Just the mention of attending ICAST (International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades) is enough to quicken the pulse of most fishermen. This is the international tackle show of all the new rods, reels, lures and associated products, plus it includes all the products in manufacturer’s current lines. It truly is a “kid in a candy store” experience for most fishermen and its reputation is even larger as ICAST is a closed show and only those displaying, authorized tackle buyers and approved members of the media may attend.
For years ICAST has rotated between Orlando, Fl. and Las Vegas, NV., but has been at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando for the past several and will be again in 2018. There were rumors during ICAST that a four year deal had been reached to keep the it in Orlando, but it wasn’t announced.
ICAST has grown every year it has been in Orlando. This was the 60th year for ICAST and for the past several ICAST has partnered with the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show (IFTD) show and included a Marine Accessories Pavilion sponsored by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. This was the largest show yet and included 582 exhibitors in 1982 booths on the approximately 200,000 square foot show floor. There were also seminar rooms and a large hall on another level, plus a press room that overlooked the show floor. Approximately 15,000 fishing and marine buyers and press attended, including 1,156 from 73 countries other than the US.
For the first time, there were ICAST displays open on Tuesday. Several years back ICAST began the ICAST Cup, a bass fishing tournament that pairs professional anglers with media representatives and other industry professionals and the Florida Sportsman Bass and Birdies golf and fishing tournament. For 2017, there were three hours of on the water product demonstrations held outside on the Orange County Convention Center grounds on Tuesday, before the show floor opened on Wednesday. Holding this outside allowed buyers and media not just to check out, but also to demo exhibitors’ gear, tackle and accessories. It was a very popular addition and will be expanded when ICAST returns to Orlando in 2018.
Florida Governor Rick Scott visited ICAST on Thursday afternoon, July 13. His staff members said of all the trade shows held in Florida each year, ICAST is the only one he visits each year. Governor Scott, who said he enjoys fishing and is now teaching his grandson to fish, said fishing is a big deal in Florida. He said there are 100,000 fishing related jobs tied to a $2 billion impact on Florida’s economy. Several other states would be wise to examine fishing’s impact on their economies.
ICAST is the biggest show in the fishing world every year and the manufacturers call on their big dogs to help them promote. Those who aren’t working the show come to see what is new and there is a lot to see. In addition to hordes of pro-staff fishermen, there were many TV personalities in attendance from the myriad of fishing, hunting and outdoor shows currently airing on radio and television. Cell phones stayed busy snapping selfies even though the show rules say no photography except for the press.
From the fresh water side, I saw Shaw Grigsby, Jimmy Houston, Denny Brauer, Kevin Van Dam and Babe Winkleman and I’m sure there were many more. The flyfishermen I recognized were Flip Pallot and Lefty Kreh and they were always surrounded by crowds. On the saltwater side, George Poveromo, C.A. Richardson, Blair Wiggins and Capt. Wild Bill Wichrowski stayed busy with pictures and autographs.
Heck, I even had a few folks recognize me, stop to talk and ask for pictures. I’ve got to admit that does the old ego good and put a little bounce in my step – especially late on the third day when I was foot weary of covering the 200,000 square foot show…
One of the highlights of ICAST is the New Products Showcase. This is where manufacturers place any new or improved products they consider special or exceptional and media members and marine buyers vote for the best in 26 categories and the best overall new product for the show.
The number of kayaks, SUPs and other personal powered watercraft displayed at ICAST has been growing for the past decade and took another step forward this year. The growth was noticeable to the point numerous people remarked about it. The Best of Show award has gone to a kayak or kayak accessory for most of the past decade and that trend continued this year with the Rover from Bote claiming the title.
The Rover is a hybrid design that incorporates some kayak, SUP and small skiff features into a rather unique package. It can be paddled or powered, fished standing or sitting, and appears it should allow silently accessing really skinny water. The other category winners include:
CAST 2017 Overall Best of Show – Bote
Best of Category – Boating Accessories – Yeti Coolers
Product: LoadOut Bucket
Best of Category – Boats and Watercraft – Bote
Best of Category – Eyewear – Costa
Product: The Sunrise Mirror Lens
Best of Category – Footwear – Huk Performance Fishing
Best of Category – Giftware – The Catch and Release Print Shop
Product: Fish Prints – Actual Size
Best of Category – Lifestyle Apparel – Frogg Toggs
Product: Prym1 Series Pilot II Jacket & Bibs
Best of Category – Technical Apparel – Frogg Toggs
Product: Sierran Transition Wader
Best of Category – Electronics – Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc.
Product: SOLIX 15 CHIRP MEGA SI GPS
Best of Category – Fishing Accessory – YETI Coolers
Product: Panga Duffel
Best of Category – Fly Fishing Accessory – Simms Fishing Products
Product: G3 Guide™ Stockingfoot Wader
Best of Category – Fishing Line – Pure Fishing Inc.
