Advocacy Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes

ICAST 2013 Highlights


Big Rock Sports sales, merchandising and management teams attended the 2013 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) Show in Las Vegas, and we came away very impressed with the increased attendance and size of this year’s show, as well as the enthusiasm of the attendees. Over 9,500 registrants attended the three-and-a-half day show, which was highlighted by the addition of the International Fly Tackle Dealer (IFTD) Show for the first time this year.


On Tuesday afternoon prior to the start of the show, I attended the ICAST board of directors meeting where a variety of issues were discussed, one of which was the location of future ICAST Shows. Big Rock retailers in the Southeast region will be pleased to know that for 2014 and 2015, the show will be held in July at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, and will include the IFTD Show. In addition, discussions for future shows in 2016 and 2017 will also include Orlando, as well as Las Vegas, New Orleans and Chicago.


Following the board meeting, Wednesday morning’s Industry Breakfast kicked off the show with guest speaker Johnny Bench, Hall of Fame catcher from the Cincinnati Reds and an avid fisherman and outdoorsman. Johnny’s message resonated with everyone in the audience on the importance of family and fishing, and how important being involved in advocacy efforts like the new KeepAmericaFishing (KAF) membership campaign is to the future of our industry. Also at the breakfast, ASA provided the January 2013 “Sportfishing in America” study, as well as a “Special Report on Fishing and Boating 2013” provided by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) and the Outdoor Foundation. Both studies point to recent increases in participation in fishing and boating, with continued opportunities for growth in our industry in the coming years. Future studies will include ways to engage groups such as Latin-Americans who are becoming a more pronounced segment of the population. Test markets will initially focus on Florida, Texas and California. I’ll be providing more details on both reports and the test markets in future blogs.


Thursday afternoon marked the kick-off of the KeepAmericaFishing (KAF) new paid membership program, the re-launch of its website with a much greater focus on mobile applications and the announcement that through its two-year-old advocacy campaign, KAF had registered over one million advocates for our sport, with a five-year goal of reaching three million. Big Rock Sports has been a part of this advocacy campaign committee from its inception, and continues to support KAF as a Primary Partner for 2013–2014. I encourage you to visit their newly redesigned website at




Big Rock was also the Title Sponsor for the Picture your Family Fishing Sweepstakes that just concluded. The goal of this joint advocacy campaign was to encourage consumers to join KeepAmericaFishing (KAF) by driving traffic to Big Rock’s customers’ stores through a multimedia campaign that included email, online promotion, in-store retailer advertising and ICAST in-show promotion. Here’s a quick recap of the promotional and participation efforts:


– 670 Big Rock Customer stores participated

– 868,000 unique email marketing eblasts were sent to KAF members

– 24,250 “hits” back to the KAF website were received

-140 television sweepstakes ads were aired on the World Fishing Network (WFN)

– 200,000 WFN web and social media contacts were reached

– The sweepstakes resulted in 1,599 photo entries from 874 consumers in the US

– Winning entries received a Grand Prize fishing trip for a family of four anywhere had a guide, plus in-store gift certificates and in-store Tackle Grab bags. Final results of the membership drive are still being tabulated.




Shifting to the shooting sports side of the business, Big Rock has joined the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association (TMA) to help promote treestand safety across the US, and bring more detailed information about these efforts to our customers. TMA’s purpose is to “promote hunting, hunting ethics, hunting safety, wildlife conservation, public awareness of the hunting experience, product safety improvement and fostering relationships with organizations with similar goals.” If you are interested in learning more about this association’s efforts, their website is, and they have a category for Retailer/Buyer Class Members. John Louk is the Managing Director.




On a final note, Big Rock is helping support the National Rendezvous Living History Foundation (NRLHF) with a donation of animal and box targets for their archery and shooting competitions held September 20–28 in Slippery Rock, PA. The organization’s mission is “To promote and educate about early American history.” Over 1,500 attendees will camp and compete in the Pennsylvania outdoors for the NRLHF Eastern Primitive Rendezvous, wearing and using gear from the period of 1640 through 1840 in North America. The organization is a federal non-profit organization that was formed in 1998 for the management of Living History Rendezvous. If you’d like to learn more about the Rendezvous, the website is Their “Booshway” is Chuck Grabenstein, and the Public Relations Manager is Greg Bagshaw.

Congressional Fly-ins and Combat Warriors

A lot going on the past few months, so I will get right to it. The 6th Annual Congressional Fly-In sponsored by The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) was a huge success. I attended the two-day event with more than 50 shooting sports industry executives and members from many industry affiliations.


