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Fishing companies flock to Niagara to show off new equipment

When Mark Davis of South Carolina collaborated with Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls more than two decades ago to sample the waters of Western New York, he immediately fell in love with the smallmouth bass fishing in Lake Erie. It didn’t take him long to realize the area has so much to offer in the way of species diversity.

At the time, Davis was the marketing guru for Shakespeare/Pflueger, a rod and reel company. He utilized his many contacts in the outdoor industry to attract top notch media and high-level corporate sponsors to help support a weeklong fishing extravaganza that would showcase the area. Lake Erie bass and walleye fishing, lower Niagara River trout, walleye and bass; Lake Ontario salmon and trout were a big part of the mix, giving companies a variety of species, as well as a mix of angling techniques.

They also needed a base of operations, a place that was centrally located and willing to work with the group. The core nucleus selected Lewiston, giving them immediate access to the lower river, 20 minutes from Lake Ontario and 30 minutes from Lake Erie. It has been there ever since, combining good fishing with excellent food. With many of the participants from out of town, chicken wings and beef on kummelweck are staples for nearly every meal as they jump from location to location each night.

Each July, the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades invades Orlando, Fla., for the world’s largest sportfishing trade show. Outdoor companies and media attend the event to see the latest innovations in fishing equipment, accessories and apparel. Many times, those items are brought here to allow the press access for hands-on use.

Bass Pro Billy McDonald shows the technique for his Hook All to help keep his plastic swim bait on the hook. (Bill Hilts Jr./Buffalo News)

FLW Bass Pro Billy McDonald of Indiana came here representing a few companies. In addition to Lucas Oil, he was high on Garmin’s new Panoptics LiveScope, a piece of technology that has worked well for him.

“It’s another way to see the fish and the structure in front of you,” says McDonald. “It mounts on my bow mount trolling motor and it helps me identify the structure that’s holding the fish. I always say if you’re not using Garmin, you are getting beat by someone who is.”

Mark McQuown with Garmin returned to the media event after attending the first one 21 years ago.

“This media event was great,” he said. “It gave us the opportunity to promote the new LiveScope and our new EchoMap Ultra 106 and 126 units. The LiveScope shows real time sonar, fish movement on the screen in real time.”

Of course, he also did his share of fishing. The way the daily trips are arranged, corporate sponsors are paired with different media each day.

Billy McDonald shows a fish on the LiveScope that Garmin is now promoting. It can find fish and structure in real time. (Bill Hilts Jr./Buffalo News)

The new Billy McDonald signature Hook All from Rapid Fishing Solutions is a tool that can help make things easier and more efficient when fishing. The Hook All can help secure a plastic bait onto a hook by using small plastic discs.

Seaguar fishing line has been a longtime sponsor of this Greater Niagara Media Event. “This event has proven to offer everything we need,” said Seaguar Fluorocarbon assistant marketing manager Brian Evans. “From great fishing, great media attendees and great local hospitality. It’s why we come back every year. Something always seems to be biting good and this area has it all.”

This year, Seguar focused on its Smackdown braided line, which is used for casting distance, sensitivity and strength.

"Our Flash Green is perfect when smallmouth fishing and allows the angler to see and detect a subtle bite in addition to always being able to know where your bait is," Evans said. "When combined with an AbrazX 100 percent fluorocarbon leader, it’s a winning combination. We also offer the Smackdown in stealth gray, which is more natural in appearance and will allow in some cases for the braid to be tied directly to your lure of choice."

Charlie Puckett, marketing manager with Flambeau Outdoors, offered insight into a new product called the Bait Butler.

“It’s a revolutionary new live bait retrieval system that alleviates the problem of fishing with live bait – fishing for bait. The Bait Butler takes the struggle out of the equation to make live bait retrieval foolproof — a simple yet ingenious design. The whole concept revolves around the quick, efficient, hassle-free operation of a unified lid system that collects bait via a pull rod actuated net and brings it to the surface for easy selection in any 5-gallon bucket.”

“Where the Bait Butler particularly shines are any fishing scenario with kids. We’re responsible for passing along the passion and tradition to the next generation of anglers and giving a kid the rush of his or her first flurry of excitement at the end of a line is a surefire way to create a powerful memory, if not get them hooked right then and there. Live bait is often the ticket for quick success and rebaiting is going to be frequent when fishing with kids. With the Bait Butler, it instantly becomes a convenient teaching aid that a kid can instantaneously use to be a part of the process. For the adult, it’s a resourceful and a convenient tool.”

Mammoth Coolers made its first appearance at the event, but for marketing guy Bob George, it was his 10th visit in the last 11 years.

“The reason we attend the event is due to the networking aspects of it," George said. "We are preparing to enter the fishing market with our new Fish Kill Bags, in addition to the Mr. Crappie Cruiser Cooler and future Mr. Crappie product line. Much of this will be introduced at ICAST.”

Mammoth also will showcase a new line up of soft-sided coolers. A new Dry Bag was field-tested during the Niagara media event and passed with flying colors.

Buddy Prause, national sales manager with Acme United Corp., said that he was on hand at the event to promote Acme's sports goods products, Cuda, Camillus and DMT.

“The Niagara media event is a great early season opportunity to show off our newest items being offered in the marketplace," Prause said.

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