Product: Berkley Fireline Ultra 8
Best of Category – FishSmart – Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle
Product: 2017 Flounder Sample Pack
Best of Category – Kids’ Tackle – 13 Fishing
Product: Ambition Combo
Best of Category – Tackle Management – Daiwa Corporation
Product: Tactical Backpack
Best of Category – Terminal Tackle – Trapper Tackle
Product: Trapper Round Bend Treble
Best of Category – Freshwater Hard Lure – Okuma Fishing Tackle Corp.
Product: Savage Gear 3D Topwater Bat
Best of Category – Saltwater Hard Lure – Rapala
Product: X-Rap Magnum 40
Best of Category – Freshwater Soft Lure – Lunkerhunt LP
Product: Prop Series
Best of Category – Saltwater Soft Lure – LIVETARGET
Product: LIVETARGET Hollow Body Mullet
Best of Category – Fly Reel – Pure Fishing, Inc.
Product: Pflueger Supreme QRS Fly Reel
Best of Category – Freshwater Reel – Shimano American Corp.
Product: Curado K Baitcasting Reels
Best of Category – Saltwater Reel – Shimano American Corp.
Product: Sustain Reels C4000/5000
Best of Category – Rod & Reel Combo – Lew’s Fishing Tackle
Product: Mach Crush Speed Spool Combo
Best of Category – Fly Fishing Rod – G. Loomis, Inc.
Product: IMX-Pro Fly Rod
Best of Category – Freshwater Rod – 13 Fishing
Product: Fate Black
Best of Category – Saltwater Rod – St. Croix Rods
Product: Legend Tournament Inshor
Shimano won awards for best new fresh water and salt water reels, G. Loomis won awards for best new rods, Pfleuger won for the best new fly reel and Penn’s new International 50IVSW was a runner-up. There were lots of good new reels to check out that weren’t in the New Products Showcase. Savage Gear and Rapala won awards for hard lures, Live Target and Lunkerhunt won awards for soft lures. There were also many new rods, reels, lures and accessories that weren’t in the New Product Showcase and walking the show floor was a lot like an Easter Egg Hunt.
I always go to the Star Rods/Sea Striker booth and again they didn’t disappoint me. I had seen prototypes of the new Star VPR rods and S7000/S8000 spinning reels at the Big Rock Sports Show in January, but they didn’t have a timeline for production then. Production models of both were in their ICAST display and are in their new catalog. The VPR rods use specially formulated high modulus, multi-directional graphite with a new specialized formula Nano resin to add strength and reduce weight. Add the best components, like Fuji K Tangle-free guides and reel seats, and these rods are light and powerful. There are Inshore spinning, surf spinning, boat spinning and boat conventional rod models in the VPR line.
The S7000 and S8000 Star reels have a bit of a throwback look, but use modern parts and materials to be strong and durable for a lifetime of use. They look a little like a cross between the old Penn Z Series and a Van Staal. They are capable of making up to 25 and 28 pounds of drag and will hold either 400 yards of 40 (S7000) or 500 yards of 50 (S8000) pound braid, which gives them the makings to tangle with just about anything. A Star spokesman said they were made thinking of surf fishermen chasing big red drum and stripers, but will easily also handle popper fishing for tuna.
One of the unique tackle products that caught my eye were the rounded square treble hooks from Trapper Tackle. They debuted their unique trapping hook design at the 2016 ICAST and won Best of Show in Terminal Tackle. This year they returned with a similar design in treble hooks and won the Terminal Tackle category again. I didn’t immediately jump on their band wagon last year, but I’m looking forward to switching some of my favorite lures to their new treble hooks and giving them a try.
Betts Tackle brought a new cast net series to ICAST that kayak fishermen have been asking for. Other fishermen have undoubtedly wanted them too. Betts has added 3.5 to 6 foot nets that have 1/4 inch mesh and 3/4 pounds of weight per foot to their Hi Tider line. They already have 1/4 inch mesh nets in their 1/4 Professional and Super Pro lines, but those nets are heavy and designed for use in deeper water. The new Hi Tider 1/4 inch mesh nets are designed to catch smaller baits in shallower water, where the sink rate isn’t as important. An added bonus is they are easier to throw and can be thrown farther.
Propel IP Inc. doesn’t sound like a tackle or accessory company, but their new Catch Commander Scale should be a hot item for tournament fishermen and other fishermen will like it too. The features that will endear it to tournament fishermen are that in addition to being a very accurate scale, it will record weights and indicate how many fish have been caught and which fish should be culled.
One item I found that was extremely practical and interesting to me was the Throw Raft from ThrowRaft.com. This is a Coast Guard approved auto or manual inflating device that can replace the throw cushion or ring buoy required on your boat. It stows in much less space in a locker and has an accessory mount that allows it to be mounted on the console or under the gunwale, much like a fire extinguisher.
