August 30th

My travels this week included the FOWA conference in Ocala, FL. (Florida Outdoor Writers Association)
The host hotel was the new Ocala Holiday Inn, which was the most extravagant Holiday Inn I’ve been too in my 30-plus years of travel.
The food and service were excellent.

The typical conference includes; craft improvement, emerging technologies and educational seminars, plus your choice of
either a shooting, fishing or kayaking event.
Another function called the Al Hubbard Memorial Showcase Event is an opportunity for us and CVBsGander Navionics Seminar to
share our new products and story ideas to the writers.

The final evening features an Excellance in Craft awards banquet. Despite all the events and seminars, the most important
feature of a FOWA conference is the comraderie of the fellow communicators and sponsors. These are good friends that
may see each other only at a FOWA function.

Speaking of awards, fellow member Jim Wilson was surprised by speeches from Jill Zima Borsky and Doug Kelly and Kelly Kelly. Even I took a turn at the mike to “roast” Jim a little. All this led up to the presentation of the Hardy Bryan, Lifetime Achievement Award. While Wilson was surprised, his acceptance speech was inspiring. His audience, readers and friends are lucky to know Jim.

The second evening I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with BASS pro, Bernie Schultz and Charles Fitzgerald of Yakima Lure Company. I hadn’t seen Schultz in nearly 10-years.
It continues to surprise me just how intuitive Charles is. He really has an ear on the pulse of our industry.

After a good lunch with Executive Director, Tommy Thompson; I left the conference a day early to explore the Ocala, Gander Mountain Store.
Store manager Jim Herrero and Fishing Manager- John Kreusch were excellent hosts as I shot photos for future Point-of-Sale designs. I was delighted to see how many of our products were featured in the store.

Paul Michele from Navionics was also visiting. His mission was to keep the Gander Sales Team up to speed on the latest products. Paul is pretty sharp and  realizes how important product knowledge at retail is.

I raced down to Clermont after my Gander visit to spend the evening with my mom. We enjoyed a nice dinner and stayed up to watch the shuttle launch. While the cloud cover and the NE trajectory shortened our view, it was still quite a site to see. Despite being 40-miles away and the short window, I was able to get one “bulb” exposure of the shuttle. (bulb= where you hold the shutter open manually and estimate the exposure.) I’ll share this photo soon.

It’s been quite a week and now I’m buried in e-mails and to-do lists. But it was worth the trip!
Blessings,  -TJ

About TJ Stallings

45-year tackle industry veteran Marketing and Crazy Ideas at TTI-Blakemore Fishing Group (Home of Road Runner Lures and six hook brands including Tru-Turn, Daiichi, XPoint, Team Catfish, Mr. Crappie and StandOUT Hooks.) Home of Gun Protect. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of TJ Stallings and not necessarily those of TTI-Blakemore.
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