The Fishing Show Wars:
Living the Angling Life


by Bruce Callis Jr

What a great start to 2023! For most of us, the new year is the start to fishing and our local fishing expo is what we look forward to every year. For me, it’s the Richmond Fishing Expo. And if I get lucky, I get to travel to check out other shows. I have been to the Raleigh Fishing Expo, the East Tennessee Fishing Expo, The Great American Outdoors Expo, the Eagles Fishing Flea Market, and the Augusta Fishing Expo and I can tell you that they are all different, yet all are the same in many ways. Let’s take a look from my point of view.
I attended the Raleigh Fishing Expo this year and was very impressed with the show. There were plenty of vendors and lots of people since I attended on Saturday, the busiest day at any show. Now, I’m not going to say it was bigger, as the building itself was a different style. It had a lower ceiling than Richmond’s Meadow Event Park and was smaller. It was actually in 2 buildings with the most vendors in the main building and the boats and demo tank in the other. Does this mean it was better or worse? NO! Just different. The one thing I did find out was that some of the vendors did not know that there was a Richmond Expo the following weekend. And that was a disappointment as we didn’t get to see them there. Will I make the trip back? Yes if possible!

The Great American Outdoors Show is up in Pennsylvania and is a huge show. When I attended it, I had a great time and found plenty of deals, but from a fishing interest, I found it small. Less vendors but plenty of opportunities for planning adventures with outfitters from saltwater to freshwater and exotic adventures. Of course, if you are big into hunting, this is a must see show! You can get plenty of supplies, new equipment, and plan any adventure worldwide. Now, this was a few years ago and because of the distance, I have not been able to get back. I had talked to them and they were working on building up the fishing part of the show. This is also not a one day adventure, you really need to plan on going for 2 days so you can take it all in. Definitely worth a return visit!
The Augusta Fishing and Outdoor Expo in Fishersville, Virginia is one of the newer shows. It serves a beautiful part of Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley. It has been growing and getting better every year. They are working hard to make this a must attend event for years to come. I really enjoyed attending it and plan to go back this year to see how much it has grown, and see what deals I may come away with.

The East Tennessee Fishing Expo is another great show. It is a long ride for me, but it was worth it. There are a lot of local vendors who do awesome work. A lot of custom painted baits and a lot of local new products. Yes, it is worth it and I would go back. But because of the distance, it is not a one day event either. If you are going to attend, plan on spending the night.

The Eagles Fishing Flea Market up in Fredericksburg is a lot different. It is more about individuals looking to see their wares. It can be a great place to find some great deals on new or used products. Want to find a used rod or reel, this is a great place to look. It is also a great place to look for some older lures that are difficult to find. A must attend event in Fredericksburg. You may walk away empty handed because you didn’t find anything special or you may walk walk away with that steal of a deal. I look forward to it every year.
Now let’s talk about the Richmond Fishing Expo. It is not like the Expos we use to have at the old Virginia Fairgrounds. It was a different time then. The big companies had to attend to get their name out. There was no internet, no social media, and it was all word of mouth. Today we are at the new Fairgrounds in a much better building, but just like the other shows, those big companies just don’t attend. Granted some big names might be at certain shows, like Mercury had a demo of the newest motors at the Raleigh Show, but that was linked through a boat dealer. And like the other shows, we have plenty of local talent attending the show to show us their great baits or products. Instead of Gary Yamamoto selling his products, we have a local suppliers of hand poured baits. Always a great event to attend.

The one thing I got to see at Richmond that I didn’t get to see at the others was the lady anglers, especially the local high school lady anglers. They were there to learn from the pros and their peers. While they were lucky enough to find some of those ladies at the show that are anglers themselves who fish against the men in tournaments, we don’t offer them many top lady anglers to listen to and ask questions of. We had plenty of guys on the tank, but no women. We had plenty of seminars, but none were geared to the ladies specifically. Thankfully, those ladies who are in the industry in attendance are willing to listen to them and answer their questions.

As the father of 2 daughters and a granddaughter, I wish they offered more lady anglers for them to listen to and look up to as a role model. My youngest daughter loves to fish and my oldest will go with me, even if it’s not her thing. My oldest grandson loves to fish, but my granddaughter just isn’t old enough yet. My grandson is lucky, he knows his mom can catch big bass as she had a great teacher. And he has both of us teaching him. My granddaughter will have the both of us teaching her as well.

Fishing Expos and Shows are a huge part of the fishing community. And no one show is truly better. They are all different in one way or another. Why? It is all about what we offer them locally and who we can get to attend. Sometimes it’s about who we have local who is at the show. Take Green Top for example. Certain products they carry will send a representative to the show to work it, like Cashion Rods or Missile Baits. That means that dealer doesn’t want to compete against the company that sells their product. It doesn’t take away from the show. It does leave room for others while we have experts there to work. Does that mean we don’t want big names, by no means.

I look forward to what 2024 has to offer in fishing shows. I know some shows are still happening this year, but I am referring to in my area. I’m hoping that more, bigger companies will be willing to attend the shows. I am hoping we have more local products and more innovative products at the shows. I hope we have plenty of great pros helping teach us and that we have some women anglers helping teach us and being a more present role model for the young ladies. I can’t wait! Are you ready?