This week finds most of the fishing industry traveling to ICAST, the renowned trade show held each year in Orlando showcasing the newest products from tackle, apparel and accessory producers. I always attend ICAST. It’s my best chance to follow fishing’s trends and report back to you. The bass geek in me factors in, too, as I’ve always been a sucker for new lures that show fish something they’ve never seen.

This time, I’ll be attending ICAST as more than a press observer. Millennium Promotions, my parent company since 1999, will attend as an exhibitor for 2023. To my knowledge, this may be the first time a company like mine has taken the leap, paid its dues and set up a booth.

It’s probably important for me to better explain what we do. Adapting to the changing times in promotions and media, Millennium has performed many roles over the last 24 years. Today, we function solely as content contributors. Not as influencers, like so many others, but as an agency that produces authentic, quality material for fishing companies interested in promoting their brands.

Photography, videos, written content and pro-staff advisory; that’s our specialty. It has taken me over two decades, but one thing I’ve come to realize is that my talent lies in telling the story of fishing. Today, that can be done a number of ways. We do our best to bring you along.

There’s no blatant sales pitch in our content. I’ve discovered that the best way to get an audience excited about our material is to make it real. While some of the fishing industry continues to struggle with this concept, a few forward-thinking organizations trust us to produce content that resonates with their audience in a meaningful way. After all, that’s what fishing’s all about.

I find myself getting more serious about this concept. Time and again, I think back to my youth, when fishing was the biggest mystery in life, as compelling as anything in the world, and I wonder what kids today are getting from the sport. Has the innocence disappeared? The adventure?

And I’m more concerned than ever about the direction of organized bass fishing. What I once viewed as a way for a dedicated young person to make a career has become focused on consumerism. It seems the sky’s the limit and the goal for many companies is to convince anglers that they need exorbitantly expensive equipment in order to fit in.

I simply won’t go along with that narrative. It fits nowhere with my teenage memories of memorizing every lure in my tackle box, or sneaking into golf course ponds at night, or holding buzzbaits out the window of the truck. Those memories – the concepts that directed me toward fishing as the central focus of the rest of my life – had nothing to do with materialism and everything to do with the experience. That’s what I try to bring to consumers of the content coming from Millennium. Young or old; man, woman or child.

Sure, I’m still the biggest fan of professional bass fishing out there. At its core, the competition represents one of the pinnacles of our game. Not the only, but one.

Today’s competitive world is more visible than ever, thanks to online broadcasting and better media. If you would have told me 20 years ago that professional bass fishing broadcasts would be available all day, with cameras in every boat, for days on end, I would have thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I still can’t get enough.

But here at the ICAST show, we get to see the rest of the fishing world, too. Basement inventors with the newest ideas. The Japanese players and their obsession with detail. The salties and their cool clothes. Way too many sunglasses.

Nowadays, we rub elbows with conservation groups and agency reps, those dedicated to protecting and even saving our pressured resources. Here’s something that’s touched me lately, as I’ve volunteered on select technical advisory committees and dialogued with numerous groups dedicated to helping Florida’s troubled waters.

And only ICAST can bring us the new products, some just revisions of a popular model, but others completely revolutionary with the possibility of really changing fishing. Remember, there was always a first, possibly released at this most famous show in fishing. There was a first braided line, a first stickbait and a first needle-point hook. A first low-profile baitcaster, with its first magnetic breaking system. A first tungsten sinker, a first silicone skirt; heck, a first graphite rod.

I’ll bring that back to you next week. Or maybe I’ll pick the wildest, wackiest of ICAST. There’s always plenty of that. Just remember, the ChatterBait was once wacky, too.

In the meantime, I’ll man the booth. Get back to my trade-show roots, where I spent the first six years of my fishing career. Long hours and overpriced Cokes. This time, I won’t be there to sell you the magic lure, but showcase the magic of fishing. If you’re cruising the show in Orlando, be sure to stop by booth No. 4553. We’ll reminisce together, remembering the innocence and still sharing the adventure.

(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)