The timing coincided with the US Senate’s attempt to pass the Manchin-Toomey amendment, further restricting our use of firearms and accessories. Splitting up into small working groups, we visited many Senators and House Representatives over two days voicing our opposition, and watched on as the Senate and President Obama failed in their attempt to pass this amendment. Our time and efforts were well spent. I’m looking forward to next years Fly-In with NSSF planned for April 2-4, 2014.


A few weeks later Big Rock was invited to help represent the recreational fishing industry and participate in a three-day conference in Washington, DC, on “Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries.” Sponsored by NOAA, it was focused on the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in the US. This was the third conference on this Act, with over 500 attendees, and many more on the waiting list. Also in attendance with me representing the recreational fishing sector were Mike Nussman and Mike Leonard of the American Sportfishing Association, and leading industry advocates Jim Martin from Pure Fishing and Bill Shedd from AFTCO. I think it is fair to say we were all impressed and encouraged with the increased focus on the recreational sector and its economic impact to this nation from the previous two conferences.


We believe the key stakeholders in Washington got the message loud and clear on the changes that need to be made in the law, and the flexibility the regional councils need in the renewal of this law. Magnuson has come a long way in reducing overfishing, with estimates of the proportion of stocks overfished declining from 38% in 2000 to 19% today, and proportion of stocks subject to overfishing declining from 33% in 1999 to 10% today. Under the proposed reenactment, the recreational sector needs to have a seat at the table as changes are made, and the economic and social impact our sector has on this nation are taken into account.


I’m not sure how many of our readers know that much of the funding for our state Fishing and Wildlife Agencies (FWA) comes from excise taxes from industry manufacturers and license sales to recreational shooting sports and fishing participants. Big Rock was invited to attend the fourth annual Industry/Agency Summit with leading companies from the fishing, shooting sports, boating and archery industries, spending two full days with the heads of each states’ Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The agenda crossed over all four industries, and the collaborative effort between the private and public sectors was very impressive.


Mid-June marked the second Big Rock Sports Vendor Summit, where all of our shooting sports, fishing, camping and marine industries’ top companies’ management spent two-and-a-half days learning more about Big Rock Sports’ upcoming 2014 sales, marketing and merchandising plans, as well as meet individually with their respective shooting sports and fishing divisions’ strategic planning partners at Big Rock. There will be more to follow in the Summit itself on a separate press release, so I will not spend a lot of space on it here.


What was heartwarming to see at the Summit was the unbelievable enthusiasm and generosity the industry vendors showed at the live and silent auction the second night of the Summit, where collectively Big Rock and its vendor partners raised $100,000 for Combat Warriors, Inc. The funds raised will be used for hunting and fishing trips for returning veterans for the remainder of 2013 and into 2014. This makes a two-year total of $160,000 raised for Combat Warriors Inc. at the Big Rock Summits.


In the next issue of the magazine look for more on the July/August “Picture Your Family Fishing” Sweepstakes. Big Rock Sports and our fishing retailers are the title sponsor for this contest through KeepAmericaFishing. We’ll also bring you an update on the ICAST Show, potential new advocacy programs and plans from KeepAmericaFishing and the upcoming Outdoor Industry Rendezvous and Summit planned for early October.

Big Rock Participates in Industry/Agency Summit

A two day summit between outdoor industry leaders and the heads of the states’ fish and wildlife agencies was held the last week in May at ATK/Federal’s facility in Anoka, MN. Gary Zurn, Senior Vice President, represented Big Rock Sports as part of the Industry Coalition at the meeting, along with association and business leaders from the recreational fishing, shooting sports, boating/marine and archery industries who all pay taxes on the sale of their products that help fund the state agencies, and provide support for outdoor recreational activities. This was the fourth year of the Summit and attracted over 50 attendees, the largest turnout since its inception.

Agenda items were broad and timely, with the first day spent on discussing ways the outdoor industry companies and associations can work closer with the individual state agencies. “Many of the issues such as the banning of lead in outdoor equipment cross over to all four of the outdoor industries in attendance, and are a hot topic of conversation and potential legislation in many of our states legislatures,” said Zurn, who also serves as Chairman of the American Sportfishing Association’s Saltwater Government Affairs Committee and is actively involved in the lead issue in the fishing industry.

Other agenda topics included the continued expansion in states of restricting the sale of modern assault rifles, limiting the size of magazine clips in firearms, restrictions on the use of soft baits in fishing, the expansion of E-15 ethanol in gasoline and its effect on outboard motors and the impact of the reductions in funding on fish and wildlife programs from the current sequestration legislation in Washington. Said Zurn, “The openness and cooperation between the industry leaders and the state agency directors was very apparent and refreshing. Everyone at the summit was focused on improving the outdoor experience for the public and looking for ways to bring new people, especially young people, into our sports and enjoy the outdoors.”

The second day of the Summit was concluded with a tour of the Federal Cartridge Company’s production facility in Anoka.

