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Published: Friday, 2/10/2012

COMMENTARY

Boat shows will dispatch thoughts of winter

BY MATT MARKEY
OUTDOORS

What promises to be a seasonably cold February weekend should not temper the enthusiasm of the boating crowd in the area, because they will be presented with multiple opportunities to get the 2012 season started -- and do so in the warmth of the indoors.

"This is the ideal time to get the process going," said Jim Sommers, a former commander of the Toledo Power Squadron who is active in the group's educational endeavors.

"The real 'on the water' opportunity will be here before you know it, so it's important now to think about what you need to do, be prepared, and have a good plan before you take that cover off the boat you already own, or before you go out and buy your first boat."

The Detroit Boat Show opens Saturday for a nine-day run at the downtown Cobo Center. Exhibit space has been sold out and show manager John Ropp expects robust crowds and an improving economy to relieve a "pent-up demand" for watercraft.

Bass Pro Shops in Rossford opens its boat show Friday and over the next 10 days the outdoors megastore will host a series of free boating and fishing seminars, including sessions on proper boat-towing methods and how to use the latest marine electronic devices.

"We think the timing is perfect," said Robert Buchanan, general manager at Bass Pro. "February gives folks a great opportunity to shop for a boat, learn about boating, or just get out of the house and see what kinds of boats are out there. It reminds everyone that better weather and the boating season are not too far off."

The Bass Pro boat show features a variety of recreational, pontoon, and fishing boats, special discounts, gift card bonuses, and appearances by professional walleye fisherman Gary Parsons Friday and Saturday.

The Huron Valley Sportfishing Club is sponsoring the Michigan-Ohio Sportfishing Expo at the MBT Expo Center at the Monroe County Fairgrounds on Saturday and Sunday. Boats will be a part of the affair, with Cabela's in Dundee and Happy Days Boating from Port Clinton supplying the watercraft that will be on display.

The Columbus Sports, Vacation & Boat Show opened Thursday for a four-day run at the Ohio Expo Center, while the Spring Boating Expo runs March 15-18 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich. The Catawba Island Club will host its on-site annual boat show from May 4-6 in Port Clinton.

Many of the boating vendors said they expect to experience brisk sales of watercraft over the next couple of months, with the boat shows often supplying close to half of their customer connections for the year.

But whether folks are shopping for an aluminum jon boat or a luxurious cruiser, or just looking to replace, upgrade or accessorize with bilge pumps, trim tabs, navigational lights, or dock bumpers, Sommers stressed that the educational aspect of boating should not be overlooked.

"The real joy of boating starts with a good understanding of the requirements, the rules, and the proper safety equipment," he said.

"Anyone new to the boating field needs to be taking a safety course now, before they get out on the water. Even current owners and experienced boaters can benefit a lot from taking seminars or refresher courses. You want your boat ready mechanically, and you want to make sure you've been educated in safety and proper navigation."

Also found under the February outdoors umbrella is the Camp & Travel RV Show at the SeaGate Centre Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.



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