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I recently returned from the 2022 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, ICAST! This being my fourth ICAST event, I felt it important to share a few experiences in particular. ICAST is an industry trade show, so what can I share that is relevant for you and our other friends that love the crazy fishing world? A lot! New fishing gear, of course, is exciting to talk about. For me, having face time with the companies that support my career is meaningful. However this event should also be seen as a significant barometer for the future of the fishing trade. Change is afoot.

As a part of a growing trend, women were HEAVILY celebrated at this year’s event. I saw women represented on most companies posters, fliers, and marketing. Bebe Dalton, Angie Scott, Debbie Hanson and other women pulled together the “Women in Fishing Meetup” with an outstanding attendance of talented, brilliant, and inspiring women from all parts of the country. Shimano hosted a Women’s Happy Hour alongside the Take Me Fishing organization who raised money for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the event was incredibly well attended! The Take Me Fishing Organization let loose a team of Women Wave Makers, arming new and avid female anglers with the resources needed to welcome newcomers to the sport to get their fish on and enjoy all the benefits of fishing and boating. Outdoor America hosted a beautiful industry party featuring musical talent LOCASH, and highlighted their ambassador team—WOMEN (myself and Kristine Fischer)! Support for the many inspiring and authentic women was prominent. What was not observed, is important as well.

I observed a DISTINCT lack of “booth babes” (booth babes definition- hyper sexualization of women who are directed to wear bikini’s or similar to pull the male gaze and falsely representing women in the outdoor world like me and most others). Make no mistake, I appreciate and respect women in all forms and representations. The exploitative nature of booth babes has always struck the wrong chord with me, but I would rather focus on what women do right instead of what some marketing personnel  did wrong.

The first time I attended ICAST personally, I think I knew a total of 10 people at the show. Few of those people were women, and it was a bit overwhelming. This year, I never felt once that I was looking for space to belong in this industry. Women made their own space, it belongs to us, we own it now. Collectively, the women in the photos, the women that were at ICAST, the women there in spirit, and thousands of women and girls who are a part of this industry have a role in shaping a future that ultimately means the continuity of our way of life as anglers and lovers of the outdoors. What do I mean by continuity? A 2022 Special Report on Fishing found that 63% of daughters participated in fishing with their mothers compared to 45% with their fathers. The report found that women are the decision markers, with 54% of activity planning coming from mom. The involvement and celebration of women in fishing means a vibrant and healthy fishing industry going forward.

You and I both know we all deserve a fair shake at becoming a fisher if we so choose. Whether you do it for food, mental health, as a way to learn a new skill,  to make memories with friends and family or all of the above— we all have a responsibility to pass on what was given to us. Full Stop.

I commend the industry partners that supported women’s events this year. I want to extend a huge thank you to the women of this crazy fishing industry. I came to the fishing industry because I love fishing, and I will stay forever because I love you all.

- Bad Ash 


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