Saturday, July 14, 2007

NFLCC Nationals 2007 Show Report, Part I

NFLCC Nationals was all it was advertised and more. Over the next four days I will be posting pictures of the people, displays, and tackle I ran across in my three days in Louisville.

National Show Report, Part I:
Its All About the People

NFLCC Nationals, Louisville, Kentucky (July 11-14, 2007)

NFLCC Nationals! Two words guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of any died-in-the-wool tackle collector. It is basically Christmas in June. Since Louisville is only 100 miles from Cincinnati, I always enjoy this particular location, and I am fully in awe of those many members who come from near and far on planes, trains and automobiles. Lord knows I have a hard enough time loading the SUV for the 100 mile jaunt.

We arrived in Louisville on Wednesday afternoon and already the Executive West was abuzz with activity. People from across the globe were traversing the lobby carrying all manner of tackle, and we discovered room trading was well under way even during the early afternoon hours. We also discovered the interesting way some people drummed up activity—one gentleman walked the halls blowing on a duck call.

After this brief interval, a group of us made it to the restaurant in the hotel. My three best collecting friends “Bad” Bob Miller, J.K. Garrett, and Skipper Brooks joined the family for what was pretty much the worst meal I have ever eaten. Not to complain, but three of our party waited over an hour for our food and when it came, it was definitely not worth the wait. I will refrain from discussing the buffet. But I digress.

Room trading went into the wee hours of the evening, but I was reliably told that Tuesday night was much busier than Wednesday, as many people packed up early in anticipation of setting up their displays early Thursday morning when the National Show officially opened. I was able to see some incredible tackle in the room of Don “the Lure Guru” Ludy, who had an incredibly rare Reynolds “Sheik-o-the-Water” lure box among many rare pieces, and an almost surreal Meek #10 Saltwater reel in Dave Gaustad’s room. It was one of the nicest reels I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in some time.

My first view of the Louisville Nationals 2007 Show came from the far right corner of the exhibition hall. As you can see, it is almost overwhelming. An absolutely mind-boggling amount of tackle was available for sale. The gentleman next to me at the show was selling Edwards, Thomas, and Leonard bamboo fly rods; the gentleman to my right had unbelievable Heddon lures in near mint and mint condition (not to mention a perfect 100 pound Tarpon mount). Two people down, a father-son pair were selling newer bass lures. Next to them was a contemporary rodmaker. And the end of the row a man and wife were selling tackle of all stripes. As you can probably tell, the show is all about diversity.

Scene from the far right corner of the show floor

It is virtually impossible to describe everything that is to be seen here, but suffice to say I witnessed in the course of an hour someone successfully haggle a $400 reel down to $175, another gentleman drop $5000 on a single lure, and a third bargain a $5 bait down to $3. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you’ll see everything bought and sold from $1 snelled hook packets (I know because I bought 11 of them and was discounted to $5) to $5000 reels. Mostly, however, you see happy smiling faces from buyers and sellers ecstatic to find that lure, reel, rod, etc. that they have been looking for to add to their collection for years. You will see 1000X more tackle in a day at NFLCC Nationals then you will in an entire year of surfing eBay.

Much of the fun comes from the many friends you run into on the floor. The only problem you face on the floor is that it takes an incredibly long time to traverse from one end to the other, as you are constantly seeing friends and acquaintances and getting lost in conversations that last as long as an hour.

Nineteenth Century Fishing Lures author Arlan Carter deep in consultation

You really need to have two people working the table, one to sell so the other can walk the floor looking for goodies. One such tag team was Jack Bright and Terry McBurney from Michigan. For those of us who didn’t have a partner, friends and strangers alike help out. Garry Johnson was kind enough to watch my booth while I was out gallivanting around.

Jack Bright and Terry McBurney Watching the Table

Thursday saw plenty of traffic on the show floor, although opinions varied based upon the amount of purchases/sales each person had. Most of the people I talked to seemed more than happy with the show.

ORCA VP Bill Muth closes what is surely a big deal with a buyer

There are three kinds of buyers at NFLCC Nationals: those with deep pockets, those with moderate pockets, and those without pockets at all. I fall into the last of these categories. But interestingly enough, going to NFLCC nationals is not about being reminded what you don’t have or can’t afford, it is about seeing items you may never see again and being in awe of the ability of others to put together incredible collections of all stripes.

In other words, for me, the fun of walking the floor is mostly talking to others about what they found either in room trading or on the show floor. H&I guru Chris Labuz was floating on air after he purchased a Horrocks-Ibbotson poster he had never seen and a Pepper box that even impressed “Pepper” Jack Gallagher. Then, however, Chris saw the amazing HICO Musky Minnow in the box in the Lang’s Auction display and he was dashed to the depths of despair. One could almost see the activity in his brain as he plotted how to outbid the many other suitors for this incredible beauty. Speaking of Lang’s, in a cruel twist of fate Jim Schottenham the great sidemount reel man was forced to stand behind the Lang’s Booth and stare down at a Billingham Sidemount Reel in the original round box—the only such boxed combo known in existence and in this author’s opinion the most historically important production reel and box combo to ever come to auction. My prediction right now is that this reel will reach $20,000 in the November Lang’s auction.

I got a chance to talk to some of the Arbogast gang including Byron Parker, who was kind enough to show me an Arbogast prototype that literally made my mouth fall open, Matt Foster, who told me one of the great tackle find stories I have ever heard, and Rob Shook the Hula Popper man. I also got to spend some time with Chris Slusar, winner of Best in Show (more on this on Monday), Dale Noll, and others.

Roger Schulz and Andy Foster having more fun that should be legally allowed

Although the show did not open until 10:30 on Friday, the first several hours were extremely busy. Lots of people who arrived Thursday night were able to make their first appearance the following morning, and I was able to talk to many people I hadn’t seen since last NFLCC Nationals (or even before).

Perhaps the highlight of the show for me was having lunch with members of the fabled “Missouri” gang and others that included Jeff Kieny, Warren Platt, David Budd, Gary Smith, and Bill Sonnett. Warren and Jeff told a story from a few nationals back that made me laugh so hard that ice cream nearly spurted out of my nose. It was as enjoyable a time as I have had at any nationals.

Matt Lollman, Randy Anderson, Dudley Murphy and the rest of the NFLCC brain trust relaxing before the NFLCC Auction

I think a lot of people misunderstand what the NFLCC is all about. The NFLCC is first and foremost not about the tackle, it is about the people. That is why the first of my four reports on the 2007 NFLCC Nationals concentrated on the individuals who made this great show happen, from the convention center staff to the unsung heroes like Matt Wickham who made this show possible.

Coming Sunday: Great Tackle Seen Around the Show
Coming Monday: The Incredible Displays
Coming Tuesday: How to Add to your Collection on Less than $50 a Day

-- Dr. Todd

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