Pro Nav Marine showed their remote control trolling motor module that uses plug and play simplicity, with GPS and Bluetooth receivers, to easily update many older electric trolling motors to the current features of holding a boat on location without anchoring, setting a route and automatically following it and more. It really is simple. A GPS receiver clamps on the trolling motor’s shaft and a module plugs into the wireless connection on the motor’s base. It runs from an app on a smart phone. For folks that have an older trolling motor and would like the new features, this is significantly less expensive than purchasing a new trolling motor and much easier to install.
Techno buffs will also appreciate the new VISION from Power-Pole. Power-Pole uses know that they can control their Power-Pole with their cell phone using the C-Monster app. VISION uses an expanded C-Monster App that allows linking all boat systems with on/off switching to a marine Android tablet and operating everything from it. Even better, the VISION tablet will work through Wi-Fi or a personal hotspot to load and run other Android applications. In addition to operating boat systems and running your favorite apps, the VISION tablet can be used to take pictures and send them by e-mail or post them on social media. Power-Pole says it is the digital dash of the future and is available now. The VISION tablet can be flush mounted, with a gimbal or a Ram-mount.
I’m including the micro size 10 amp power source from NOCQUA Adventure Gear in the techno stuff because of its compact size, light weight and because there is a solar charging system available for it. This can be used to power many things, including a fish finder or live well on a kayak where space and weight are at a premium or simply for tablets and phones. At 10 amp hours, it will operate a small color fishfinder/GPS unit for several days and allows a weekend trip without needing to recharge. Add the solar charger and it can revive itself for those who want to push farther into uncharted waters than their longest extension cord.
There were numerous clothing manufacturers at ICAST and all have good products for sun and casual wear. However, the new Cool Core fabric being incorporated into their line by Gillz, LLC is especially impressive. It is lightweight and soft, so it should be comfortable and it somehow uses any perspiration to cool.
Gillz did two demonstrations in their booth using a temperature gun to verify the temperature of piece of Cool Core, a bottle of water at room temperature and a pot of boiling water. When they poured either of the waters on the Cool Core fabric its temperature immediately began to drop. In only a couple of minutes, the temperature of the Cool Core doused with the bottled water had dropped to 60 degrees and the Cool Core dipped into the boiling water took only slightly longer to cool into the 60s. There are videos of the demos on their FaceBook page at Gillz Performance Apparel. Gillz Gear with Cool Core is coming this fall and may be in stores in time to be a Christmas present. We could all have used this the past several weeks!
Another thing that caught my eye in clothing was a grabbling/noodling sleeve prototype in the Fish Monkey Gloves booth. Fish Monkey makes a huge variety of excellent fishing gloves, but is thinking outside the box on this one. Catfish grabblers can wear it to keep their arms from being gnawed and being it’s a sleeve, not an extended glove, they can pair it with their favorite gloves. I also see it as a great option for handling large fish (overslot reds, tarpon, muskies and such) that have sharp gill plates and scales, especially when kayak fishing. These are just in the prototype stage, but are on the fast track and should be available by spring.
Sometimes you have to take a few minutes in a booth you deem familiar to understand the full range of their product line. Chums is a great example. Most fishermen are familiar with Chums for their huge assortment of glasses straps. However, Chums also has a big selection of travel accessories, assorted small storage bags and dry bags. They have also added a sun care product line named Beyond Coastal that includes active and natural sun screens, face sticks, lip balms and more.
Last, but certainly not least is an item that isn’t fishing or a close accessory, but just about every fisherman wanted. FireDisc Cookers debuted their new cooker and there was always a crowd around their booth. I keep wanting to call this a grill, but it isn’t. However, it can do most of the things we usually do on a grill, plus fry, cook stews and soups and more. Their slogan is “Built to haul, cooks it all,” and it appears fully capable.
The FireDisc Cooker is designed to disassemble and lay nearly flat so it can be carried in a small space and doesn’t need to be handled delicately, so it can go anywhere. Once there, slide the legs together and connect a small propane bottle and it’s ready to cook. The Fire Disc Cooker package includes a heavy duty collapsible stand, hookups for small propane bottles (an adapter is available to connect to larger propane bottles) and a super heavy duty cooking pan.
The Fire Disc pan is thick carbon steel and the directions are to season and use it like cast iron. It has a concave bottom somewhat like a plow disc, hence the name. The concave bottom makes for varying degrees of heat from the middle to the edge and allows anything from frying fish to toasting buns or keeping things warm – at the same time. The Fire Disc is equally at home on the rear deck at home, at a hunting or fishing camp, at a campsite, on a dock at the marina and for preparing shore lunches while fishing. It was impressive enough I ordered one on the spot and look forward to carrying it camping, fishing and more.
Keep in mind that these are 2018 products. Some are ready to ship immediately, many will be available this fall, others will begin shipping by Christmas, but some may not be available until spring. Check with your favorite tackle shop or outfitter and you may be able to use some of the products when fishing gets good this fall. The ones that take a little longer to arrive will be good things to ask for as stocking stuffers at Christmas.