Visitors to the Northwest Sportshow this weekend at the Minneapolis Convention Center who are interested in buying an aluminum fishing boat will be presented a somewhat different array of craft to consider than was the case in January, at the Minneapolis Boat Show.
The main reason: Lund and Crestliner -- which skipped January's Boat Show, the first time in anyone's memory that has occurred -- are at the Sportshow.
Instead of attending the Boat Show, some metro dealers who sell these boats formed a consortium and attempted to lure prospective buyers into their various showrooms.
The lagging economy was the primary reason for the pullback. The dealers figured that by not attending the Boat Show they could save exhibitor costs and might come out ahead, financially, if they could do business instead in their showrooms.
Whether the tactic worked is unknown. Rumor has it, however, that at least some of the dealers are considering returning to the Boat Show next year, by which time the economy is expected to recover more fully and prospects for a profitable show increase.
Meanwhile, this week at the Sportshow, boats -- including lots of Lunds and Crest- liners -- are everywhere. And aluminum manufacturers, including Alumacraft, G3 and Tracker, among others, along with fiberglass stalwarts Ranger, Nitro and Skeeter, are competing for what they believe is a larger number of buyers this year than last -- but still not nearly as many as during the boat-selling heyday of six or seven years ago.
Some fishing boat trends I picked up at the Sportshow on Wednesday:
• In aluminum boats, the 16-footer with a 40- or 50-horsepower outboard remains the go-to item for many buyers these days. Price point is the primary reason: On the low end, a relatively bare-bones outfit like this can be purchased for about $13,000, though at that price the outboard in some cases will be a two-stroke, not a four-stroke.
• Eighteen-foot aluminum boats with 150 horsepower or larger outboards are not selling as well as they once did, largely because of the economy. Rigged with electronics and a bow trolling motor, these outfits typically will set a buyer back $22,500 or more.
• Special deals are being offered by some aluminum manufacturers and dealers in the form of "instant rebates'' or other incentives.
• New boat financing is more readily available this year than last. The best terms are reserved for buyers with high credit scores.
• Dealers I talked to welcome trade-ins, especially those they can sell for $5,000 to $10,000. "I get lots of calls every day for that price of boat, motor and trailer,'' said Nick LaCanne of LaCanne's Marine in Faribault.
• Many fishing-boat owners looking to trade up might do better by selling their current boats themselves. For boats costing less than $12,000 particularly, sales often can come quickly. For a sense of what's available in used fishing boats, and costs, check out, among other sites, www.walleyecentral.com.
• Tracker boats take up a lot of space at the Sportshow. In January, Tracker bought five Crystal-Pierz Marine outlets, in Shakopee, Ramsey, Brainerd, Rice Lake, Wis., and Fargo, N.D., and is using them to market their four brands, including, in addition to Tracker aluminum boats, Nitro bass boats, Sun Tracker pontoons and Tahoe fiberglass runabouts.
• Mercury outboards, owned by Brunswick Corp., which also owns Lund and Crestliner, are the exclusive motors fitted on Tracker boats. Brunswick also sells Lunds and Crestliner with only Mercurys on their transoms.
• G3 boats, meanwhile, are owned by Yamaha, and only Yamaha outboards are delivered on G3s -- boats, by the way, that have become increasingly competitive in the Minnesota/Wisconsin/Dakotas aluminum market in recent years.
• Alumacraft, by contrast, which manufacturers most of its boats in St. Peter, Minn., is independently owned. It gives buyers the option of choosing among outboards to be rigged on Alumacraft boats. That's one reason, regional manager Jim Hobson believes, Alumacraft has gained market share in recent years.
• The fiberglass boat market in Minnesota continues to grow, not only among bass anglers, but among walleye and other anglers, also. Frankies Marine in Chisago City has a big display of Skeeters and Rangers at the Sportshow, Rapid Marine also carries Rangers and is at the show as well, and Tracker has its Nitro models. Triton glass boats are also represented, as are fiberglass models from Lund.
• Finally, looking to compare outboards? The Sportshow is the place to do it. The major manufacturers have big exhibits at the show, with engineers and other experts on hand to explain features.
The Northwest Sportshow (www.north westsportshow.com) continues through Sunday at the Convention Center.
Dennis Anderson • firstname.lastname@example.org