ICAST trends - Major League Fishing
ICAST trends
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ICAST trends

July 21, 2010 • Curtis Niedermier • Angler Columns

No occasion better solidifies the current trends in the fishing industry than ICAST. In 2009, the trend was to build budget-priced rods and extremely lightweight rods. There were also budget-priced reels. 2009 was also notably the year of the kayak fisherman. ICAST 2010 was a bit different. There were still many high-quality, low-priced items and plenty of kayaking accessories, but I also saw some outrageously high-priced gear. Maybe that’s a sign of an economic upswing. Maybe it’s just business.

As tackle and gear go, there were some more interesting trends in 2010 not related to price that are worth noting for bass and walleye anglers. Here are some that I found:

Micro-guides

No occasion better solidifies the current trends in the fishing industry than ICAST. In 2009, the trend was to build budget-priced rods and extremely lightweight rods. There were also budget-priced reels. 2009 was also notably the year of the kayak fisherman. ICAST 2010 was a bit different. There were still many high-quality, low-priced items and plenty of kayaking accessories, but I also saw some outrageously high-priced gear. Maybe that’s a sign of an economic upswing. Maybe it’s just business.

Micro-guides are huge, figuratively speaking. Physically, they are nothing more than small line guides for rods. The size allows manufacturers to make lighter rods, increase the number of guides on each rod (to better transfer stress over the entire blank) or both. The small guides are also marketed as helping to increase casting distance. According to other editors in the office, that’s an honest claim. I just haven’t used them myself to be able to verify it.

What I found most interesting about the micro-guide craze was that it has started filtering into spinning tackle. On baitcasting tackle, the small guides work simply because line pulls straight off the reel very close to the rod (thanks to low-profile reels). On spinning tackle, however, line comes off the reel in a wide helix-like pattern, rotating around within each eye and condensing as it goes. At least on the surface, it would seem the wide shape of the moving line, diameter of the spool and distance from the rod to the spool’s center would actually promote some line-tangling problems should the rod be paired with micro-guides. However, I handled several spinning rods with micro-guides, including rods from Lamiglas and CastAway, and was assured by the companies it wasn’t much of a problem. That still waits to be seen.

The CastAway rod in particular, was very interesting. It has what is known as the MICROWAVE guide in place of the standard first guide up from the reel. The MICROWAVE guide is actually two guides – one micro-guide and one standard guide – joined together. A micro-guide is attached centered to and slightly in front of a standard-sized guide. In theory, the two guides act as somewhat of a funnel to condense the wave of line at the first guide so that it can “pull” through the remaining guides as it does on baitcasting tackle. I missed my chance to try casting with it at the show, but I heard from others that casting distance and ease of casting increase thanks to the design. I’m anxious to get my hands on one for both bass and walleye fishing, and when I do, I’ll give you an unbiased report. Check out castawayrods.com to see the design.

Lifelike baitfish patterns

It’s no new trend to create lure finishes that mimic live forage. However, this year, the trend was toward near-exact replicas of forage species. I contribute this to the success Koppers LIVETARGET has had with the lifelike lure concept. Koppers released a pair of new topwater frog lures – one soft-plastic weedless frog and one walk-the-dog style lure in a frog pattern – and took home a New Product Showcase category award in the process. Northland created a new series of Live-Forage spoons and spinner blades that have high-definition photographic baitfish finishes. Even Bomber jumped on the wagon, with lipless and diving crankbaits sporting realistic forage finishes. There’s more to come on this in the near future.

Dry storage

Plano, Flambeau and Pelican were among the companies to release new hard-plastic, dry storage systems that all anglers will appreciate. Whether it’s for tackle or for your cell phone, they’ve got something that will keep it dry and on the surface of the lake, plus protect it from your clumsy fishing partner’s feet. The coolest two products in this category were the Pelican iPhone waterproof, crush-proof case with a sneaky external earphone jack so you can listen to music while it’s still in the box, and the Plano Waterproof Storage Boxes, which look like standard Plano boxes but have waterproof seals and separators that can actually keep your hooks where you want them. Get ready to throw out your old Plano boxes in favor of the newest model.

Square-bill crankbaits

I don’t know if I missed something, but square-bill crankbaits were huge this year at ICAST. SPRO, Bandit, Rapala, Bomber, ima, Strike King – just name a major lure manufacturer and odds are it released a new square bill. I haven’t seen them in the water yet, but you can bet on what’s coming down the pipe in the way of product testing.

Braided line

Companies like Sufix, Toray, Berkley, PowerPro and all the other major names in fishing line are in a heated battle of sorts to create the next great braided fishing line, and that’s not surprising. Braid has major advantages that have helped it claim a spot in the tackle boxes of anglers chasing just about any species – freshwater or saltwater. Two of my favorites were the Sufix 832 made with Gore material, which will be a big hit this year with bass and walleye anglers looking for a smooth braid that doesn’t hold water, and a hollow braid from Toray. The hollow line is currently primarily a saltwater tool.

Anglers use it to connect to a fluorocarbon top shot by actually inserting the fluoro into the braid. The braid then “traps” the fluorocarbon in place like those paper finger traps, and with no knot. It might take some convincing to get dedicated bass and walleye anglers to try it, but the advantages of having no knot to deal with are high. The fact that it will likely have to be rigged with a rigging needle and with a special clamping jig at home ahead of time is a drawback. I’m working on getting a video for you that shows how to rig and use it.

In conclusion

The November-December issue of FLW Outdoors Magazine will be the annual Buyer’s Guide. We’ll show you what we liked the best from ICAST, along with more detail about the trends going into 2011. We’ll also test, torture and reveal the details on many more new products in the magazine throughout 2011. ICAST is an overwhelming event in a sense, with so many new products and so little time to get hands on it all. I’m still collecting notes, scanning catalogs and making phone calls to gather up products for the Buyer’s Guide. As I work, I’ll sneak a few previews into my blogs for you and let you know what I really think about this year’s new products.