If you’re a serious fishing enthusiast like I am, then you probably know that the middle of July is always a little bit like Christmas for America’s anglers.


That’s because of the annual ICAST Show — the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show — that is put on every summer in Florida by the American Sportfishing Association.


From bass to panfish to trout in the nation’s lakes, ponds, and rivers and on to ocean’s inshore and deep-water species, if it has to do with the sport of fishing, it’s at the ICAST Show every summer.


This year’s version of the fishing industry trade show was supposed to take place next week from July 13-17 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. But then came the COVID-19 pandemic this spring and all of that changed.


But coronavirus or not, for the fishing industry, the show must go on and several groups have been working hard in recent weeks to help get the word out about all of the new rods, reels, lines, boats, motors, kayaks, clothing, sunglasses, footwear, and just about any other type of fishing gear that you can think of.


The new-look show gets kicked off this weekend with an event that I’ve always enjoyed and looked forward to. That’s the annual ICAST Cup, put on yearly by FLW and contested on Lake Toho near Kissimmee, Florida.


Despite the steamy central Florida summertime heat, Toho’s legendary lunker largemouths have always been enough to lure media members, industry professionals, and fishing pros out for a fun-filled tournament day on the water to kick off the show week.


I’ve been fortunate to see some mid-July fireworks on the water during the ICAST Cup over the last several years thanks to my work with Outdoor Sportsman Group. That includes the year that my boss, Jeff Phillips, landed an 8-pound plus bass and gave the winning team captained by legendary bass pro Bill Dance a run for their money.


And last year, the team that I was on — the 13 Fishing team — finished in fifth place behind the Lew’s Fishing team captained by another legendary bass pro, Peter Thliveros.


Thanks to teammate and regional fishing pro Jessie Mizell’s 8-pound plus bass at mid-morning, our team of Jessie, Ricky Teschendorf, and myself thought we had a chance to win. But we never could catch the one or two upgrades that we needed and finished less than four-pounds behind the winning weight of 20-pounds, 4-ounces.


So close to fishing glory, and yet so far away.


This year, everyone has a chance at ICAST Cup glory as the tournament goes virtual and nationwide, allowing anyone to fish. The online event will be held this weekend on Saturday and Sunday, July 11-12, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Participants can fish one or both days depending on their choice.


For those who pay the registration fee of $20 — which goes to benefit Keep America Fishing — anyone can showcase their bass-fishing skills on their favorite local public waters. While there are no trophies or cash up for grabs, winners in each of the five geographic regions across the country will be recognized and promoted by FLW and the American Sportfishing Association during the online ICAST show.


Interested in participating in the ICAST Cup? Then download the FishDonkey app and join "ICAST Cup." If you’ve got questions, visit the website at www.ICASTCup.com or contact Scott Ellison by phone at 270-205-6864 or by e-mail at scott.ellison@flwfishing.com .


As far as the show itself, there are a number of ways via TV, social media and online presentations to see all of the new fishing products being unveiled this month.


One of those is through the ICAST social media channels — look for the hashtags #ICASTonline, #ICAST, and #ICAST2020 — along with a virtual presentation of the show online at www.icastshow.org.


Perhaps the best way to see what’s new in the fishing world is to check in with my colleagues at Outdoor Sportsman Group as they present the ICAST Online 2020 fishing trade show with a variety of exhibitors in the most comprehensive review of the latest in new fishing gear news that you’ll find.


That online effort will include OSG’s publishing ranks, three national television networks, four leading fishing media brands – Game & Fish, Florida Sportsman, Fly-Fisherman and In-Fisherman and their various social media outlets – who will all work together over the next week to cover the latest in rods, reels, tackle, kayaks and other accessories.


You can see the best new fishing gear next week as comprehensive reviews take place on weeknights on Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel and World Fishing Network at 5 p.m. CT during the week of July 13-18.


That’s when a literal programming block of new-product content will take place on the networks. Special programming will also take place on all three OSG networks next weekend on Saturday, July 18 beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


"ICAST is the sportfishing industry’s premier event for introducing new products, helping to drive recreational fishing product sales year-round," said Mike Carney, the OSG Chief Operating Officer of Publishing and Branded Media, in a news release. "In association with ICAST, OSG’s unprecedented level of multi-media content across the company’s diverse media outlets will target every fishing audience and demographic, via our four print brands, three national television networks and comprehensive digital and social media outlets."


"Exhibitors are exploring new ways to showcase their products," said Jason Brist, OSG Executive Vice President, Advertising Sales, in a news release. "As the leader in outdoor lifestyle media, Outdoor Sportsman Group saw an opportunity to partner with ICAST to enhance the scale, reach and awareness of new products from the virtual show."


Following the on-air premiere next week, product review videos will be placed across OSG’s network of websites, social media, YouTube and MOTV (My Outdoors TV) platforms.


OSG fishing publications will also feature details and analysis about the new products in upcoming issues.


All in all, it’s quite an effort to bring about The ICAST New Fishing Gear Guide (presented by Snapsafe, a Hornady company, in association with Lurelock, Tactacam, Strike King, Lew’s, Plano, Yo-Zuri, Daiwa, Fish Monkey and Old Town) as everything — including the fishing world — is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic this year.


But at least, as far as ICAST is concerned, the show still goes on, even if it’s through television presentations, social media channels, and online destinations.


Because no matter how much the world has changed this year, America’s unabated love of fishing continues on strongly.


And the guess here is that it will as long as there are fish to be caught and waters to wet a line in. That’s a passionate and timeless pursuit that not even the coronavirus can take away.