It’s showtime in Chicago

Written By BY DALE BOWMAN For Sun-Times Media Posted: 01/26/2014, 02:40am

From skunk hats to innovative bobber stops, I pulled together some snapshots and suggestions from the opening days of the two big outdoors show.


Fishing royalty assembled Thursday at the Chicagoland Fishing, Travel & Outdoor Expo at the Schaumburg Convention Center.

There was Kevin VanDam, the biggest name in fishing, speaking to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500, then signing autographs and having celebrity photos taken at the Zebco booth.

Local fishing royalty staffed the Shimano booth, from Capt. Ralph Steiger to Tim Schneider.

A passerby spotted Schneider and shouted: ‘‘I know you. I have your photo on my phone.’’

Schneider caught an 8.45-pound smallmouth bass during the Sturgeon Bay Open in May, and his photo made the rounds of bass fishermen everywhere.

Shimano has three new reels of note on display at the show: the Chronarch CI4, the Metanium and the Antares, which sells in the $600 range.

‘‘It looks like a spaceship,’’ staffer Bobby Bergren said.

Fishing technology has gone to the moon.

Back here on earth, kayaks remain as hot as ever in the fishing world.

Between interactions with customers, Chris Mamola at the Hobie Kayaks booth said, ‘‘We had the busiest booth at McCormick Place last week, too.’’

It was busy at Schaumburg, too.

The most colorful booth was Tame the Tangle (

I had to stop at the Lee’s Bait and Tackle booth, the busiest booth at the show with its Japanese Domestic Market tackle and equipment. The specially painted swimbait, the California Rainbow, had such things as individually painted dots on it. Lee’s hottest sales were for the quad hooks from Decoy Hook.

No fishing show is complete without the latest gadgets. A couple were notable.

The Spot-Knot ( is a tool for tying on a bobber stop without removing the lure first. But Brian Berdahl’s fertile mind didn’t stop there. His latest idea is is the Reel Deal for stringing line on a reel easily. Both sold for $5 at the show. Both work well.

John Gesik came up with an idea for a magnetic way to cure lure tangles in the boat with Gear Grabbar ( Bars on a magnetic sheet are adjustable to match the size of the lures. The Gear Grabbar Mini goes for $8; the Lure Hangar Kit goes for $55.


The Chicago Outdoor Sports Show opened Wednesday at the Stephens Convention Center.

As usual, Grandt Rods set the tone at the hall entrance. And, as usual, my favorite stop was to see Dan Basore at his Historical Fishing Display.

But a couple of other things caught my eye, too.

I stopped to see the hand-crafted custom wooden boats of Winchester Boat Works. They are stunningly beautiful wooden row trolling boats.

‘‘On calm days, you get baby loons following you around like you are their mother,’’ Zane Bussler said.

An old favorite, Two Bears Trading Co., had its usual stack of fur goods. The hot item this year is a skunk hat, which goes for $85 to $125.

‘‘I have sold them to bankers and to factory workers and everything in between,’’ fur trader Ernie Marvin said. ‘‘I imagine they like to be different.’’

Otherwise, his booth is the place for fly-tyers to pick up fur scraps for $1 or fox tails for $15.

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