The month of March means so much for the Southern California angler. The window for a shot at largemouth bass in spawn mode creaks open, white seabass and yo-yo yellowtail go on the chew, and “Show Season” opens for all of us. “Customer Facing” tackle shows allow us to see what’s new, stock up on some gear and at the very least, get our juices flowing for fishing season. Here is a little insight on the better ones and some tips on how to get the most out of them.
Fred Hall (Long Beach – March 6-10) The granddaddy of them all kicks off show season in the form of a sprawling mecca of fishing tackle, boats, destinations, guides, landings and way too much stuff to see in one day if you really do it right. It’s safe to assume that any company you are a fan of that is connected to fishing in any way is represented at Fred Hall Long Beach. The way I like to attack Long Beach is as follows: Quickly scramble up and down each aisle without stopping, but mentally marking off the booths you would like to spend some time at. Then, head back to the starting point and follow the same route, but this time stopping at each space you want to. If I am there to spend some money, I will then follow the route a third time and only head for the items I am considering buying. This keeps you from spending all of your money only to later run across something you wanted more.
Speaking of spending money, one of the main complaints I have heard over the last decade about the Fred Hall Shows is the lack of smokin’ deals to be had. Look, by the time you are inside you are already over $20 in the hole for parking and entry, and that is to say nothing about the gas you burned on the way in, so is a deal really a deal? Tell you what, you want to leave the show feeling like you are saving money on something in the long run? Look for deals on line — most of the time it will be a retailer selling line and if you bring the receipt to the manufacturers booth you get another spool — and buy a lot of it. But realistically, if you are looking for gear on the cheap, stay home and scour eBay for bargains. Go to tackle shows to get the scoop on all things scoopworthy, and to get pumped to get out on the water.
Fred Hall (Del Mar – March 21-24) Fred Hall Del Mar is the light version of the Long Beach show, but it certainly has a couple pluses over its big brother to the north. Compared to Long Beach, it’s very low maintenance. It’s right off the freeway and parking is usually a piece of cake. Once you are inside, you can typically zip through the whole thing in a couple hours if you don’t plan on seeing any seminars or anything like that, so it’s perfect if you are pressed for time. Needless to say, it doesn’t have close to as many exhibitors in Long Beach, so you might miss out on someone you are a fan of, but if you are not interested in making a day out of it, Del Mar is the show to go to. Just one thing — and I’m talking to you San Diego people — if you have ONLY been to the San Diego version of Fred Hall, and you think that you have really done Fred Hall, trust me, you haven’t. You need to get to Long Beach at least once.
Day at the Docks (Point Loma – April 21) Day at the Docks is a one-day event that goes on at the sportfishing landings on San Diego Bay. Parking and admission are free of charge to this all-saltwater event and it all goes down outdoors in what is typically a perfect San Diego day. With several rows of exhibitors ranging from tackle dealers and companies to clothing to artists to food, Day at the Docks takes on a bit of a street fair feeling. However, at this street fair, you can tour sportfishing boats (and even take a ride in the bay on one for a small fee), test ride kayaks, participate in casting contests and the kids can catch mackerel out of several net pens stationed on the docks. It’s a great low-maintenance activity that really gets you pumped for the saltwater season.
For more information on these shows, visit www.fredhall.com and www.sportfishing.org.
A Southern California native, Stevens specializes in targeting trout in the Eastern Sierra region of the state, but the San Diego resident also has experience fishing the lakes of San Diego, Riverside, and L.A. counties. He spent five years in the fishing tackle industry, and he also spent two years working in a marine fish hatchery. On the saltwater side, he enjoys the local offshore scene and surf fishing, and he has fished from Montana to California to Cabo San Lucas.
As a writer, his work has been published in Western Outdoor News, Fish Taco Chronicles, and Fish Wrap Magazine to name a few, and he is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of California.