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Outdoors enthusiasts ready for show dancing



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Brad Jackson goes against the flow.

The veteran worker and attendee at outdoors shows had basic advice for show-goers.

“If you can avoid it, don’t go on Saturday,’’ he said. ‘‘If you go on Saturday, go late. If you can, turn left instead of right, because most of the crowd will turn right.’’

This is the wildest week in memory for outdoors shows, with the big show — the Chicago Outdoor Sports Show — opening Wednesday at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. The major new fishing show — Chicagoland Fishing, Travel & Outdoor Expo — opens Thursday at the Schaumburg Convention Center.

“If I was a show attendee, I would hit them both on the same day,’’ Jackson said. He thought Friday might be a good option with the Schaumburg show opening at 12:30 p.m.

Several companies will be at both shows.

The Anglers Outlet, which is in the old Ed Shirley Sports building in Markham, goes one step farther. It will also be at the Hammond Outdoor Sports Show, the longtime, local-focus show for northwest Indiana, the south suburbs and Chicago on Saturday and Sunday.

Jackson, store manager at The Anglers Outlet, comes by his show love naturally.

He worked his first show in 1974 when the Chicago show was at the International Amphitheatre. He did shows several years for Ed Shirley Sports, then for Morrie Magers Sports (speaking of memory lane) when he ran their fishing department. Then he worked for “a couple outfits in south Florida,’’ where shows are at night and under tents outside.

Asked what he wanted from his staff at shows, Jackson said, ‘‘I have different expectations for different people. In almost all cases, I try to get in good fishermen. But this week I may have to use shirttail relatives. Them, I just tell to be polite and nice.’’

For his regular staff and other top fishermen he has working booths, Jackson makes use of the shows.

“I try to have guys bouncing around [the show],’’ he said. “I also use it as training grounds for the guys, especially Schaumburg, where there will be a lot of manufacturers.’’

There’s another practical side to working the shows.

“There is a just not much else to do this time of year,’’ Jackson said. “It allows me to get some of my guys some work. It is hard to make any money at these shows. I do it mainly just for cash flow at a slow time.’’

The Anglers Outlet will do 12 shows this year, as far away as Indianapolis and Collinsville.

Outdoors shows have evolved greatly over the past couple decades with impacts from big-box stores and online sales.

“We tend to sell at shows a pretty good amount of high-end stuff, as well as in closeouts and overruns,’’ Jackson said.

In recent years, show attendees come in knowing equipment and prices from the catalogs of Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.

“If you can offer them something a little different, they will go for it,’’ Jackson said.

Speaking of different, the booze doesn’t flow at the shows like it used to either.

“That has changed,’’ Jackson said. “I remember that at the old O’Hare Show, it was like being at old Comiskey for a Sox game.’’

There’s a summer memory in the dead of winter.

In memory

One of the great muskie fishermen on the Chain O’Lakes, Russ Schaller, died Saturday. Services were Tuesday. Mr. Schaller and his son Chris were usually favorites in the Challunge on the Chain, the spring and fall contests staged by the Fox River Valley chapter of Muskies Inc.

Stray cast

Wrigley Field belongs to Chicago’s past as surely as lake herring do to Lake Michigan.

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