Toronto Sportsmen Show 2015 – Not what it used to be?

The Toronto Sportsmen Show, the show that everyone waits for to go see what’s new in outdoor gear, and get the latest fishing, hunting and adventuring equipment. One of the biggest shows before the start of spring when many outdoorsmen and sportsmen venture out for the best weather and wilderness Canada has to offer. There will be seminars, and great deals to find. From the smallest item to the big ticket item that all men gravitate towards, staring, dreaming and planning on when they’ll have it and what they’ll do with it.  Can you feel the testosterone flowing yet? ….I couldn’t wait for the show!

I know the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show was almost two weeks ago so this article is a little late being posted, but we were a little hesitant to post it.  If you read on you will understand why.  We attended the Show as part of the media on Friday Feb 6 2015 at the Direct Energy Center in Toronto.  I decided to write about this after speaking with a friend of mine who had a similar experience to what I had and convinced me on why I should post this.

As I mentioned above, I was super pumped to go to the Sportsmen’s Show.  I signed up as a blogger to get media passes to the show so I could write about it, and selfishly, so I get in there myself.  Once I got there, I had mixed reviews. Here are the pro’s and con’s to what we found.  I am hoping that the show owners can use this information to make the show better next year and for all future shows, and so visitors can decide if they want to attend based on their interest in attending.

The Pro’s

For the hunters and fisherman that want to find a lodge, or a fly in outfitter this would have been a great place to start with many booths setup to showcase what their lake/area has to offer.  I believe we even saw a booth for a safari hunt overseas.  Plenty of adventure for those looking for this type of thing.  There were also a few retailers there, allowing visitors to purchase their new rod and reel, lures and all types of tackle. There were guns, compound bows, and crossbows abound, if you were looking for new or upgraded weaponry. (Excalibur Crossbows – Awesome!) – All different types of manliness going on here. Good start.

For those looking to learn something new, upgrade their skill or just try something they haven’t done before, there was a casting pond, a few fishing seminars covering all things fishy (including a stocked casting trailer with live fish to feature what the speakers were talking about, as well as an archery range for both kids and adults. (As men, we don’t like instructions, or advice – but think of it as tips and tricks and you’re off to the races.)  Not as many things to learn about as there has been in the past, but still a few good options for everyone.

The Con’s

We want to present these in a constructive way; not as derogatory comments. We’re just conveying what we experienced.

We’ll start with the location and size. A few years ago we can remember this show being at the Metro Toronto Convention center. Located beside Union Station, one of the main public transit hubs allow visitors to refrain from the downtown traffic and expensive parking. The show has moved in recent years to the Direct Energy Center in the Exhibition grounds, which is also accessible from TTC and Go trains with a little more thought and planning for those that don’t use public transit often.   The venue has also become a little smaller, having less vendors in a less accessible spot may be leading to a decline in attendance, but the show is not the power house it once was.

Trying to find some equipment to buy, look at or find out about was next to impossible. I believe we walked by one or two outfitters of wilderness equipment. For those looking for gear to take themselves into the woods vs. going to a fishing or hunting lodge, there was not much there.  Now we recognize that the show isn’t aimed directly at this type of adventurer, but in comparison to years before it was almost empty in this category.  The Sportsmen’s Show website listed a “Outfitters and Travel Expo” – This was very much the same and the fishing and hunting lodges that had booths there. Nothing to purchase for the most part. For those that save their money over the winter to get great deals on the gear they need at this show. Don’t get your hopes up to high. This section resembled a playground for the “city person” looking to get away for a weekend rather than a Sportsman.

I was actually coming to the show to check out some canoes. Our Battle Tank Canoe from previous posts has finally run its last ground and is not longer a viable option to get out in. So I was very surprised to see that there was only one vendor of canoes/kayaks/paddleboards. Only one? What happened to the fishing kayaks? To the fisherman who portages out to an unknown lake for his secret fishing spot? Has all fishing gone to 600 HP Bass Boats? There are many people looking for non motorized boats that I am sure ran into a similar issue at the show.

As for the seminars and learning, well… We can’t complain much. There were some seminars on fishing and cleaning your catch. Very useful for anyone who would be attending the show. However, we would add in a few pieces for non fisherman/huntsmen. Something everyone can use, general camping skills, survival skills, something that caters to everyone not just one class of Sportsmen. Can we volunteer to hold a ManCamping course??  Of course you want to cater to all classes, so you still need the targeted seminars as well. The archery was very cool to try out, although having the adults and kids sections on opposite sides of the building was an interesting setting. I wouldn’t want to leave my kid shooting arrows 500 feet away from me while I try it out on the opposite side.

The only other thing that we wanted to ramble on about, and this is good info for both visitors and the show, is …. Singing “One of these things is NOT like the other….”.  When a show of this nature has a smaller number of vendors and booths then they have had in the past we start to see vendors and booths that have no relevance to the show, they are just there to help pay the bills. The Conservative Party of Canada,  Toronto Star, Argonauts Football, and even a booth for jewelry?? – Just to name a few.  Having these booths at the show hurts the credibility of the show. You are now just trying to fill space with anyone who will  pay money. Stop doing it.

All in all the show has lost some of it’s luster but hopefully with some encouragement and the right direction the show will come back next year bigger and better then ever. Hopefully, as a visitor to the show you will read this and decide if the admission price of $19.00 and a the Parking price of $20.00 was worth it for your expectations.

Did you go to the show? Let us know your experiences below. We would love to hear about the experiences you may have had.

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