ICAST can be a bit of a frenzy, but it’s still one of the more important weeks of the fishing year. An industry-only trade show, ICAST is where many of the year’s new products are revealed and one of the few chances for the fishing industry to be all in one place at the same time. From the FLW Tour schedule release Thursday at 4 p.m. ET to the New Product Showcase and tons of interesting new tackle releases, we’re going to cover everything worth covering.
Thursday Afternoon – Wrapping up the day
My first stop of round two was Evergreen for an up-close look at the new ShowerBlow Soft Shell. It’s a frog, or hollow walker, but it has the same mouth as the popular ShowerBlow walking bait. It has a rabbit fur tail and comes in six colors at $15.95 a pop. Though very expensive, it is probably quite good – it sure looks good in the videos at the booth.
Douglas Outdoors is out with the LRS line of rods this year, which is a whole new series of sharp-looking blue rods with black EVA grips. The rods have a 5-year warranty and there is something for about every action in the lineup. All the rods are designed with foregrips that screw down over the threads of the reel seat for maximum comfort. Jimmy Reese’s baby is the Sawed-Off Shotgun, a little 6-6 spinning rod made for finesse baits and skipping things around docks. He’s been fishing with the prototypes since the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup on Wheeler, and says they’ve accounted for plenty of fish in his bags. The Sawed-Off Shotgun retails for $159, and the most expensive rod in the lineup is $179.
Brand new this year from Daiwa is the Tatula LT series of spinning reels. They’ll retail for $189.99 and have 6:1 gear ratios, which is becoming a lot more common these days for spinning reels. Made out of Zaion, which is a light and stiff non-metal material, they feel butter smooth are they’re wicked light. They look pretty sharp as well and Cody Meyer says they’ll be his primary spinning reel next season on Tour.
I just had to take a picture. I guess Zebco has some Star Wars rods out, and I’m a sucker for that. I totally want the Rey one and the BB-8 one.
Dry Case has been making waterproof cases for phones and tablets for a while, and this year they have some that are designed to be mounted on a suction cup, which might have a lot of applications in boats. There are two points of attachment between the cup and the case, and the case is a heavy-duty plastic bag that vacuums down to let you use the touchscreen. More and more anglers are bringing their tablets along now for mapping purposes, and it could be a good solution for anglers who want to keep using them in the rain. The Dry Case Tablet case costs $60, and the Suction Cup Mount costs $15.
The 13 Fishing Concept Z should probably have won best Freshwater Reel this year. Out in February for just $199, it has one ceramic bearing instead of ball bearings. Supposedly the bearing will let you cast better than regular bearings, and because it wears smoother over time, it’ll cast better a few years down the road than it does out of the box. They come lefty and righty in 6.6:1, 7.3:1 and 8.1:1 gear ratios – the only problem is that they are only available in a wicked bright orange, which you may or may not like.
Z-Man haz a bunch of new productz this year, with a lot of them targeted at bass fishing. The NedlockZ HD jig head iz basically a better head for a Ned rig – it haz a beefier hook and a new keeper, which apparently works for ElaZtech and regular plastic. There are also two new jigz – the CrossEyeZ Flipping Jig and Power Finesse Jig. David Walker dezigned both the jigz, and they really look pretty good.
There are zome new plasticz az well – the Trick ShotZ iz a little drop-shot that comez in two sizez and haz a little extra salt in it so it floatz horizontally in the water. The TRD HogZ iz a little ribbed critter for a different look on a Ned rig or perhapz az a drop-shot or shaky head bait.
Thursday Morning – Walking the floor
Sometimes you go looking for stuff at ICAST and sometimes it just runs into you. Such was the case when James Watson and I walked through the doors together this morning. This year Watson is introducing the Worldwide Spoon with River2Sea designed to be quite multipurpose and also excellent for his dock flipping technique. He says what sets it apart is how far back it will glide on the drop and the fact that it comes pre-rigged with a stinger hook. It’ll come in six colors and weighs just a little more than an ounce.
New from Gamakatsu this year is the TGW Weedless Wacky hook. It makes use of the Tournament Grade Wire that’s so good on their other hooks, and has a titanium weed guard to keep it clean. Shin Fukae says the titanium is a much better solution than typical brush guards because it’s more durable. The hooks come from size 1 to 3/0, and $9.99 will get you a four pack.
Pure Fishing has a massive setup with very comfortable carpet every year at ICAST. The first thing I wanted a look at was the Berkley Snap Jig, which is along the lines of a Rapala Jigging Rap, but built into a more traditional jig. The fin is a little bulkier than the fin on a Jigging Rap, and it comes in sizes ranging from 1/8- to 3/8-ounces. It looks like it will pair very well with most smaller minnow-type plastics and Scott Suggs is really excited about it, particularly as a bait for casting at schoolers. It’s MSRP is $5.99 and they come two to a pack.