Big Rock Staffer & Customer Participate in Gulf “Restoration” Planning Meetings

As part of the Gulf Coast “Restoration” Projects initiatives, Big Rock Sports’ Chris Flocken and Half Hitch Tackle owner Tom Putnam participated in one of 5 regional workshops in May to help determine how to best utilize funds from the $1 billion provided by BP for early restoration of the oil spill.  The regional workshops were conducted by members of The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), the Center for Coastal Conservation (CCC) and the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). According to Chris Macalus from TRCP, “the purpose was to discuss and develop a list of projects that can repair the impacts to recreational fishing….with focus on top priorities for fishermen on both the state level and for the entire Gulf.”


Highlighting some of the key recommendations from the Orange Beach, AL, meeting, bottom mapping and bio-diversity mapping of the entire Gulf that is currently not available would be very beneficial. “Offshore mapping would help Florida immensely in gathering data to help in knowing where to place bottom structure,” noted Tom Putnam.  Another key suggestion was better inshore markings and mapping to better protect grass beds and other areas from boaters, jet skiers and pontoon boat rentals who do not realize the degradation caused by navigating in these areas.


Another hot topic of conversation was access to fisheries, both physically and legally. “More and better boat ramps and parking are sorely needed,” stated Tom Putnam. Chris Flocken also noted: “More frequent and accurate stock assessments are badly needed, and a great way to use some of the Restoration Funding.”


Attendees at these meetings also included other members of the sportfishing industry, charter boat operators, and individual anglers. In addition to the meeting held in Orange Beach, AL, similar meetings were held in Tampa, FL; Mobile, AL; New Orleans, LA; and Houston, TX.

Welcome to Big Rock In Action

Welcome to our first column about Big Rock’s active role in outdoor advocacy. Our goal in adding this section is to bring you updates on shooting sports and fishing activities that may have an effect on your business, as well as point out upcoming activities that could have a bearing on your future in the outdoor industry.

This first one will be a “catch up” column with quick updates on a couple of activities in the first part of 2013, and will end with a note about upcoming events on our calendar. If you have an interest or comments on any of these upcoming events, we welcome your input.

For those readers who did not attend our Big Rock Sports West Show this year, Big Rock along with key manufacturers in the shooting sports industry held a silent auction benefitting the Youth Shooting Sports Alliance (YSSA). This was the third straight year Big Rock has partnered with Steve Miller, Managing Director at YSSA. This year we raised $10,000 for young shooters across the country, making a three-year total of over $40,000 for Steve and YSSA to use to purchase firearms for their loaner program. YSSA loans these out to organizations that are committed to teaching our young people how to properly use and hunt with a firearm. For more information on YSSA, contact Steve at

April 2013 marked the annual spring Government Affairs meetings with the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). This year’s meeting was held at the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. If you’ve never been to the IGFA headquarters and museum, the next time you are in South Florida be sure to check it out. These Government Affairs meetings are held several times a year, and focus nationally and regionally on saltwater fishing and freshwater fishing issues and trade and commerce legislation potentially affecting our retailers and Big Rock Sports. I serve as Chairman of the Saltwater Government Affairs Committee, and at this meeting we were concerned with several key issues potentially affecting our customers in this region, specifically the proposed closures and restrictive access to Key Biscayne National Park (closing 10,500 acres for a marine preserve is proposed) and restricting access to areas in Everglades National Park in South Florida. Our committee met with representatives of the National Park Service (NPS) and the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to voice our concerns and opposition to these proposed sanctuaries. Although early in the process, there is reason for optimism that a more practical size and use of the reserve will be achieved.

I’d also like to share some industry statistics with you that were provided by Rob Southwick from Southwick and Associates during his Sportfishing in America presentation at IGFA Headquarters. Although individually we may be a small part of this nation’s economy, collectively we in the sportfishing community represent an important part of America’s future.

–       60 million people fish in the US over a five-year period—20% of the total population

–       33 million anglers fish annually, 45 million if you include youths

–       $47.7 billion in retail sales annually—double that of all professional sports combined (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, etc.)

–       828,000 jobs—sportfishing employs more than McDonald’s or UPS in comparison

–       Collectively we pay over $15 billion in taxes each year

–       Sportfishing contributes $1.5 billion toward conservation—the largest contributor in the US

–       Regionally, in 2013 there will be 23 million fishing trips in Florida alone, with 120 million trips in total on the East Coast. Things are definitely looking up!

In the August/September issue I will update you on the National Shooting Sports Congressional Fly-In on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC; Our Nation’s Fisheries Conference, reviewing the reauthorization of the Magnuson–Stevens Act, which is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in the US; and the Outdoor Industry/Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) 2013 Summit, hosted at Federal Cartridge Company in Anoka, Minnesota.