Winter in Buffalo-Niagara is starting to kick in. And the rough weather, particularly on local waterways,

Winter in Buffalo-Niagara is starting to kick in. And the rough weather, particularly on local waterways, is already here. You may not realize it, but Western New York has developed quite a reputation. Not only in the quality of its fishing – Lake Erie for its walleye; the lower Niagara River for steelheads, walleye and perch; Lake Ontario for Chinook, perch and salmon; and trout of all kinds in the Finger Lakes – but also how the area’s fishermen and guides handle rough weather. So much so that the specialty boat makers are now paying attention. Founded in the early ’90s and based in Melrose, Minnesota, this manufacturer of premier fishing boats built for challenging conditions has been popular with fishermen on Midwest lakes, even up into the Lake Winnipeg area of Manitoba. “We’ll be the farthest east they’ve ever come,” said sales rep John Zimdahl of Collins Marine, located near the South Grand Island Bridge. “The next closest dealer to us would be south of us in Cleveland. (It’s) their only exposure to Lake Erie.” Zimdahl said Lake Erie, with a walleye population estimated to be a staggering 70 million, has become a fisherman’s paradise, with tournaments and countless fishin...

For Strex co-founders Brynn and Antoine McLeod, IBEX wasn’t just where they won their first award;

For Strex co-founders Brynn and Antoine McLeod, IBEX wasn’t just where they won their first award; it was their first trade show. Strex Fasteners came out with its boat-cover snaps two months ago, and the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference in October was the company’s first trade show. When Strex received an Innovation Award in the covering category, it was a huge deal for the upstart enterprise. “Especially coming from IBEX, which everyone in the marine industry knows and respects, it was incredibly important, and it gave us respectability right out of the gate,” says company co-founder Antoine Mcleod. Mcleod and his wife, Brynn, started the company after the cover on their pontoon boat started to shrink, making it difficult to install. They came up with the Strex Fastener System, which has bungee-style extensions on traditional snaps that a do-it-yourselfer can install, or that boatbuilders, dealers or canvas shops can use. They’re sold in packs of 10 and 50. Brynn Mcleod’s father, an engineer, helped perfect the product design; her mother made the in-booth displays. It’s not just newcomers like the Mcleods who see an IBEX Innovation Award as a potential bo...