Man, what an intense summer.

I wish I could say that it has been crazy because of tournaments, but as embarrassing as it is to admit, I have only fished a total of 4 days since I got back from my last event on Pickwick. Since moving to Florida in 2006, I’ve never gone this long without fishing at least twice a week, but summer classes have absolutely dominated my life.

Luckily, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting bright enough for me to have to slip some Oakley’s on, and I'm scheduled to graduate with my bachelor's degree in marketing in 2 weeks.

Despite the fact that the future looks very positive, the absence of time on the water has kept me in a bit of a funk. It's very hard for me to go long periods of time without fishing being my primary concern.

Fortunately, I was able to get my head right again when ICAST came to my hometown.

Anticipation

I was excited for ICAST to come to Orlando this year. I only live about 18 miles from the Convention Center, so it was right in my back yard. It was also my very first ICAST.

Probably the biggest reason I was so excited was that I was also debuting a new product that I developed with a company I work with, Angler Innovations. The product is called the Rig Jacket and it is essentially an Alabama Rig cover that we designed to help anglers be more efficient on the water by controlling the tangled mess that is the Alabama Rig. I was anxious to see how everyone would respond to it.

To start the week off right I was able to pick up my good friend Brad Altman, the owner of Topwater Clothing, from the airport. Brad was nice enough to let me stay with him in his hotel room for the week to keep me close to the action on International Drive.

“Work” As Usual

Day 1 of the show started off with a bang. I had a blast! The social interaction that's associated with shows like ICAST is intoxicating, and I found myself running around meeting with friends who I only get to see a few times a year.

Angler Innovations
Photo: Angler Innovations

The Angler Innovations Rig Jacket is a product that the author helped design.

It was also a very productive day as well. Everyone was responding well to the Rig Jacket and it ended up getting a lot of great ink and rave reviews. At the end of the first day I felt pretty good about how it all had unraveled, and I capped it all off with a night on I-Drive with some good friends.

I ended up missing the second day of the show because of my hectic school schedule, but I had a full day of “hard work” ahead of me on the last day.

The final day was a lot of fun. I wrapped up all of the product showcase videos and interviews at the A.I. booth early on, so I was able to mingle with some friends in the showroom, especially the crew at Trokar, where I also got to check out some of their new saltwater hooks that I will no doubt be putting to good use in Alaska in a few weeks.

Once again, I wrapped up the day with a night in good company on Orlando’s famous I-Drive.

Fun Fishing Folks

Overall I felt my first ICAST was a success. A product I helped design received a lot of positive attention and I got to hang out with a lot of good friends.

One thing that I really enjoyed about this particular show was the interaction you get to have with some of the biggest names in the sport. From the pros to the top people on the business side, everyone is there and they all hang out together.

I know I’ve said it time and time again, but one of the biggest things that makes a career in this sport so rewarding is the people who are part of it. I’ve never had so much fun with a group of people like I do with those in the fishing industry.

I also continue to be surprised to find out how many of these people actually read this column, too.

One of the coolest experiences at the show was having Elite Series pro Cliff Crochet come up to me out of the blue just to tell me he enjoyed reading my column. I also had FLW pro J.T. Kenney tell me that he also followed my career so far and that he has been rooting for me. It is definitely a special honor to have professionals who I respect so much give me words of encouragement. I appreciate it, guys!

Foundation Work

Moving past ICAST, I have a lot to look forward too.

My school-career is finally coming to an end in 2 weeks, which is something that I'm very excited about. Although I know how important a college education is, I'm anxious to get my focus back on fishing and the big transition I have before me for next year.

Aside from school ending in soon, I have also decided to go up to Alaska again for August and part of September to help my boss out with his fully booked season. This will allow me to get some time to recover after summer classes scramble my brain into some kind of omelet. Working up there at the lodge will also allow me to catch up on bills and help me with my move up to Guntersville in October.

I won't lie, though – as eager as I am to be done with school and get to Alaska, I am aware of the hard work I have ahead of me to make sure I can afford to compete next year at the tour level. I can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed.

I still have to work on getting a new boat, and I also have some hard work ahead of me in approaching some endemic and non-endemic sponsors in preparation for my next big leap.

I’m still as optimistic as ever, but I can’t leave this next year to chance. I’ve got a little bit of foundation work ahead of me yet.

Miles "Sonar" Burghoff is a student at the University of Central Florida and the winner of the 2011 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship. He's an aspiring professional angler who writes a regular column for BassFan. To visit his website, click here. You can also visit him on Facebook and Twitter.