Andy Montgomery: The Business End of Competitive Fishing
July 31, 2015
By: Lynn Burkhead, MajorLeagueFishing.com
While walking the floor of the 2015 ICAST Show in Orlando, Fla., it was hard to miss the big man walking the aisles with a sizable smile on his face.
That’s because for Major League Fishing GEICO Select pro Andy Montgomery, the business of fishing is still a lot of fun and a real live “Pinch me, is this real?” kind of experience.
Even after several years of attending the ICAST show, competing in numerous MLF and Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments, making two Bassmaster Classic appearances, winning a couple of BASS tournaments and being a part of the fishing industry, he still feels this way.
“The people (here at ICAST), these are the same guys I grew up idolizing and now I get to be around them,” said Montgomery. I’d see them on TV and wonder what it would be like to be around them when the cameras weren’t on,” he added. “And now I’m actually able to do it.”
One place that such interactions occur each summer is the outdoor writer’s dinner that Strike King, one of the companies that Montgomery serves as a pro-staff member for, hosts at ICAST each July.
“(At the) writer’s dinner (each year) for Strike King, I’m sitting at the same table with (Kevin) VanDam, Mark Davis and Shaw Grigsby,” said Montgomery. “And these (are) guys that were my heroes growing up, the ones that I really idolized. And now I’m interacting with them daily and I’m on a first name basis with them, which is kind of unreal to me.”
Aside from interacting with childhood heroes, Montgomery has learned in the seven or so ICAST shows that he has attended that the business of fishing is as real as the great legends of the sport are.
“(ICAST), it’s a big part of our business,” said Montgomery. “We’re talking to outdoor writers about the new products that our different (sponsor) companies have come out with and such.”
Since they’ll be representing these companies and these products over the next several months, the annual gathering of the industry helps fishing pros gain some final information they will need to do their jobs.
“A lot of these products, we’ve had for the last year or so and we’ve been able to use them and get familiar with them,” said Montgomery. “But (ICAST) is where we learn a lot about the (final) technical aspects of these products.”
With a healthy supply of meetings and booth appearances, Montgomery admits that the week can be somewhat of a blur.
“It goes by pretty fast,” he said. “Usually, there’s something scheduled first thing in the morning and then you kind of roll with it (from there).”
While there is a scheduled nature to ICAST, Montgomery has also learned that the individual days can also be somewhat fluid.
“Guys are constantly coming up to you and saying ‘Hey, can I borrow you here and have you talked to this writer or can we go there and shoot this video?’”
Afterwards, there are various dinners and product launch parties with sponsors during the evening hours before Montgomery heads back to the hotel after a long day of work.
“Then you go to bed and get up the next morning and go do it (all) again,” he smiled.
While much of Montgomery’s time is fairly structured and scheduled weeks in advance, he does admit that when time permits, he likes to walk the ICAST show floor and peruse the new items being launched.
“We know what’s coming from our own sponsors, but we don’t know what’s coming from the other guys,” he said. “And there’s always companies that you’ve haven’t really heard a lot about that have new products at these shows.”
In Montgomery’s case, he isn’t on the lookout so much for new rods, reels, lines or lures. Instead, he’s looking for products that help him be more comfortable and efficient on the water.
“There’s plenty of lures (at ICAST), but I like to look at stuff outside of the lures like clothing, outerwear, etc.,” he said.
While some fishing pros use ICAST as a place to birth new and future business relationships, for Montgomery, the annual summer gathering of the fishing industry isn’t a place to do that.
“When I go, I don’t really try to work on gaining new sponsors,” he said. “From what I’ve found, you’re a lot better off if the sponsors come to you versus you trying to go to them.”
Besides, says Montgomery, there is plenty of work to do at ICAST already for the sponsors that a professional bass angler has emblazoned on his jersey.
“I’ve got a number of baits and sponsors that I’m very fortunate to work with and I spend a lot of time in their booths talking about new products,” he said.
There also are discussions with those sponsors about the year that lies ahead.
“We talk about the things we like, the things we don’t like and the things we’d like to see next year,” said Montgomery. “We’re always looking ahead.”
While Montgomery enjoys the industry he is a part of, he does admit that in an already crowded calendar, the yearly ICAST show does have a down side.
“It’s enjoyable except for the part about being away from home (and family),” said Montgomery. “But other than that, for me, it’s a relaxing environment because we all love the outdoors and we all love to fish and we’re with people that share a mutual interest in it all.
“Plus, it’s a lot less stressful (here) than being on the water knowing you’ve got to catch them,” he added with a grin.
From working with the outdoors media at ICAST to promoting a sponsor’s new product to posing for photographs and giving autographs to fans, Montgomery said there’s much to like about the annual show.
Even if his smile is weary, his calendar is full and his feet are begging for some time off as he paces the thinly carpeted concrete floors of the Orange County Convention Center in central Florida.
“If you’re in this business, it’s somewhere you really have to be,” he said.