Berkley also has a new line of soft plastics called PowerBait MaxScent that supposedly catches 45 percent more fish than regular PowerBait. There are eight baits in the line, and it is really meant to make Gulp! more accessible for bass anglers. Unlike Gulp!, they don’t dry out into a little crisp, but they still have a lot of scent packed into them. Though they might not make a dent in the flipping category, it could put a lot more smallmouths in the boat if they like MaxScent as much as they like Gulp!.
Strike King has a handful of new baits out this year. One is the new KVD 4.0 Magnum squarebill, which is bigger than the 2.5 but much more manageably sized than the 8.0. It looks like it will fill a need for crankers, and Kevin VanDam says it has the same action as the smaller baits in the popular series. The new Tour Grade Mag Jig Head will probably catch a lot of fish as well – Brad Knight has been fishing with them since 2016, and he says it’s the real deal. They come up to ¾-ounce, and have either a 5/0 or a 7/0 hook to put a big worm on. The screw lock on the head is high-quality, and the head stands up nearly every time.
The Molix Sneaky Frog is new this year, and Carl Jocumsen is all about it. He’s been fishing it for a while and catching with it, and it looks pretty good in-person. The bait comes in a 3.5-inch and 2.2-inch model and the larger size has the weight right in the middle of the bait so it will walk on a dime. It also has just one tail, and is really more of a Spook shape than a frog shape. They come in six colors and will retail for about $15.
Thursday Morning – New Product Showcase winners
Skipping over some of the categories, these are the New Product Showcase winners that are of the most interest to bass anglers.
Best of Show/Boats and Watercraft – BOTE Rover
Freshwater Rod – 13 Fishing Fate Black
Rod and Reel Combo – Lew’s Mach Crush Speed Spool Combo
Freshwater Reel – Shimano Curado K
Freshwater Soft Lure – Lunkerhunt Prop Series
Freshwater Hard Lure – Savage Gear 3D Topwater Bat
Fishing Line – Berkley FireLine Ultra 8
Electronics – Humminbird SOLIX 15
Eyewear – Costa Sunrise Silver Mirror lens
Wednesday Afternoon – More from the floor
Continuing on with the day’s adventure of walking a lot, I ran into Jeff Sprague again at the 6th Sense booth. This year 6th Sense is out with a new glide bait, but the bait Sprague is looking forward to the most is the Crush 100, a new size of the popular squarebill. Sprague says it’s the perfect size between a typical 1.5 and 2.5 sized bait, so it certainly seems like there’s an application for it. Like everything 6th Sense makes, it comes in a bunch of sweet colors. It’ll retail for $8.99.
6th Sense is also out with a series of rods called LUX this year, but they’re a ways off. Available in December, they’re going to be priced at about $150 to $170 and there will be a fairly full line of 13 rods. Sprague says one of the characteristics of the line he likes is that they’re more parabolic than tippy, so they should be really good for treble techniques and might be perfect if you prefer more parabolic tapers for other technique as well.
Greenfish Tackle has a few new baits out, and one each from Shin Fukae and Brandon Cobb look excellent. Fukae’s is the Chibi Jig, a compact “power finesse jig” with a stout 3/0 Gamakatsu hook with a 60-degree line tie. It has a hand-tied skirt and a double-sided trailer keeper, and the whole thing looks like a really nice package. Despite all the high-quality features, Fukae says he still tweaks it a little by trimming the weed guard and shortening the skirt a bit. The Chiba Jig comes in three sizes and 12 colors and will retail for around $5.29.
The Toad Toter Buzz is Cobb’s baby, and it may well make a big splash next month at the Forrest Wood Cup. It’s a 1/8-ounce buzzbait designed to be fished with a Zoom Horny Toad or something similar, and it features a sharp 5/0 Mustad hook and comes in four different colors: black, gold, silver and white. It’ll retail for about $5.99.
Jackall has tweaked a few baits this year, but their newest baits are the Kaera frog and the Rerange jerkbait. The Rerange is a flat-sided bait that should have an aggressive action, and it’s calling card is a new weight transfer system that accounts for 20 percent of the lure’s weight. That means it should cast like a missile. The Kaera is a small frog designed to come through cover exceptionally well. Alex Davis is a big fan already, and says the drain hole in the butt is placed perfectly to keep it from getting waterlogged. The Rerange comes in 4.3- and 5.1-inch sizes and will sell for about $14.99, the MSRP on the Kaera is $9.99.
