Blue marlin images on the floor of the east wing of the Miami Convention Center beckoned sports fishermen with the words, “Follow me to the Big Game Room.” What started as an idea seven years ago, and became a reality two years later, celebrated its fifth anniversary as an event-within-an-event at this year’s Miami International Boat Show held February 14-18 in Miami, Florida. The occasion was marked with success witnessed by wave after wave of attendee.
St. Thomas sports fishermen and director of the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament, or ‘Boy Scout Tournament,’ Jimmy Loveland explains, “A small group of us met during the 2002 show and out of that meeting came the idea for the Big Game Room. A probe meeting of about fifty prospective vendors was held during the 2003 show, and it was felt there was enough positive feedback to go forward in 2004.”
Today, the Big Game Room has grown to become the industry’s premier big game fishing expo, and a gathering spot for enthusiasts from all over the globe to meet, swap information and socialize with others who share their passion.
“From our perspective, people have finally recognized the potential of the Big Game Room and it’s come into its own,” says Loveland.
Joanne Zito, sales manager for the Miami International Boat Show and Big Game Room general manager, who worked with Loveland to get the event launched agrees. “It’s hard to track just how many people attend, but the retailers know. In fact, several of our 85 to 90 exhibitors have asked to enlarge their booth space, from 10×10 to 10×15 or 10×20.
In honor if his founder’s status, Loveland has garnered the largest booth area for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“We provided information about our destination and sold Big Game Room T-shirts to raise money for the Boy Scouts,” Loveland says. “It was great seeing our fishing friends and being able to pitch our 2008 tournaments. Between the Bermuda Triangle Series, Spanish Main Series, and the ABMT or ‘Boy Scout’, we have nine separately scored competitions that keep us hopping. We now invite anglers and fishing teams to start signing up. The fishing will be good because we move with the fish! “
This year’s Big Game Room featured celebrity anglers, tournament organizers, boat manufacturers, blue-water tackle manufacturers, conservation groups, artists, and representatives from various resorts and fishing destinations from all over the world. Destinations represented included Australia, Panama, and the Kingdom of Tonga, as well as closer to home destinations like the Turks & Caicos and the Virgin Islands.
In addition, there was a multitude of fun and educational activities. For example, the Marlin Bar was back as an excellent place to network. Seminars took place from the stage area. Chris and Melissa Fischer, hosts of ESPN 2’s Offshore Adventures, discussed Fishing and Free Diving the Pacific; Peter B. Wright and Dave Ferrell returned with their Marlin U seminar program sponsored by Marlin and Sport Fishing Magazines; and Capt. Dan Kipnis, representing the National Wildlife Federation, answered the question – “What can we expect from the effects of global warming on our oceans and inshore waters?”
One of the most popular interactive exhibits was the Bait Rigging station.
“There was no shortage of experts who volunteered their talents at this station, and at the filet station,” says Loveland.
Freely sharing his expertise for many years earned Capt. Bouncer Smith, a renowned South Florida-based sports fishing captain, an induction into the Big Game Room Hall of Fame. Held annually on the opening day of the show, the Hall of Fame Award ceremony is anticipated by the entire sport fishing industry.
“Bouncer blessed the fleet at last year’s Boy Scout Tournament in St. Thomas,” Loveland says. “And it worked. We had an all-time tournament record with 207 blue marlin released by anglers aboard the 37-boat fleet.”
Loveland continues, “It was an amazing week, like swimming in a sea of fishermen. There were so many products and bargains. The tackle junkies were shopping with money in both hands. Everywhere you looked there were wide screens and jumping marlin.”
“My favorite part,” Loveland says, “was seeing the exchange of ideas between the fisherman and the manufacturers.”
The next Big Game Room will be held February 12-16, 2009. Those whose companies may want to display at next year’s Big Game Room should contact Joanne Zito at Email: [email protected] or Loveland at: 340-775-9500 or 1-888-234-7484, or Email: [email protected].