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BY JAMES MEROLLA
There were 10,000 plugs, but no sockets, 10,000 jigs but no dances, and hundreds more gulps and spoons that had nothing to do with food.
Welcome to the very successful 8th Annual Rhode Island Salt Water Anglers Associationâs annual fishing show spectacular, with an angle for every angler and the allure of a million lures.
For three solid days last weekend (March 11-13), the Rhode Island Convention Center saw thousands of people fill the premiere fishing showâs 15 aisles (including perimeter) on both sides.
Fishermen (and women and children) swapped stories to get the best deals and advice on rods, reels, plugs, tackle, jigs, chum, lures, spoons, worms, grabbers, soft rubbery and plastic bait, charter boats, false casting, line, sinkers, hooks, $2 knives and even a hand grenade or two â with one single goal in mind, how best to catch fish.
There was ârechargeableâ rubber bait, dipped in its own scents, handmade wooden lures, videos on how to cast, fly fishing demonstrations by comely blonds, hourly seminars, fishing simulators and even a worm bar.
âYou could spend $200 or $4,000, depending on how nuts you want to get, and depending on how you shop,â said Ed Simard, an avid fisherman from Fall River, Mass.
With so many people shopping for so many gadgets designed to give the fish only a small fighting chance, itâs a wonder there are any left in the sea.
âItâs going very well,â said Terri Luvera, one of 100 shops selling their âgrabbers,â guaranteed to be better than the next one. âWe make our own lures. Made in the good old U.S.A. People ask me, âDo they work? Do they catch fish?â This is a great jig (she added of a rattling lure). Weâre not talking about dancing.â
You could sign up for a yearâs worth of fishing magazines and get a free lure, which retails for $18; catch up on the âhottestâ soft bait, or visit Buckoâs Parts or A.O.K. Tackle or Shankaâs Stick Lures or Chasinâ Tail Charters.
Strategically, thanks to the powers that be, the âMasterâ store was not adjacent to âBait.â
The Rhody Fly Rodders were on hand, one of Americaâs oldest salt-water fishing clubs. âIf a youngster wants to learn how to tie a fly, I teach him how to tie a fly,â said Ed Tatro of Cumberland, offering both a vise and advice on the Sunday Kids Day. Tatro was threading a bobbin, making hooks for plugs. âI make a single hook on the back of the plug so it wonât hurt the fish,â he said.
Lynn Medeiros, co-chair of the hosting Rhode Island Salt Water Anglers Association said, âWe sold an unbelievable amount of merchandise in the past three days. We canât keep the merchandise (in stock). They all went.â
The statewide group, one of the largest in the country, is already setting up for next year. âWe have already secured the dates,â said Medeiros.
âThis has been awesome,â added Marcel Tetreault of Rhode Island Poppers, based in Woonsocket, a family operation, consisting of son, mother and father. âIt has been an excellent show. We have moved a lot of plugs.â
Jay Machant of Warwick, R.I., is half of Pat and Jayâs Used Tackle Shop. He had a full three days of catering to those frugal Swamp Yankees who want a bargain and cringe to pay full price for a brand new rod, reel and tackle.
âWe are reasonable,â said Machant, of his used gear. âAnd they are looking to buy two or three lures for the price of one, thatâs the big thing. They want to save a buck.â
On a nearby wall, was the stuffed array of monster fish of every dimension, including the Rhode Island record-breaking 76-plus-lbs., 55-inch-long striped bass.
Among the whoppers being told by salesmen to sell their glow-in-the-dark eels and their plastic imitation bait crabs, the fish was more than a keeper; it was a keeper of the eternal fisherman flame.
As one salesman said, when asked, âHowâs it going?â
âHow is it going? The snow is melting. Itâs time to fish.â