Sunday, March 18, 2018

Merchandise and information for sale at this weekend's Florida Sportsman Expo

Dave Reidenbach has made it a mission to get people interested in scuba diving. For the past 18 years he has travelled across the country, setting up a 20- by 30-foot heated pool that is 42 inches deep at outdoors shows so novice divers can strap on equipment and give scuba a shot.

For the first time, Reidenbach will set up the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association's "be a diver" pool at the Florida Sportsman Expo at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Saturday and Sunday. Certified scuba instructors will explain how equipment works.

Reidenbach, who is DEMA's tour director, said to bring a bathing suit, and everything else will be fairly simple.

"We've found that it's pretty easy for people who have never done it before to get used to it," said Reidenbach, who is from Wisconsin and has more than 30 years of diving experience. "It's not intimidating. If there's a problem, you can just stand up in the water. It makes it very easy. And we typically sign 10 percent of the participants up for scuba classes."

While the scuba pool is one of the more unique exhibits, there are other new attractions at this year's show, with plenty of activities scheduled for outdoors enthusiasts.

There will be a National Archery in the Schools Program tournament for school-age kids. There will also be a free kid's fishing derby, a 500-gallon saltwater fish tank where kids can win prizes in a fish identification contest, an indoor mobile archery range and an inflatable BB gun range.

But perhaps the main attraction is the seminar stage. And there is no shortage of seminars.

A twist this year is the Ladies in the Outdoors stage. There will be seminars from female captains on a variety of topics, from inshore and offshore fishing to diving and bowfishing.

Then there are the standard seminars, like learning how to throw a cast net, fishing from a kayak, fly fishing, knot tying and rigging a pole.

A seminar schedule will be posted inside the Expo Hall.

Rick Ryals, one of the presenters at the Expo and a longtime offshore fishing captain, said people have started coming to the Expo more for information than for merchandise.

"The show used to be built around tackle buying opportunities," Ryals said. "The manufacturers would come with closeout stuff and guys would get great deals. It still goes on, but what has really shifted in the last four or five years has been information. Now people come to learn the ins and outs of fishing from people who might be a little more accomplished than themselves at catching fish."

Of course, there will be merchandise. Manufacturers from several major outdoors companies will be showing off their 2017 products.

For two days, outdoors enthusiasts will have a chance to go indoors to check out what's new or how to catch the big one. Or perhaps even how to scuba dive.

Just be prepared to get wet.


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