ICAST can be a bit of a scramble, but if you take time to roll through the show with a bit of a plan and some input from friends you can end up seeing some neat things and have a good time. So far this year there doesn’t seem to be one standout new product, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty cool stuff to be found. There’s also a lot left to see. Below is a sampling of what we saw today day. There’s a lot more to come this week.
The category winners from the New Product Showcase were announced today, and the Best of Show awards will be announced Thursday afternoon.
The Shimano Curado DC, with electronic cast control, is the star of the show, but the Shimano SLX is going to get a lot of play. It comes in pretty much all the gear ratios and models you could ask for and sells for around $99.99. It is compact and feels good, and looks pretty good too, with similar styling to the Curado K but with blue accents. There’s also a matching SLX series of rods to go with, and for the price they feel really good.
Shimano debuted the Curado line of rods last year, and they’ve added a bunch of models to it this year. Running from about $160 to $170, they now cover a very broad spectrum of techniques. They aren’t “technique specific” per say, but there is everything from a 6-8 spinnerbait rod to flipping sticks and drop-shot rods in the bunch. With a lot of cork, they should be popular with folks who are a little more old-school, and they’ll go a long way toward building a specialized combo for under $300.
Molix has a new finesse jighead that looks pretty good. The bait keeper could probably use a little work, but the hook itself seems just right and comes in a lot of the small sizes you want for little swimbaits and the like. It’s called the Round Jig Head Fiber Guard and comes in four sizes from 1/16 to 1/4 ounce with two hook sizes in each weight. The weedguard is made of nylon, and feels like it ought to cut down on snags a little without cutting down on bass.
The Bill Lewis MR-6 crankbait might help the makers of the Rat-L-Trap continue to branch out from the lipless market. It’s a little crankbait that is poised to compete with the Rapala DT 6 and the SPRO Little John MD as a prime mid-depth option. It has a weight transfer system for long casts, is 2 1/4 inches long and weighs just 1/2 ounce. Retailing for $7.99, it’s a little more than the DT 6 and less than the Little John. It’s a tough market, but it should be more durable than the Rapala, and if it works just as well it can certainly carve out some space. It comes in a full suite of colors, with strawberry craw designed by Mark Daniels Jr. and ghost craw and pro blue designed and tweaked by Brian Latimer.
The Jackall Riser Bait 085 SP is an interesting cat. Jackall has made a little bitty size of it before, but the 85 weighs 3/4-ounce and is going to cast like a bullet on a baitcaster. It’s essentially a sinking topwater that works like a crankbait in reverse and automatically snakes back along the surface on the retrieve. The MSRP is $14.99, so it isn’t cheap, but Alex Davis says that schooling bass can’t stand it. With a prop for added commotion and a mouth for spitting, there’s a lot going on, but the Forrest Wood Cup-bound FLW Tour pro swears it isn’t a gimmick.
Lew’s may have taken a big step forward in the spinning reel arena with the Team Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Spin. The reel feels buttery smooth and has an aluminum body, high-strength gears and 12 stainless bearings. At $129.99, it has a very attractive price as well. The only downside is that it isn’t a featherweight, but if you get good performance out of it at the price point it should be a winner.
The new Strike King Mega Dawg is a giant topwater. It’s not exactly a Lunker Punker, but it’s getting close at 6 inches long and 2 ounces. The bait will retail for about $14 or $15 bucks, and it will probably find a home in some anglers’ arsenals, though some might find it a little big.
Berkley has a pile of new stuff out this year, and it’s doing some interesting things. A lot of the old Havoc shapes have moved into the PowerBait line. It’s expanded the MaxScent line, and also rolled out a pile of new topwaters.
In the MaxScent line, the Flat Worm is pretty intriguing. It’s caught Shane LeHew a bunch of fish at St. Clair already and is a standard but smelly smallmouth drop-shot bait. I’m a fan of the MaxScent stuff (the Creature Hawg seems to catch ’em), and the ability to have a Gulp! scent without the messy Gulp! inconvenience might be really clutch for drop-shot stuff.
The new topwaters all look pretty decent too. The Cane Walker is Justin Atkins’ baby (you might remember him doing well with a topwater last August), and the Choppo 120 is a River2Sea Whopper Plopper knockoff that some say is better than the original. The best thing about the Berkley topwaters is that they’re all less than $10.
The Favorite MLB Casting Rod is a real disappointment to me for two reasons: They don’t make a spinning model and they do make a Yankees model. There’s a color for every team in the league, and they almost all look baller. Unfortunately, they don’t have a lot of choice in the lineup, but if you need a medium-heavy baitcaster, $149.99 will get you one with your favorite team on it.
The Stanford Baits Boom Boom Frog looks like a winner to me. It’s got a couple of neat features the average frog doesn’t have and all the usual good stuff you’d expect from a frog designed by Fred Roumbanis. The thing that sticks out the most is a little patch of Frogfur on top that actually helps to keep bass teeth tangled up in it for just a bit longer. It also collapses really well and has an eye on the bottom for extra realism. Additionally, it is the meanest-looking frog on the market. You can get one for $10.99.
I’ve got a knack for seeing cool drop-shot baits at ICAST and then never applying them to real life. Hopefully that doesn’t end up being the case with the Missile Baits Bomb Shot. It’s a slick-looking little dude with a nice tail and some fun ribs like the D Bomb. It ought to catch plenty of smallies. It comes 15 to a pack for just $3.99.
Nishine Lure Works is a newcomer to ICAST. Started in Japan and now based out of Ontario, Canada, the company has a drop-shot bait, the Erie MD 115 jerkbait and the Chippewa series of crankbaits. The hard baits are all priced in the teens and look really good. The jerkbait is a floater that comes with a weight to make it a slow-sink model. If you went with a lighter weight it could become a suspending jerkbait.