My trip to TRAC's Sportsmen Show (w/ fact box)

PASCO -- Outdoors to me usually means going to a football game. Or a baseball game.

I have fished twice in my life. Never shot a gun -- paintball doesn't count.

There are hunters. There are gatherers. Then there is my group, the eaters. We are friendly with the hunters and the gatherers so we can eat their food.

But I have taken an intriguing interest in things outdoors ever since my friend Kevin McCullen -- who ran our Outdoors page -- left the Herald a few months back.

So I decided to spend a few hours at the 18th annual Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show on Friday at TRAC in Pasco.

Here are my observations:

5 p.m. -- As soon as I walk in the door, I notice a seminar going on in an adjacent room from the front area.

The talk is "How to Locate Bass" by Don Hogue.

Wait a minute. I know this man. Hogue used to be the baseball coach at Pasco High School and has become quite the successful fisherman.

He's done well in those FLW bass tournaments here in the Tri-Cities, and he competed in the Bassmaster finals last year.

I sit down in the back to listen for a while: Slackwater areas are where the fish are, Hogue says. They're along the basalt cliffs of the Columbia. The water temperature is not gonna change in the Columbia from now to mid-March. It will be 37 degrees. ... the fish that are being active I look for upstream of rocks ..... Wait a minute!

Hogue is giving his secrets away! What the heck is he doing?

I make a note to ask him that later and decide to move on since he has another 45 minutes to speak.

He also has seminars today and Sunday if I really need to track him down.

5:15 p.m. -- I walk through where the booths are. I can't help but notice all of the guided fishing and hunting booths, as well as whitewater rafting excursions available.

And lots of places in Canada to go, as evidenced by the many booths. There are ducks quacking loudly in the area. I like ducks and follow the sound. I am duped. It's just a couple of yahoos blowing duck calls.

5:30 p.m. -- I have lived in this area for most of my 50 years, but I guess the fact that there is an island park in the Columbia River run by the Port of Benton kinda got by me.

Crow Butte Park was closed by the state in 2003, then run by a group of farmers from 2003-07 before the Port bought it, I'm told. It's not too far from Paterson, and people can boat, fish, swim, camp and hike.

5:40 p.m. -- I notice two hot tubs running in another booth. There are no women in swimsuits in them. I am disappointed and move on.

5:45 p.m. -- I stop at a pikeminnow booth, which extols the virtues of catching these nasty predators who kill salmon. The state pays money to fishermen who catch these rascals, and this year the season begins May 1.

Some guy named Nikolay Zaremskiy nabbed 9,532 of these things in 2010, earning $81,366. That's about 10 times what I make in a year, so I'm thinking about getting some gear while I'm here.

6 p.m. -- I have just met John Kruse, who runs a booth called Northwestern Outdoors radio.

John produces a one-hour program each week that covers the outdoors in Washington, Oregon and western Idaho. The format, he says, starts with a six-minute introduction, a 10-minute interview with someone, then other stories to complete the hour.

He has it on 14 radio stations around the Northwest now, but can't get into one in the Mid-Columbia.

"It's not for lack of trying," he said. But, he says, you can also listen online Saturdays or Sundays at northwesternoutdoors.com.

6:10 p.m. -- I run into Frank Allec of Mid-Valley Chrysler Jeep Dodge, whom I have known since the days the Tri-City Chinook -- not the fish, but the basketball team -- was playing here.

Frank is selling fishing boats. I ask him if they do well at these shows. He says yes, that he already has had some serious buyers talk to him. This is not an impulse buy. These buyers will need time to make that decision.

By the end of this weekend, though, Frank expects to sell a number of them.

6:25 p.m. -- I meet Hannes Swanepoel, a gentleman from South Africa who mans a booth called Hannes Swanepoel Safaris. He has been to this show before -- seven straight years.

Each year, he comes to the States for five weeks to attend outdoors shows. He gets enough interest to make it pay, then shows me a number of Northwest hunters in front of their trophies.

"I may not get anybody from this show one year, but I might the next," said Swanepoel. "And that guy will come home and tell his buddies about it, and then they want to do it."

6:35 p.m. -- Jennie Hodge sits quietly in her Vintage Fishing Tackle booth, next to a bunch of antlers.

I ask her if people just collect this gear, or do they actually fish with it.

"They collect it," she said.

Her stuff is not for sale -- this is an attraction -- "but if people want to bring their stuff in and have it appraised by me for free, I'll do it. I might even buy it."

I pick out an old lure and ask her what it would sell for.

"It's from the late 1930's, and in good condition," she said. "It would go for $150 to $250."

6:40 p.m. -- I go into the arena and see the grizzly bear. It's cool. But I thought it would be bigger. It does tricks. But it didn't eat anyone. So I move on.

6:43 p.m. -- Hey! There's C.W. Welch over by his demonstration area by himself, cleaning things up. I remember watching his outdoor cooking shows on PBS and thought he did magical things with food. (We eaters like food.)

He and his wife haven't filmed any shows for at least seven years, and they moved four years ago from Idaho to Texas.

"But we still do four shows up in the Northwest -- this one, Puyallup, Portland and Redmond," Welch said. "My wife and I actually have full-time jobs, but we do a summer camp where we cook for 2 1/2 months. This Dutch oven ware gets a fair workout."

I missed a dinner he had just made of cajun ribs casserole, chicken enchiladas and homemade biscuits.

"But I'll have three more shows Saturday and two more Sunday," he says, trying to console me.

7 p.m. -- I want to ask the Richland Rod & Gun Club people if I could go fishing in Lunker Lake, but since it's just for little kids I might feel out of place.

So I move over to the Colyak Bowhunters area. .... And I have shot three arrows! And I didn't kill anyone. Thanks to my high school friend, Jodi Wheeler, she and her Colyak group have shown me how to use a bow and arrow.

I watch some of the more experienced shooters hit targets from 50 yards out. Jodi says their group holds about four shoots each year, with the next one coming on Super Bowl Sunday.

That's it. It's time for me to go.

But I've got to say I met a lot of nice people who were mainly interested in sharing their interest of the outdoors during my walk.

I will always be a member of the eaters group, but I could actually see myself dabbling with the hunters or gatherers, too.