Madison — The Midwest’s largest consumer fishing show will have a quiet side this year with an entire wing of the Wisconsin Fishing Expo at the Alliant Energy Expo Hall in Madison dedicated to kayaks and other silent watercraft.
The expo runs Feb. 23-25. Jeff Bast and Dan Durbin, of Slinger, now run the expo. This is their third year with the event that used to be called the Madison Fishing Expo.
“That’s a new section,” Durbin said. “It has never been open before. We are expanding again.”
Kayak fishing is spreading across the country and its popularity is growing in Wisconsin.
“It grew faster down south with all the little lakes that are hard to get to,” Durbin said. “It’s an affordable way to get on the water. It’s been kind of spreading up north with the sloughs and backwater we have on the river systems. The Madison chain lends itself to this with a lot of put-in and take-out areas for a kayak.”
The silent sports sector of fishing has not been catered to in Wisconsin, so it seemed like a great time to add it to the expo.
“We saw a segment there that looked like the interest was growing and we wanted to jump on it right away,” Durbin said. “It turned out better than expected. We have some of the top brands in the industry. There are full-fledged factory booths from Hobie and Nucanoe.”
Folks new to kayaking may be surprised at the new models’ features. In addition to kayaks powered with paddles, there are models powered by foot pedals. Flippers on foot-powered kayaks move perpendicular to the hull.
“We are just focusing on the fishing brand of kayaks,” Durbin said. “You won’t see $100 pleasure boats that you can pick up at (big box stores). These are pretty diehard boats from around $1,000 to over probably $4,000.”
Fishing kayak seminars include: getting started by Chad Hoover, Sturgeon Bay smallmouths by Bill Schultz, and fishing Madison lakes by Israel Dunn, among others.
Another new expo feature is an antique lure exhibit that includes free appraisal of old lures.
Durbin likened them to items found in a museum.
“I got hooked up with two guys who have their own antique lure show,” he said. “I think they will have close to 400 antique lures that are pretty unique. They’re not going to charge anything if you want to bring in Grandpa’s old tackle box to get appraised.”
The expo is not just for quiet folks. It has a huge compilation of equipment manufacturers of bass, walleye and Great Lakes gear.
The expo will have factory booths from manufacturers that haven’t attended shows in Wisconsin in years.
“They are not selling out of those booths,” Durbin said. “They show the product and then they walk you over to (local vendors) where you get the deal. The booths are there to work with the brick-and-mortar shops that are having deals on stuff.”
A portion of the expo proceeds are being donated to a veterans’ fishing event in northern Wisconsin – and to local fishing clubs with habitat projects.