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The big and small in outdoors shows

The new ChicagolFishing Travel   Outdoor Expo Schaumburg ConventiCenter was big success. | Dale Bowman~For Sun-Times Media

The new Chicagoland Fishing, Travel & Outdoor Expo at the Schaumburg Convention Center was a big success. | Dale Bowman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 28, 2013 6:45AM


That was the first word that came to mind when I walked into the Schaumburg Convention Center on the opening afternoon Thursday of the new Chicagoland Fishing, Travel & Outdoor Expo.

Big, as in the biggest name in fishing — Kevin VanDam — doing a demonstration atop the hawg trough in the impossible 2:30 p.m. weekday slot and still drawing a standing-room-only crowd of 350.

Big, as in fishing-industry bigwigs. John Mazurkiewicz of Catalyst Marketing Services, a Shimano rep, said it is ‘‘pretty cool when you walk in and look around’’ and see the top management and marketing people from the top companies in fishing, from Zebco to Diawa to St. Croix.

‘‘I haven’t seen that much tackle since the BASS Master Classic was here in 2000,’’ North Side fisherman Carl Vizzone said.

In 2000, the ICAST show brought the major players in fishing to McCormick Place with the Classic.

Vizzone also said it was good to see catalogs at the manufacturers’ booths again. That is the key to the show working: Nearly all fishing manufacturers are there.

The show is big and varied enough to empty the wallet and to be worth exploring to feed your interests.

Here are a couple of things I found worth noting:

Suburban-based Lee’s Bait & Tackle (booth 320-323) offers a neat collection of Japanese fishing products and is the largest source in the Midwest for JDM fishing products. It’s worth seeing lures and brand names rarely seen.

Doug Becker has ‘‘the original Defender football jig’’ on a rack at Dave’s Bait, Tackle & Taxidermy of Crystal Lake (booth 630-634). The jig, which comes in half- or three-quarter-ounce sizes, is notable for staying upright. Years ago, a similar unnamed jig was around. Becker tweaked it and brought it back.

‘‘People use it all the way to Minnesota,’’ Becker said. ‘‘I fish it from the beginning in spring until the end of the season. It works in dirty, stained or clear water.’’

He and partner Dave Kranz had one of the most remarkable runs in local bass-fishing history while using the jig in 2007.

Art of the outdoors pulls me. My fix at Schaumburg came from Jonathan Marquardt of BadAxe Design. Marquardt, who said he grew up in Hinsdale and now lives in Madison, Wis., explained his linocut technique, a version of wood cut from linoleum. His art is fish-related, naturally enough, with layers of color.

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That’s the word for the crowds at the Chicago Outdoor Sports Show at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

But I found a few highlights.

It’s worth watching Larry Kirchner, especially in ice-fishing season, demonstrate his Bait Flare system at the Fishtech booth (615).

Dan Basore’s Historical Fishing Display (booth 131) has an exhibit for the late Bill Cullerton, another in honor of Dan Gapen Sr.’s last appearance in Chicago (an opening-day highlight was Gapen telling stories in front of one of his old displays) and a case that included the Lindner brothers’ first Muskie Mauler lure.

One must-see was marginally related to the outdoors, but it gave me my art fix. Donny Van Orman has the Loop-ez booth (810) for his patented anchoring system for truck beds, but he also has a rack of electric guitars crafted from maple he picked and carved himself.

On Wednesday, Van Orman hooked up an amp, so Jeff Nolan of Bridgeport Bass could play one. People from other booths and aisles peered around the corner and listened.

It was a show moment.

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