Wednesday – Round two
My first stop after round one of the blog was Nichols Lures, this year, they have a pair of new jigs and some spoon bling to show off. The Ben Parker Spoon Spinner is basically an add-on for their popular spoons (or the spoon of your choice). They’re made with high-quality split rings and swivels and come in a hammered gold or silver as well a plain silver. The idea is borrowed from Japan, and it could be a good way to differentiate your bait from the rest of the pack on the ledges. You can get a pack of two blades for $4.99.
The Skipper Jig is a basic Arkie-style bait made for flipping around docks and the rest of the usual jig targets. It’s calling card is the patented toothpick keeper collar to hold the trailer in place. It comes in 14 colors, including a lot of JT Kenney’s signature colors, and 3/8- and ½-ounce sizes. The LW Finesse Swim Jig is a northern-style swim jig with a wicked sharp light-wire hook and a thin-cut skirt to match. It looks really good, and ought to be plenty popular where folks throw swim jigs on fluoro. Both jigs have an MSRP of $4.99.
The latest and greatest from Jenko is the Tremor Shad, a bait designed for work on the ledges paired with a Scrounger-style head. They come in 5- and 7-inch sizes and they are super soft, which makes for more action than ever under the water. They are $8.99 for a pack, with three of the 7-inch in a pack and five of the 5-inch in a pack.
This is Millerods first year at ICAST, and they have two new models that look to be the real deal. The first and most niche is the Swimsanity, a 9-foot swimbait rod rated for 7- to 14-ounce baits – if you like Cali-sized swimbaits, you might want to check it out. The second is the CrankFreak Power, an 8-6 cranking stick designed for throwing big plugs like a Strike King 10XD. FLW Tour pro Carl Jocumsen says it can handle an 8XD and 6XD as well, and that you can basically spool your reel with the wind at your back.
Ian Miller is the designer, and he designed and built most of Shimano Australia’s rods back in the day. Over in Australia, his custom rods have a wait list and sell for over $700, but these rods will both retail for about $300. One feature both the rods have is a detachable butt to make the rods shorter for storage. According to Jocumsen, having the break at the reel seat as opposed to farther up the rod makes for much better actions.
Owner has a few new hooks out, but the Cover Shot looks the most interesting to me. It’s basically a downsized version of Owner’s excellent flipping hook, and comes in sizes ranging from #2 to 4/0. They look like they could be great for lighter-duty flipping or as a drop-shot hook around cover. A five pack should sell for about $5.50.
The Biovex Bubble Pockets 7-inch Stick is kinda like a big Senko that is designed to be very buoyant. Andy Young says it’s great for making long casts in shallow water, and that if you wake it back along the surface just enough to put off a V you’ll be able to see the bass come running. Josh Douglas is pretty enthusiastic about it as well, and says he’s looking forward to tossing it in some Florida grass flats come spring.
Wednesday Morning – Walking the floor
The actual show kicked off at 9:00 a.m., and it seems pretty busy this year. Word is there’s still a big line of folks getting badges, so hopefully it’ll be a good week for fishing.
After walking through about half the show floor and doing some talking, I finally stopped for Jeff Sprague at the Gene Larew booth. Gene Larew has a few new baits out this year, and the two Sprague is most excited about are the Wheeler Hammer Craw and the Rock Banger Soft-Plastic Crankbait. The Hammer Craw is 3.5-inches long and should have a pretty similar action to a Zoom UV Speed Craw, or at least that kicking genre of craw. The Rock Banger is 3.5-inches long as well and is designed to go on a HardHead – getting folks to throw that instead of a Biffle Bug might be a challenge though.
Lew’s has leaned toward the high end this year, with some new rod models and the Team Lew’s HyperMag Speed Spool. It’s a continuation of the Team Lew’s Pro Magnesium Speed Spool and weighs just 5.4 ounces and costs $299.99. The Pro Magnesium has been a big hit among people that own them, but there aren’t many anglers that have the requisite cash for a deck full of $300 dollar reels. On the rods side of things, there’s a new 9-foot flipping stick in the Team Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Stick line. Glenn Browne says he sees it as a good rod for flipping tall reeds, more so than a mat rod, and it will collapse down to less than 8 feet for storage.
Doomsday Tackle has a new frog out, but the most interesting product this year is the C-Shad. It’s designed to give a different look when fishing a Damiki rig in the winter, and David Mullins, who knows his way around some East Tennessee bass, helped design it. It’s 3.2-inches long and comes in eight colors that all look pretty tasty. You can get a six pack for $6.99, and it seems like a decent buy, as the plastic feels fairly durable to the touch.
LIVETARGET has a new frog out this year backed by Scott Martin. The Hollow Body Popper is a signature series bait for him and comes in two sizes and the usual detailed color patterns LIVETARGET is known for. It’s quite a good-looking frog as frogs go, and the popper mouth looks like it will stand up to a lot of fish.
