Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Learn from the Locals; Florida Sportsman Show Features Area Experts

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Learn from the Locals; Florida Sportsman Show Features Area Experts

Article excerpt

Byline: JIM SUTTON

If you attend the Florida Sportsman Fishing and Boat Show this weekend, don't be surprised to see a familiar face or three.

The event is staged across the state in the spring and fall, but most of its core experts hail from the Jacksonville area.

Rick Ryals, Tony Bozzella, Terry Sturgeon, Larry Miniard, Larry Finch, Denny Young and Terry Lacoss all travel with the show. It says a lot about the depth of expertise in our area, both inshore and offshore.

Ryals is the granddaddy of them all, appearing in his 109th fishing show Saturday and Sunday. He said the show is continually adapting to the demands of angler. The major shift over the past years, Ryals said, is moving the emphasis from a tackle and boat show to an educational show.

"It's heavy on how-to," Ryals said.

If you look at the lineup of inshore, offshore and rigging seminars table, you'll see that it's impossible to take in all the lessons if you attended both days. The schedule is printed below. Pick and choose opportunities accordingly.

Education revolves around eight areas in the convention center.

For offshore anglers, the stage includes a 26-foot center console boat fully rigged with electronics, baitwell, outriggers, downriggers and more. Experts teach from the cockpit of the boat, and the props are real.

The inshore stage includes at 10,000-gallon portable pond and a Sterling flats boat. You can watch experts cast lures and see firsthand the action they impart on jigs, topwater and other plugs.

If you think fishing with a net might be in your future, there's a 600-square-foot cast net pit, complete with hands-on instruction and nets to demonstrate.

Don't have a boat? Not a problem. There's the Angler on Foot booth, at which techniques for beach and pier fishing are a question away.

If fly-fishing is your thing, head to the fly-casting pond, which has gear and expert instruction.

There's a kayak fishing area as well with some of the newest designs and accessories in the business.

There's the Take Me Fishing spin-cast pond for the children, where the basics of casting are taught. Everyone gets a Zebco tackle box. Those who hit the target will come home with a rod and reel combo.

At the center of the show is the Riggin' it Right booth, led by Ryals who just published a new book, "Sportsman's Best - Dolphin." From rigging dead baits to live-baiting, the team walks you through techniques and provides the bait, leader, swivels, hooks, pliers and other equipment necessary to complete hands-on instruction. If you can't find it the booth, just follow the smell of ballyhoo and shrimp. Hand-washing is optional after each session, but without it, you'll be taking more home than knowledge.

If you've seen a particular rigging technique at past shows, don't be surprised if technology and imagination haven't trumped it this year. …

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