ICAST was back on the calendar this year and I was glad to see it in action in Orlando in July. Over my career, I’ve probably been to ICAST 25 times; it’s a show I enjoy going to.
For me, ICAST is about the people. It’s the one time a year where I get to meet face-to-face with the folks who work for the same companies I work for. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes people that work at these companies in engineering, development, marketing and distribution that I never get to see except at ICAST. It’s like a family reunion where I get to see the extended parts of the fishing family.
ICAST is also where new products are launched each year and that’s something I missed last year: the physical launch of product. Hey, I’m a new fishing product geek, too, and seeing new products unveiled in person is something I relish. ICAST is literally where years and years of product development come to fruition to a tangible product to help people catch more fish and enjoy the outdoors.
Needless to say, I was glad to be back in the show hall in July. I even brought my own video production crew to help make my product launch videos a little more polished and timely, straight from the show floor. Here’s a brief look at a few of the products that excited me from this year’s ICAST. If you want to see samples of these new releases, please visit my Instagram page or YouTube channel to watch videos of these new products.
Tackle Storage: Plano’s Best of Show
Plano had a fantastic ICAST this year, unveiling a lot of new products and winning four Best of Category Awards in the process. Their innovative EDGE Series boxes continue to dominate the marketplace in tackle storage. They made some additions to the EDGE Series at ICAST, including new boxes for vertical jigs and sp baits, micro jigs, crankbaits and a line management box. Their EDGE Micro Magnetic Fly Box was a huge hit with the fly fishing crowd and earned a Best in Category for Fly Fishing Accessory.
Plano also unveiled the Atlas Tackle Pack, which took Best in Category in Tackle Management. The Atlas is made from EVA molded material with a waterproof base to keep water out and form in, making more room for your gear. The shell is durable but lightweight. The ingenious Dropzone magnetized tool holder on the lid of the pack holds pliers, scissors, lures, etc., and keeps them snug in place right at your fingertips.
The Dropzone magnet is such a great asset on a tackle bag, I had to have it added to the redesign of my KVD Signature Series Tackle Bag, which was part of the new product rollout, too. My new tackle bags got other added features including zippered EVA molded side compartment to protect things that need more room like sunglasses and soft plastics in clamshell packaging. We also added a worm file pouch on the backside to organize soft plastics. The bag comes in two sizes, the standard 3600 size and the bigger 3700 size for those of you who like using the bigger 3700 boxes.
My KVD Speed Bags got an update too, in the form of a more durable, water-resistant material on the outside, a new labeling system and a new size. The standard Speed Bag has always been my go-to for storing multiple bags of soft plastics. Now my Speed Bag also comes in the 3600 size so you have the super-efficient Speed Bag system for your 3600 size flat boxes.
Plano also introduced their new StowAll clear storage bags. They’re like big Ziploc bags, but are far more durable, spacious and crystal clear to see what’s inside. Keys, wallets, phones, iPads, buffs, soft plastics, lunch – you name it, and these bags will keep it secured and dry. They come in two sizes, the smaller 3600 size and the 3700 size so they’re compatible with all of Plano’s storage systems.
Fishing Gear Highlights
Lew’s represented at ICAST in a big way with more improvements to their flagship BB-1 Pro reel, which maintains its large spool capacity with an even lower profile. They added a new titanium-coated line guide that is now set off farther from the spool. This small tweak adds casting distance. I also like the power handle with the new paddle grips. It’ll come in three different gear ratios, but my mainstay is the 6.2:1 for cranking.
For spinning reels, Lew’s introduced their new HyperMag Speed Spin, their lightest, strongest spinning reel to date, featuring a magnesium body loaded with 11 stainless steel bearings. The added slim Winn grip is a nice touch as well.
Lew’s is also releasing signature series rods from pro staff members Andy Montgomery, Mark Rose, Mark Zona, Greg Hackney and me. Montgomery has helped design rods for his signature techniques of skipping and fishing a Thunder Cricket. Rose has got you covered on the offshore front with swimbait, Carolina rig, deep cranking and big worm rods. Zona is a spinning rod wizard and created specific designs for shakey heads, power finesse, an all purpose spinning rod and his Tube Crackin’ Special. Hackney brings his own version of flipping sticks and frogging rods to the table with his signature editions. My technique-specific rods are all about topwaters, squarebills, lipless rattlers and spinnerbaits. Between the four of us, we’ve got a lot of specialty techniques covered with years of experience in each rod’s construction.
Strike King took home a Best in Category in Freshwater Hard Lure for the introduction of the Chick Magnet, a secret crankbait brought to us from the hills of Tennessee by pro staffer Andy Morgan. Designed from the East Tennessee flat-side blueprint, Morgan demanded this lure be made right with a circuit board lip for a quick descent and wider wobble than typical flat sides. This makes it a more versatile, year-round crankbait, diving to about 4 to 6 feet with excellent deflection properties for provoking bites. You can bet I’ll have a few of the Chick Magnets tied on when tournaments kick off in 2022.
Another crankbait I’ll have tied on a lot next season will be Strike King’s newest member of the 6XD family, the Hard Knock 6XD. The 6XD has been a hugely popular tournament performer over the last 10 years, so Strike King put their single, deep hard knock in it to give a different sound profile in the water. A lot of times the same lure in a different sound or color can be like fishing an entirely different lure and there is something about that single-knock sound that gets a bass’ attention.
In the realm of electronics, Humminbird took the spotlight with Mega Live, which won Best of Category in Electronics. Mega 360 was a game-changer, but Mega Live adds new dimensions to fish finding by allowing anglers to see fish in real-time, from three different perspectives: Forward Mode, Down Mode and Landscape Mode. Now you can see every single thing that moves around you in the water – from baitfish to game fish to your own lure! You can even watch fish eat your lure in real-time on the screen.
Minn Kota came to ICAST with a critical addition to their Precision Battery Chargers: lithium battery compatibility. Due to the reduction in weight and longer endurance, lithium power is the only way to go for tournament bass fishing batteries. Now I can safely and effectively charge my lithiums with the Precision 5-bank charger from Minn Kota.
Other Unique 2021 Rollouts
I dropped by the T-H Marine booth to check out their new Boating Essentials line of products. We in the bass fishing industry know T-H Marine for specialty products like the Hot Foot, the Hydrowave and the Atlas Jackplate. But the average boater likely doesn’t know how impressive T-H Marine products really are.
That’s all about to change thanks to T-H Marine’s ingenious Boating Essentials line.
This large array of products is everything recreational boaters need: navigational lights, plugs, pumps switches, paddles, winches, anchor chain, tongue jacks, seats, cleats, ropes, horns, whistles – you name something you might need to add or have replaced on a boat and T-H Marine Boating Essentials line has got you covered.
A couple of other cool launches that caught my eye at ICAST included YETI’s entry into the luggage market. As you know, YETI has set the standard in coolers and drinkware with their superior products. Now they are redefining the luggage market with their introduction of the Crossroads collection of suitcases. I’ve traveled with these suitcases and trust me, your search for quality luggage just ended at the Crossroads.
Lastly, I stopped in the Mossy Oak booth to nab some of their new Mossy Oak Wellness Powder Stick Packs to mix in my water. I’ve been using these supplements recently and I love the taste of them. These pre-measured Fuel Sticks are all designed to facilitate hydration, but you can pick from specific uses like energy, immunity, focus and recovery.
Speaking of recovery, that’s the Power Stick I used after ICAST this year. It was a busy show, but I loved being back on the floor, seeing products the great people in this industry create.