If there is one thing anglers, hunters and boaters like, it is stuff. The stuff of their respective passions, the tools of their mission, under one roof.
Under the roof of Tampa’s Florida Fairgrounds Expo hall, on the weekend of October 7th and 8th, that’s what you will find. The Florida Sportsman Expo is making its 25th consecutive stop in Tampa and it promises to be a good one, with many new exhibitors and seminar stage speakers. Over 50 new exhibitors in fact, and the ever-popular Inshore fishing, Offshore fishing, Kayak fishing, Angler on Foot, Hunting and the new Fly fishing stages will be anchored by our loyal and popular expert fishing captains and anglers such as Capts. Dylan Hubbard, Sergio Atanes, Capt. Mark Nichols, Peter Hinck, and others. Over a dozen seminar speakers will be making their first appearance at the Expo, with the likes of Tampa kayaking guides Derick Burgos and Eric Hanson, Austin Collins, and Capts. Travis Yaeckel, George Hastick, Chad Haggert, Tommy Laronge presenting on inshore and offshore fishing for everything from seatrout to grouper.
Our hunting stage features alligator hunter and outfitter Bill George, Archery hunting expert and host of Big and Wild Outdoors radio show Jonathan Swindle, bird-dog hunter Terry Gibson, United Waterfowler’s wetland duck expert Newton Cook, and Flatwood Natives’ Lance Moody.
This year’s expo also boasts the biggest array of boats featured in this year’s Best Boat Television and Magazine. Fifteen Best Boat manufacturers, by far the most ever in the Expo, will be displayed on the floor in the Best Boat Super Showcase, and host Capt. Rick Ryals will speak about selecting the ideal boat for your fishing. Attendees can watch clips of this year’s upcoming show, and get their copy of Best Boat Magazine before it hits the newsstand.
Back by popular demand, Larry “Fishman” Finch will cover everything from beach to pier fishing on the Angler on Foot stage, and Capt. Rick Ryals and crew will conduct the Bait, Rigs and Tackle Academy, where up to 60 anglers at a time can get hands-on instruction on everything from bait-rigging to knot-tying.
New to the expo this year is the Flyfishing Stage. Speakers, guides, and casting instructors will cover everything from specific Tampa Bay and nearshore species to intermediate to advanced fly casting. Captains Rick Grassett, Nick Angelo, Alissa Vinoski, Eric Hanson, and casting instructor Leigh West will present, and area fly fishing clubs–the Tampa Bay Flyfishing Club and Suncoast Flyfishers–will man the fly casting pond and demonstrate fly fishing.
Also new to the expo is the exciting and competitive Iron Buck Archery tournament, held on Saturday, by Tampa’s Arrowhead Archery. According to Arrowhead’s owner, Jonathan Swindle, there will be four divisions – open men, hunter, women and youth.
“This is way more exciting than shooting paper targets,”said Swindle. “It will be judged on ASA (Archery Shooters Association) rules. We have a $20 entry fee, and the winner takes the money pot, but second and third place winners will get prizes.”As an added bonus, the first three classes (other than youth) gets to take home the iron buck that they shoot!” Talk about a cool trophy! And if you show up in camo, we know it’s archery season. No one will judge you!”
The contest will start just after noontime, but show up early to register, and to see all of the great exhibitors, or take in a seminar, while you wait.
Arrowhead will also have their mobile archery trailer in which you can test out some of the latest in compound hunting and target-shooting bows. You can pre-register for the Iron Buck by calling Arrowhead Archery at 813-621-4279. Payment for registration must be made at the Expo. Judging will be done by Ridge Archery.
Kids can enjoy the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Kid’s Fishing Derby at the Fairground’s lakes just outside and the fish I.D. Scavenger Hunt. All kids will get a goody bag for participating. The JC Cowgirls will give demonstrations with their show horses outside during show hours.
“We made a big effort to expand the hunting presence in our show because hunters fish and many anglers hunt,” said Expo co-director Michelle Conner. “Other than our typical fishing tackle, fishing boat, and light hunting gear exhibitors, attendees will see marine-related art and accessories. So there is a lot going on, and something for outdoors families of every persuasion.”
Expo hours are 9 until 5 on Saturday, and 10 until 4 on Sunday. Ticket price is $8 for adults, and kids under 12 get in free. Dollar off coupons are available at www.floridasportsman.com/expo, and $2 off coupons can be clipped from Florida Sportsman magazine’s October issue. Military and first responders will get in for half price with valid I.D.