Every year amid a typical Orlando, Florida hot and humid July, the angling community comes together for a widely anticipated event known as ICAST (International Convention of Allied Sportfishing). This is the largest event of the year for the fishing community bringing in over 14,500 attendees, vendors, and media. This was a record-breaking number this year.
I have attended ICAST for several years and each year it never seizes to amaze me of how innovative these companies are from year to year in producing to products. The most noticeable thing to me this year was the number of new companies coming to market. This tells me that the industry and the sport are both growing which is good not just for business but for the consumer as well. Competition is good for business and especially innovation. This year was a perfect example of that with the big news being the development of a couple of new trolling motors coming to market from Garmin and Lowrance.
For years Johnson Outdoors the manufacture of Minn Kota, Humminbird, and several other leading outdoor brands have been the leader in this category and rightfully so with their “One Boat Network”. This year Minn Kota brought us their new 87” Riptide Terrova trolling motor for the larger boats in extreme conditions. But most notably Johnson Outdoors rewarded a deserving angler and veteran with a complete boat overhaul during the show. Showing off their “One Boat Network” assembly with a very emotional event at the conclusion was something unheard of at ICAST before and this was a special event to attend.
Garmin, The new Force trolling motor was a head-turner for sure and Garmin was well recognized for their innovation winning the Best of Category Boating Accessories and Best of Show! This new brushless motor takes away all interference with your graphs, has a super-fast response, cordless foot pedal and an amazing remote with features that are game-changing in the trolling motor market.
Lowrance, Introduced the “Ghost trolling motor” Its main feature is not having any moving external parts making it possibly the quietest motor on the market hence the term “Ghost”. Now integrated with your Lowrance electronics the motor has many of the same features that are expected from our trolling motors today.
I don’t think I can remember that last time St. Croix didn’t win a Rod award and this year they swept all three-rod categories (Fresh, Salt & Fly). I don’t care what company you are, anytime you can sweep a category like that you are doing something right. St. Croix has made rods that are technique specific for years and we will continue to watch and see what they come up with next. Lew’s won for the 6th year in a row Best Rod & Reel combo with its Mach Smash Baitcast Combo. Lew’s also introduced an entire line up of new walleye rods designed by some of the best walleye anglers around at a very affordable price point (under $100.00).
Another notable twist this year was the introduction of some Ice fishing products and even a Best of Category for Ice, which Humminbird won with their new Ice Helix 7 Chirp, GPS G3N. I saw a new Ice Auger from Clam some cool new ice fishing jigs from Northland Tackle such as the Eye-Ball spoon as well as a series of Ice rods. Phantom Lures, as well as Salmo both, introduce some awesome new Lipless baits such as the Budzo from Phantom and the Rail Shad from Salmo. I think these two baits may be filling up some tackle boxes this winter.
Can’t forget to about the super new sleek Plano Edge tackle storage boxes. They literally thought of everything with the new Edge series. Tight seal, extremely durable, easy-open (one-handed) labels and clear plastics to see your tackle. Even with the new design, they are still the same dimensions as the original series so they will still fit in your tackle bag or boat the same. These may very well be the last tackle storage boxes you ever buy. This also won Best in Category of Tackle Management.
Hard to fish without some healthy live bait in many situations. Frabill once again won Best in Category for Cooler and Bait/Storage with their new Frabill Magnum Bait station 30. This is a 30qt. double aerated cooler with dividers making it easy to separate different type of bait. This bait station is big enough to keep your shiners and creek chubs alive for a long time without overcrowding them.
Just a couple more items worth mentioning that caught my eye were the new VMC Bladed Hybrid Treble Short. This is a treble hook with a small blade attached to the middle of it. This will be widely used in the ice fishing world I’m guessing, and I can certainly think of plenty of open water vertical jigging situations it may come into play as well.
Frog Toggs who is mostly known for their lightweight and packable rain gear has expanded their brand over the past few years to include apparel, a full line of waders and now some lightweight shoes. Not only are their new Skipper shoes light weight but like everything Frogg Toggs makes they take into consideration the water factor. These shoes are designed to drain making them an all-purpose and pretty dang stylish shoe.
I could go on forever about all the new gadgets and gear I was able to see in advance of it hitting the shelves for you to spend your next paycheck on. As I bask in the air-conditioned office and reflect on another successful ICAST I can’t help but think of all the great relationships that have been forged and bonds that grow deeper each year. A lot and I mean a lot of business gets done at this event but it’s definitely one of my favorite working events of the year and I’ll always be eager to see old friends and explore the new products the coming year.