ICAST productive for ACC brand
By Greg McCain
ICAST, the annual gathering of the most influential members of the fishing industry, wrapped last week in Orlando.
For the first time in an official capacity, ACC Crappie Stix featured a presence at the biggest trade show in the industry, attended by over 13,000 fishing reps. ACC owner Andy Lehman, Director of Marketing Mitch Fese, and customer service and logistics employee Hayden Brown made the trip to ICAST 2023 with a whirlwind week of meetings, negotiations, and socializing on the agenda.
The purpose of the trip for ACC was two-fold: first, to continue the growth and evolution of the company by solidifying old contacts and by creating new ones and, secondly, to connect with ACC pro staff members and other influencers in attendance. ICAST proved to be a success for ACC attendees on both levels.
“We had a lot of meetings set up in advance,” Andy said, “lots of meetings that just do not go as well over the phone, building relationships, doing stuff face-to-face with people in the industry.
“We got a lot done, learned a lot, saw a lot, and determined the things we need to do and not to do in the future.”
Mitch also reiterated the importance of face-to-face contact with people.
“We had some very productive meetings,” he said. “We went into those meetings with a very positive attitude to not only help grow our company but theirs as well. That sets you up for success with a long-term relationship with these people, different companies, and retailers that we met with.
“That face-to-face meeting is really important. We can get more done over a 15- to 30-minute meeting than with two weeks worth of emails. Technology is great but shaking their hands and looking them in the eye is important.”
While details have not been finalized, introductions and negotiations took place that could potentially add new products to the ACC line, including improved plastics and reels to complement the established lines of the company’s distinctive green rods. Another potential takeaway was the possibility for more widespread distribution and availability of the ACC brand in new retail locations, including Dick’s, Bass Pro Shops, and Academy.
“It was a productive trip in a variety of ways,” Andy said. “We met with so many people. We don’t know exactly where the meetings will take us at this point, but we learned a lot and made contacts that will hopefully help us grow in the future.”
Considering this was ACC’s first trip to ICAST, Andy and company also took advantage of opportunities to connect with others in the industry in a less formal way, even with competitors, by visiting the roughly 650 booths. While rivalries certainly exist in the business, Andy emphasized the “camaraderie over competition” theme that seemed to pervade ICAST.
“I mean you had the Lowrance folks talking to the Humminbird guys and the Garmin guys,” he said. “There was not this cutthroat feeling. The atmosphere was great.”
Mitch said the overall experience – talking with industry reps, viewing the various offerings, and considering things that fit into the ACC model – will benefit the long-term health of the company.
“At times it was a little overwhelming,” he said, “but it was a chance to just listen and learn. Ask questions and people are very helpful to answer them for you, especially the folks who have been in the industry for 10, 20, 30 years and have worked for these big companies that you know and use.”
In addition to the purely business aspects of ICAST, Andy said he enjoyed the social interactions as well. He met ACC pro staffers for the first time. Among pro staff members in attendance were Rain Outdoors (Rain Stewart Williams and family), YouTuber and tournament competitor Andrew Nordbye, and local tournament angler Nick Whitten. The group from ACC also met and spoke with Sarah Parvin (the Slab Queen from Huntsville, AL), who was featured on this blog last summer.
“It’s neat to see the YouTubers, the influencers there,” he said. “Otherwise, I might have never met them. You get to go meet them and hang out. I sat in the booth and talked with Will Fowler (from Frogg Toggs). I got to meet Bill Dance.
“If you’re in this industry, you are fans of other brands. You can’t be all high and mighty. I love meeting these people and talking to them about how they are doing it.”
Andrew Nordbye said he had attended the last “six or seven” ICAST gatherings. The occasions provide him the chance not only to promote himself but also to support those who sponsor him.
“It’s all about building and maintaining relationships and helping the people who support you,” he said. “It’s about business. Companies go there to network and expand their businesses, create deals with other companies, and just meet people in the industry. It’s great for me to make those connections.”
Andrew, who represented Rather Outdoors brands Lew’s (including Mach Nation) and Strike King, plus Bullet Weights, Frogg Toggs, and P-line among others at ICAST, said the time is well-spent as he continues to grow his YouTube brand and tournament-fishing presence.
“Of course, I was glad to see Andy and the ACC guys there,” he said. “I also worked various booths and helped those brands that help me.”
Andy said ACC will be back for the next version of ICAST, scheduled for July 2024 in Orlando.
“We didn’t have a booth this year, but plans are to have one next year,” he said. “I can see the benefits of having a booth, so that’s the plan for now.”