I was 11 years old the first time my dad took me to the Fred Hall Show in Long Beach, California. Almost 30 years has passed since then, but I still remember that day like it was yesterday.
We spent the morning looking around, but most of the booths were filled with freshwater bass gear and didn’t really interest us as we were saltwater fishermen. But I’d passed up a fishing trip to attend the show and I wanted to make the most of it, so I asked my dad if I could watch a seminar before we headed home. Dad didn’t want to sit through a talk on plastic worm fishing, so he told me he’d go get some coffee and come back to find me in a half hour. I was surprised when he returned only 15 minutes later with a big smile on his face. “Come with me. I want to show you something,” he said, leading me out of the arena. As we navigated our way through a display of bass boats, he explained that he’d found another hall and it was full of saltwater fishing stuff.
My dad has always been pretty stingy with his smiles, so judging by the size of the one he was wearing I had a feeling that whatever waited behind those doors was going to be awesome.
Well, “awesome” didn’t even come close to describing what I found when we entered the main hall. Spread out before me was a fisherman’s dreamscape. There were rows and rows of booths, all of them overflowing with fishing tackle.
The next few hours were amazing. Dad bought me a couple of t-shirts, I got to drool over a bunch of tackle, I met one of the captains of a long-range boat (I think it was Bill Poole), I picked up every brochure and business card I could find and I ate way too much beef jerky. But the most memorable part of that day, or of any of the days I’ve spent at Fred Hall since, was meeting Charlie Davis.
Fishing books were a big part of my life growing up and Charlie Davis’ book “Hook Up,” just happened to be my all-time favorite. Charlie was working one of the booths and I remember standing there looking up at him and blabbering about how much I loved his book and how I also wanted to be a writer. He just smiled and said, “That’s great kid! Maybe we’ll get a chance to fish together some day.”
As I walked away from his booth I felt like I had just had a conversation with a fishing god. I could hardly contain my excitement during the ride home. It wasn’t just excitement about fishing, it was excitement about life and the wonderful things that it held in store for me. It was excitement about realizing that I was no longer just a kid who went fishing with his dad, I was a fisherman.
I never saw Charlie Davis again, but I still keep an eye out for him every time I’m at the show. And if I ever do run into him, I’m going to shake his hand and thank him for the couple of minutes he took to talk to that kid 30 years ago.
The Fred Hall Show isn’t just about finding deals fishing tackle or booking vacations, it’s about getting together with like-minded people and celebrating our lifestyle. So take your kid to the show this weekend — it may turn out to be a trip that they’ll remember their entire life.
Tips for the 2012 Fred Hall Show
A great way to check out this year’s show (and to get some free stuff) is to participate in the BD Outdoors Scavenger Hunt. Print out the Scavenger Hunt punch card or stop by the BD Outdoors booth and grab one there. Then visit the booths on the card, fill out your Scavenger Hunt card and head back to the BD booth for a FREE t-shirt. To learn more visit www.bdoutdoors.com/story/fred-hall-scavenger-hunt.
Costa Sunglasses is part of the Scavenger Hunt and I suggest you stop by their display. After hearing a lot of good things about their glasses, I decided to try on a pair of the Costa Blackfin frames when I was at West Marine the other day. That whim ended up costing me $199 — once I tried them on, I had to have them! They are hands-down the most comfortable sunglasses I have ever worn in my life and I’m considering buying a second pair with different colored lenses.
Here are a few few other tips for this year’s Fred Hall show. First, there are a couple of great places to eat in the outdoor section of the show. My favorite is the one run by June Lake Resort. I had their Italian sausage sandwich for lunch every day at the show last year. There is also a Mexican food place that has a killer carne asada burrito, but the line gets really long around lunchtime.
If you’re a saltwater bass angler, there are a couple things that I recommend checking out. The first is the MC Swimbaits booth. Corey Sanden has a couple new baits that he’ll be debuting at the show this year. He’s keeping them a secret until Wednesday, but knowing Corey, I can guarantee you that they’ll be worth checking out. I’ll be helping out at the MC booth on Saturday and Sunday, so please stop by and say hello. Another booth worth checking out is Reebs Lures. They will be releasing a new weed-less lead-head at the show that will be priced under $2 each.
There are a bunch of great seminars during the show, but if you only go to one of them, I highly recommend going to see Capt. Jimmy Decker. I can’t guarantee that you’ll learn something new, but I will guarantee that you’ll have a good time and more than a few laughs.
You definitely need to go by the BD booth this year as well. The boys have been creating a brand-new booth over the past few weeks and they’ll be unveiling it for the first time. You can also check out the new BD shirt designs, sign up for your FishDope subscription and get a screaming deal on a Catalina Classic t-shirt.
The show runs from March 7-11. For ticket prices and other information, visit www.fredhall.com.
Join me next week for a Fred Hall wrap up where I’ll be discussing some of the new products that I saw at the show.
Fred Hall 2012