A reel attraction

Daily Pilot

To kick off the summer sports fishing season, Newport Beach-based Pacific Coast Sportfishing Magazine is hosting its first salt-water fishing festival Friday and Saturday at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.

The two-day event will feature more than 30 vendors and exhibitors with the latest products and techniques used in salt-water sport fishing.

Although the event will be similar to a convention, the atmosphere will be anything but convention-like, said Drew Lawler, the magazine's president and editorial director.

"We didn't want to call it a trade-show, because that sounds kind of stodgy," Lawler said. "This will be a kick-off party for the entire season."

With Baja-themed quesadillas, fajitas and other festive snack stands, Lawler said he just wants to bring people together for some good family fun.

"A lot of these anglers communicate through message boards throughout the season," Lawler said of the Newport Beach fishing community. "We can increase the camaraderie for the entire season by first coming together face-to-face."

And like a true party planner, Lawler knows the secret to a good event is in the entertainment. Besides hiring rousing mariachi bands to play throughout the festival, Lawler has booked surf-rock legends the Surfaris to play "Wipe Out" and other favorites Saturday.

The festival will also be packed with seminars lead by boating and fishing experts, such as Pete Groesbeck, Peter Pakula and Jimmy Decker.

"These are real top-notch anglers that our readers have read about but would otherwise never have a chance to meet," Lawler said. "This is going to be really exciting for everybody."

Attendees should arrive early to the seminars because seating is first-come, first-served, Lawler said.

"Being that this is our first [festival], we don't really know how many people to expect," Lawler said, adding that 70,000 tickets were distributed with the June edition of the magazine.

For those who are unable to get a coveted seat in Groesbeck's "Approaching and Casting to Billfish" seminar, for example, attendees will still be able to get a first look at many new products and fishing techniques from the event's many exhibitors.

Ryan Eastman, owner of the West Coast Marine Group in Newport Beach, will be showcasing his company's newest line of fishing boats. There will also be the latest models of Yamaha sport watercraft on display.

"Newport Beach has a long tradition in fishing," Eastman said. "The fishing community is different here than, say, on the East Coast, because there isn't an off-season. Fishermen are in the water year-round here."

The event will run from noon to 8 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $10 for adults; children 17 and younger get in for free.

For more information, visit www.pcsportfishing.com.

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