Tuesday Evening – New Product Showcase
The New Product Showcase and its accompanying awards has become one of the signature features of ICAST. The showcase itself is simply all of the new stuff in one place, but winning an award can sometimes be a big boost to a new company or product. In 2016, the Minn Kota Ultrex took the overall Best of Show, and folks have been buying them as quickly as Minn Kota can make them ever since. On the other side of the pillow, P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon won the Fishing Line category, and though P-Line pro-staffer Bryan Thrift did just win the Angler of the Year title, it’s hardly taken the fluorocarbon category to new heights. This year, the winners will be announced Wednesday night, and you’ll be able to read about it here that night or Thursday morning.
The Showcase opened Tuesday evening before the main show floor opened, and it’s a little hectic at the start, as early birds pile up waiting to be let in. Once inside, it isn’t the best place to really examine the products. When looking at the baits, you’re subconsciously hurried along by the presence of other people in the que (though it takes a long time to see all the new stuff), and there’s no water present to test things in or people to ask questions of. You’re mostly voting on a first impression, and the Electronics section might be the best example of that – unless you’re an expert at working every brand, you’re essentially watching some big screens run on demo mode. That’s far from the real-life application of scanning ledges or dropping on smallies on the Great Lakes. As for the action cameras (even a 360-degree one this year), you can’t actually see the footage they take or do anything beyond look at a price tag.
Knowing a little about what will be there ahead of time inevitably helps. For instance, the Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer is “new,” and Brett Hite has already won money with it. Heck, I’ve caught a pile of fish on it myself. If I was voting, it’d have a leg up. The same probably goes for the Lowrance HDS Carbon. The new 16-inch model is in the showcase, and at least a few folks have already put it to use, likely with good results.
I mostly spent my time looking at lures and terminal tackle, because those products seem like the easiest stuff for me to look at and make a visual and feel-based judgment on without having to wave around a fishing rod in a crowd of people. Props are big this year. Everyone is still trying to build off the Rive2Sea Whopper Plopper, including River2Sea. This year, the company has three new prop baits out: the Lane Changer (above), Big Mistake and Top Notch. They all look like they could have a place in a tackle box, but the Lane Changer might have the potential to really be a better Devils Horse. It’s long and slim, and the props on it are plastic and semi-soft. It looks like it could make a lot of commotion without much movement. We’ll see. For now, the MSRP is $12.99, and not many people have fished it.
One really fun-looking topwater is the Salmo Fury Pop. It’s fuzzy to the touch, like a plastic peach or something. The idea is that the extra surface area from the fuzz will make it move forward less while still having action, so you can fish it wicked slow. The MSRP is $10.99, which seems like a lot for such a goofy bait, but it really does inspire joy at the touch, and it’d be amazing to pluck it out of the maw of a 6-pounder.
On the saltwater side, DUO has introduced the Tide Vib Score 100, which is a good-sized hard bait/blade bait that is longer and slimmer than the standard lipless crankbait or blade bait. It’s got a profile more like the venerable SteelShad than anything, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see it find a place in the bass side of things. It’s certainly a bait that some folks will want to experiment with.
Terminal tackle is always interesting to look at because of how diverse it is and how seemingly boring it is. In reality, it’s one of the most important aspects of fishing and something often worth the obsessive attention some pros give it. David Dudley has been preaching the gospel of the Perfection Lures Shaky Head all year on Tour, and it really does look good in person. It’s a unique stand-up shaky head, and the MSRP is $5.99 for a three-pack, which seems reasonable for what it is. I would expect it to get quite a few votes in the Terminal Tackle category.
Another piece of terminal tackle that interests me is the Berkley Snap Jig. It’s a knockoff of the Rapala Snap Rap or Jigging Rap design, and it looks like it’s intended to hold a minnow-style soft plastic on the hook. Depending on the sizes and colors available, it could be really good for the bass market. It also has to actually work, and that might be a tall task. The actual Jigging Rap is really hard to beat for a few applications, particularly vertical fishing in the wintertime.
Tuesday afternoon – ICAST Cup
For the third year running, FLW kicked things off at ICAST by putting on the ICAST Cup. Taking place on Lake Toho, the ICAST Cup pairs an angler, an industry representative and a media member together for a fun morning of competition before the Florida heat gets too oppressive.
This year Richard Patterson, Dave Smith (from U.S.A Bassin) and Glen Cabezas (from AnglerGear.net) sacked up 20 pounds, 7 ounces to earn the hardware – the largest bag in the history of the event. The trio earned the win over 68 other teams, which is the largest field the ICAST Cup has seen to date.