Last week brought the annual ICAST show, which is without question the biggest event in the sportfishing industry. As many of you now know, numerous breakthrough products were released, along with a handful of bizarre items. Always looking for a reason to spend time in Florida, I made the trip in order to bring you the straight scoop. And while nothing really blew me away, a number of items definitely got my attention.
I spent a large amount of my time just looking around, without prior commitments or duties I needed to tend to. That allowed me to get a general feel, and record some examples, in the following categories:
General Bass Trends
As predicted, swing-head jigs and associated systems were everywhere. At lest six manufacturers had a prominent display of these items. I liked the Reins Sliding Football Tungsten Sinker; it allows anglers to experiment and customize their own system – a trend I think we will see soon.
There were several introductions in expanding categories including new bladed jig-style bills and wobble-walking topwaters.
Cool new clothing with saltwater roots, designed to protect from the sun, is making an even bigger push.
Casting reels are getting huge handles for leverage and to increase the turning radius, thus increasing winding speed.
There are lots of new hollow-body frog designs. River2Sea has a double-chambered unit to prevent leakage, while Sebile took the concept even further with a single, swinging-hook approach.
Rods continue to get lighter, featuring different guide systems to increase casting distance or reduce the weight of the overall package. While most companies purchase guides, Daiwa is building its own, called Air Guides, for its top-of-the-line Steez series. These carbon-framed guides are dropping overall rod weights into the 3-ounce range.
> TWA Sports Single Flipping Weight: A silicone cover holds the weight, flipping hook and soft plastic all together as one piece. The pointed end is so sharp it requires a line-threading tool, likely increasing mat-flipping efficiency.
> Never Slip Bait Tape: You know the way electrical tape sticks to itself when wrapped several times around an object? Yeah, imagine a micro-piece of tape that does that when wrapped around a Senko, or any plastic bait. Whether using for wacky-rigging or holding a bait on a jighead or hook shank, this stuff is the real deal. The tape formed an immediate, incredibly tough bond and is available in 10 colors in addition to clear.
> Snow Lizard SLXtreme Navigator Case for iPAD: Waterproof, and containing its own GPS receiver and rechargeable battery within the unit itself. Cases like these will soon make iPADS in bass boats as common as depthfinders.
Industry Attempts, Questionables and Laughers
I was blown away by the continued onslaught of fish attractants and chums. With the show being held in Orlando, and the obvious saltwater influence being a factor (where chum is used frequently and known to work), I still couldn’t believe the number of companies trying to convince the general public that scents and chum are the answer to their prayers.
There were no less than a dozen scent-bombs available in the new product showcase, including everything from natural fish oils to magic, predator-attracting blood-colored tablets. Jimmy Houston was, without question, the poster child for endorsements of these products, including a bass attractant, claimed to be “A new way to fish; just scent the water and bring the fish to you."
Other attractants were labeled to “create a fishing hot zone” when dumped near the boat dock. Rather than go through the effort, anglers should simply reach in their pocket, pull out a handful of quarters and throw those in the lake.
For some reason, super-coolers continue to awe and amaze the media. While I, like anyone else, am impressed by their ability to hold ice for a week, I was shocked to see a cooler win the best of show category for tackle management. This unit has nothing to do with tackle organization and contains no compartments, individual boxes, etc. While a very nice, efficient cooler, it is just that: a cooler, with four rod-holders bolted to the side and a shoulder strap.
While it certainly doesn’t take a genius to see this category offers incredible advertising pushes and budgets (I think YETI sponsors every show on the Outdoor Channel), I wonder if this “push” is getting a little carried away.
I found a KVD Tactical Knife. Enough said.
One company offered underwater, remote submarines - the same type used by underwater explorers and divers on the Discovery Channel when looking for shipwrecks and the Loch Ness Monster. While at first I scoffed, I did notice they were about the same price as our current electronics packages on bass boats.
The best-of-show lure category winners were surprising to me.
When I first viewed the soft-bait winner, the Savage Gear PVC Crab, I almost couldn’t take it seriously. To me, it was simply an action-less toy, or the Guido Bug 30 years later. But then, after I played with it a bit, I reconsidered the use of PVC across the board in fishing lures. It’s certainly durable ...
The hard-bait winner was, thankfully, a bass bait; the SPRO BBZ-1 Rat. While I’m sure it will gain a big following, I must admit, the lure kind of puts me in the same cynical mood as previous fuzzy duckies, turtles, and mice. However, the lure’s designer, big-bass legend Bill Siemantel, has painstakingly tested the bait and surely knows what he’s doing, so who am I to say.
All in all, it was a pretty solid show. The fishing industry continues to be on the upswing, as is evident by the high price points of many items. But there’s also great interest in providing for anglers who fish for the experience rather than for the clout, as evident in the Best-of-Show-winning Johnson Predator Kayak.
Maybe, for once, manufacturers are realizing that fishing involves a lot more than matching jerseys and truck wraps, and they're placing more stress on what used to commonly be referred to as an art form. Let’s hope.
(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.)