Pair from Washington Co. kick off Wis. Fishing Expo

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Business partners from Washington County are now running the largest Fishing Expo in the Midwest.

Jeff Bast of West Bend and Dan Durbin of Richfield worked as publishers reps for Wisconsin Outdoor News. The pair spent the past 20 years exhibiting at sport shows all over Wisconsin. “Some were good, many were bad, and several folded after a year or two of trying,” Durbin said.

One event the pair always enjoyed was the Madison Fishing Expo.

“We didn’t like it because it just did well on the bottom line, but because of the reason the show was in existence,” said Durbin. “The Madison Fishing Expo is not your ordinary expo. It’s made up of a coalition of non-profit fishing clubs in the state and it started, simply, to build awareness of fishing as a great family activity and to give proceeds back to the community.”

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Over the years the Madison Fishing Expo  drew 20,000 anglers annually, had many of the nation’s top fishing brands, and local independent dealers in Wisconsin.

Never did the pair ever dream they would someday own it.

“About 18 years ago our agency, Bast-Durbin Advertising, took on the role of being the marketing firm,” said Durbin. “We handled media buying and PR, and in general, consulted with the MFE Board on where the show was going in the future.

“The president of the board, Chuck Rolfsmeyer, approached us about taking over all operations,” said Durbin. “We were flattered, but a bit reluctant to take on the massive rent and expenses, when shows in general were struggling.”

After long discussions with their wives, Bast-Durbin Advertising enlisted help from social-media ace Niko Markos, Steve Hauge, an original MFE Board member, and Durbin’s sister, Kristen Monroe.

“We’re now breaking out the improved Wisconsin Fishing Expo,” said Durbin.

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A couple of new components of the event:

1) Several new manufacturers from big name brands like Kalins, Gamakatsu, Garmin, and Ray Marine.
2) Two different bands to help entertain people in-between shopping.
3) New seminar speakers who were local heroes or national fishing celebrities.
4) Cooperation between vendors so each had specials exclusive to them, so there wasn’t bad blood between them, as they fought for sales.
5) Increased advertising budgets so people knew the expo was being energized.

The Wisconsin Fishing Expo will be held in the 140,000-square-foot Exhibition Hall at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

More information at Wisconsin Fishing Expo.

Tickets are $10 but kids 12 and under are free.

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