Winter shows tend to overlap, but they are divided into several general types. Boat shows feature boats, but may include tackle and more. Fishing shows are primarily about tackle and accessories but will usually also draw a few boat dealers. Outdoor shows include all outdoor activities, from the stealthiness of fly fishing a small mountain stream to the dare-devil adrenalin seeking of mountain biking. There are also shows that combine two or more of these ideas and attract a variety of people.
Education is the major draw of winter shows for many people. They may buy some accessories or equipment, but only a small percentage are attending to buy boats and other big-ticket items. Many shows offer a variety of seminars to attract enthusiasts. Seminars can cover any aspect of getting the most performance from products available at the show. Heck, even at shows that don't include seminars, dealers have pro staffers and manufacturer's representatives in their booths to talk the talk and answer questions from potential customers.
The best preparation for purchasing a new boat or equipment is having all the knowledge available. Some potential buyers study up beforehand, but many learn as they go, talking to different dealers. There are subtle differences that may increase or decrease the value of a boat/motor/trailer package without affecting how the new owner may use it. There are also often extended-warranty packages, special-equipment packages or special-financing packages that are offered as incentives to purchase during the show.
Once the ideal boat is found, price is important, but it is not the only key. Unless you are one of the rare few who has enough discretionary income to purchase a boat outright, financing is very important, too. It would be wise to consult with your bank or credit union before heading out boat-shopping. Price is the first key after finding your ideal boat, but financing follows immediately. Interest rate, terms, early payment options and the total amount of all payments are all things to be considered.
Boat and fishing shows are different. Instead of a couple of hundred boats, you are looking at many thousands of rods, reels, outdoor equipment and accessories. It's a rare fishing show that doesn't have 10,000 shiny lures and a multitude of seminar presenters teaching you to work each one correctly. The speaker will often accompany you back to a dealer's booth to make sure you find the right one.
Sure, there is a little embellishment in some of the stories told in booths and seminars, but many of the products work well. This is a time to put an extra layer in your BS filter, pay attention to learn what you can. Some product bias may exist, but there is a lot of information that can be used to straighten the learning curve. Several times, I have found the advice offered helped much more in a way other than the intended.
Outdoor shows tend to lean more toward hunting, but that isn't always so or necessarily bad. Many products cross the line and serve well in ways not originally intended. A ThermaCELL mosquito device doesn't care if it is at a campsite, on a deck, in a deer stand or duck blind or on the console of a fishing boat. It simply keeps mosquitoes away. Outdoor shows often offer a variety of seminars and demonstrations that run the range from rock climbing to using downriggers.
I mentioned fishing or hunting seminars and schools, and there is a significant difference. That difference is time. Seminars are shorter and condense ideas, techniques and topics, while fishing schools are longer and allow time for presenters to elaborate and cover more topics. Don't discount either, as both can be helpful.
Numerous fishing, boating and outdoor shows are scheduled for winter and early spring. In general, these are excellent events and provide opportunities to associate with persons with similar recreational pursuits. The opportunity to learn a few new techniques and tactics for fishing and hunting isn't bad either. Many knowledgeable speakers put their tips and secrets on the table for anyone interested to learn. Opportunities are there most weekends from through March.