It’s a big week in sport fishing. While the pro bass tours take a lazy summer break, the entire fishing world focuses on the industry’s annual “buzz” event: ICAST.
The world’s largest fishing trade show, ICAST is the crowning achievement of the American Sportfishing Association. The show itself bounces back and forth between Orlando and Las Vegas and this year central Florida is the venue. I’m excited to attend and plan to bring you the true, unbiased scoop following the show.
ICAST has always been an integral part of the promotional and marketing side of bass fishing, and often includes participation by the sport’s top competitors. Once “the place” to strike a deal for bass pros, it was common to see loads of tournament junkies doing their best to put on their business casual and make friends with marketing executives. In modern times, ICAST is still a good place to be seen and shake a few hands, but most of today’s business people are simply too busy to sign up a new pro-staffer on the spot.
Regardless of promotional and marketing involvement in the industry, the world has changed and it now forces everyone to work much harder, stay incredibly busy and often have less time for individual relationships. Thanks to the progress of email and social media, one-to-one relationships have dwindled, and reaching the masses has become an all-consuming quest for most. In a way, it’s greatly increased the reach and effectiveness of the overall “campaign” to create more fishermen. In other ways, it seems to slowly take away from the integrity and core values that our industry was built upon in the first place, and what helps to separate it from the real world. Oh well, such is progress.
Regardless of how hectic such events can be, I’m pumped to attend ICAST. I’ll get to quickly chat with people I’ve worked with for decades, meet some new, anxious hires and rub elbows with some of the press who, like me, are eaten up with bass history and lore.
But above and beyond my desire to catch up on old times, I’m really anxious to see the new gear. Included at ICAST are a number of awards given to the top item debuted in each category, from hard and soft baits to apparel, rods, reels, electronics and everything in between. The crowning victor across the board, and one that is commonly viewed as the most instrumental break-through item receives the Best of Show award.
Therefore, each year companies introduce all of their newest creations and gems at ICAST. For whatever reason, it seems more of those same companies are intentionally leaking the details of their announcements early, so we’ve already seen a number of real head-turners in photo essays here on BassFan and on other sites. A few piqued my interest and are high on my list of items not to miss.
Without sounding like a salesman or creating what many of you may view as a conflict of interest, I’d be real surprised if Humminbird’s new AutoChart Live didn’t win Best of Show. This software and its function are simply revolutionary and will forever change the course of mapping, period. Nothing will be more functional than having millions of anglers able to instantly map their home bodies of water. The possibilities are infinite; but enough about that – you can check it out yourself.
Other items that I feel the need to chime in on:
> There seems to be an overall trend toward gigantic square-bills. We’ve heard a bit of buzz about this in the media – I’m guessing before long we may hear of a new “secret bait of the pros." Why not? We now know there seems to be nearly no limit on lure size in many instances with bass, as evident by the recent success of giant spoons.
> Not surprisingly, Livingston Lures is introducing every possible configuration of Randy Howell’s Classic-winning Dream Master crankbait. Possibly we may see them take the same path as competitor Strike King, who puts the letters “KVD” on everything. Good for Randy.
> There seems to be a Japanese trend toward lures, thought to normally be reserved for one style of fishing, being placed in another. This includes sub-surface lures with props and buzz blades. Interesting adaptations.
> There are some new textured jig skirts from Z-Man that look really cool.
> Everyone is jumping on the swing-head craze, as predicted. While Tommy Biffle brought the technique to the limelight, and certainly all pros initially used his lure, now there’s a bunch of similar baits endorsed by other pros. Funny how that works – it kind of reminds me of the Sweet Beaver saga.
> I’m really anxious to see the new LunkerHunt soft plastics with mylar cores. These lures are reported to be extra tough, which prevents having to buy dozens of bags to get through a day. Finally. Although Mann’s has tried with its Hardnose line of baits, very few manufacturers seem concerned whatsoever for the amount of plastics being used in today’s fishing. Sure, it’s a cost issue, but just as important are the environmental impacts. While we have organizations that are doing all they can to promote recycling used plastic baits, fishermen are going through bags upon bags of these things each and every day. If I go out and catch 15 bass and my lure flies off into the lake all 15 times, can’t we all agree this is an issue? Enough, already, with this obvious sham to get us all to buy more plastic. I hope it works out for LunkerHunt and they start a trend.
Enough of my rambling – I’m off to catch a plane. As promised, I'll report back with the unbiased take on what I find at ICAST. Stay tuned.
(Joe Balog is the often outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)