and-coming outdoor activity. John Deshauteurs of Van Cleave, Miss., and Roberto Briones of Ottawa, Ontario, were the two representatives, offering plenty of fishing experience using kayaks. This was going to be fun.

The addition of fishing to the kayak scene is taking things to an entirely new level and the dynamic duo wanted to showcase some of the new models that the company has come out with. When the wind was a bit too much in the lower river, they packed up and headed east to Wilson Harbor, where they tooled around for the morning getting the lay of the water. Briones has been using the new Liska model and has fallen in love with it. I managed to pedal around in a Coosa FD model, outfitted with a new Flex Drive System that allows for hands-free operation – to fish, take pictures or to eat a sandwich … or all three. The latter happened more than once. Check out www.jacksonkayak.com.

As mentioned earlier, this event gets companies working together with writers and with other companies. For example, Curt Hill from Power Pole (www.power-pole.com) made sure that the Jackson Kayaks were outfitted with some smaller Micro Anchor Power Poles designed to fit perfectly with the kayaks. These shallow-water anchors were just what the doctor ordered for our breezy time in Wilson Harbor. The only restriction was a maximum of 8 feet of water.

Another corporate partner was Cuda (www.cudabrand.com), a company that’s been around for nearly 40 years. The parent company is Acme United Corp., a leader in cutting tools and material technologies. Buddy Prause with Cuda offered a variety of fishing-related tools – scissors, braid shears, knives, first aid kits. Some of those tools were easily accessible using the new tool containment system. It fits in a cup holder and holds needle nose pliers, clippers, lures and much more.  A small net helps keep the tools contained, especially if the boat is moving quickly. Too bad they didn’t have a small net containment system for his phone.

Sometimes the outdoor media gets treated to something brand new. Flambeau Outdoors was on hand once again and company representative Charlie Puckett was high on the new Coastal Series of tackle bags, showing off something that isn’t even in stores yet.

“These new tackle bags are zipper-less, UV resistant and offer a quick-drying design,” said Puckett. “They are even saltwater smart and carry the new Zerust that protects your gear from rust and corrosion.” Check out www.flambeauoutdoors.com.

Gerry Benedicto is general manager for Seaguar, a company that specializes in fluorocarbon fishing line. He’s been coming to this event since 2012 and it was in the Niagara River that he set his personal best smallmouth bass, a 6-pound, 13-ounce bronzeback. He’s always on a quest to break that personal best mark. While he’s come close a few times, that bomber bass still eludes him.

“This is such a great fishery,” said Benedicto of Manhattan. “There is such a diverse selection of fish. And with the clearer waters that have developed in the Great Lakes, fluorocarbon line is the perfect choice to use. This line is less visible since the refraction index is very close to that of water, making it nearly invisible in water.”

Gerry pointed out a few more positives such as the fact that it is highly abrasion resistant. Since we are often fishing structure like docks and rocks, using fluorocarbon line will mean that you will catch more the fish. Fluorocarbon line also has less stretch which means you have better sensitivity and more hook setting power. Go to www.seaguar.com for more information.

Many of the media mavens are still in town through Saturday. You may recognize some of the names or some of the programs like Matt Straw, who scribes for publications like In Fisherman, Great Lakes Angler and more; Larry Ladowski with Mid-West Outdoors TV; Jay Feimster with Point, Click, Fish TV – some 20 writers representing publications such as Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, Bassmasters, Fishing Tackle Retailer, Great Lakes Angler and more. It’s all behind the scenes, helping put WNY on the map. Wait until you see what happens next week. Stay tuned.

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