ICAST 2016 – From The Showroom Floor
A Visit to ICAST
By Jerry Dilsaver – PCF Staff
Christmas comes in July for many fishermen. Mid-July is when the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) hosts an event known throughout the fishing world simply as ICAST. ICAST is an acronym for The International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades. The event is to fishermen what a visit to Santa’s Toy Factory would be for kids. This is where the fishing tackle and accessory manufacturers, more than 700 of them in2016, gather to display their wares and introduce their new products for the coming year.
The 59th Annual ICAST was held July 12 through 15 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fl. The show began with a special on-the-water day on nearby Lake Tohopekaliga (commonly called Lake Toho) a few miles west of Orlando, near Kissimmee, Fl. Several electronics manufacturers had their latest offerings mounted on boats making regular tours around the lake so buyers and the outdoor press could experience them firsthand, not just through simulators. There was also a fishing tournament and even a golf tournament for those so inclined.
The in-house part of the show was July 13 to 15 in the west wing of the Orange County Convention Center and the show covered more than 700,000 square feet. ICAST has always been the ultimate toy store for fishermen and has gotten even better in the past few years by adding the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show. For 2016, ICAST surged ahead again by adding a Marine Accessories Pavilion sponsored by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). Many NMMA members were participating on their own and adding the special section allowed them to draw special attention to their market segment.
Unfortunately, ICAST isn’t an open show. It is only for fishing and marine dealers and the fishing press. You’ll have to visit vicariously, but I promise you there was a bunch to see with more than 700,000 square feet of show floor and more than 700 manufacturers. Heck, there were more than 1,000 products and 240 manufacturers represented just in the “New Product Showcase.” There is far more than a person can take in during the show. You have to decide what is important to you and concentrate on it – and you probably still miss a few things.
ICAST can be a bit overwhelming and I always get that part off to a head start by beginning in the “New Product Showcase.” Not meaning any slight to the manufacturers who enter products there, but I also found plenty of new, and improved, items that caught my attention and weren’t in the showcase. Heck, I had a few manufacturers show me works, drawings, and pictures of products that missed the show and showcase deadlines. The only way to describe ICAST to a fisherman is that it really is like being a kid in a candy or toy store. It is tackle and accessory nirvana.
For the first time since 2011, the coveted Overall Best of Show award went to a product that wasn’t a kayak or kayak accessory. The Overall Best of Show award for ICAST 2016 went to Minn Kota for their new Ultrex Trolling Motor. The Ultrex combines a scissors mount with cable and remote wireless controls and will be available in fresh water and Riptide salt water versions. The individual category Best of Show award winners are in a sidebar below.
As I have gotten older, I have placed more emphasis on returning from the adventure than just having a great adventure. Safety now has a much higher priority than 40 years ago when I thought I was 10 feet tall and bulletproof. Fell Marine of Norway used ICAST for the U.S. debut of their new MOB+ (Man Overboard +) Wireless Engine Cut-Off Switch. This is as close to a must-have as possible for fishermen that move about their boat a lot.
Someone at Fell Marine realized that many of us don’t wear the engine cut-off lanyards supplied by the engine manufacturers because they limit us to being within about 3 feet of where they’re attached. The Fell Marine MOB+ is wireless and has an operating range of approximately 50 feet. That simply destroys all the reasons for not using your engine cut-off switch.
The MOB+ is simple and uses two parts. The xHUB mounts in the dash or console and wires into your motors electrical system and you carry the xFOB on your person. The xFOB is small and can be worn on a lanyard, clipped on, inserted into a watch-like wristband, or simply carried in your pocket. When the xFOB moves beyond 50 feet from the xHUB or gets wet, it shuts down the engine. After 6 seconds, the engine can be restarted, but doesn’t restart automatically. Each xHub can be programmed to work with multiple xFOBs, so multiple users can have their own xFOB. The initial thought is the MOB+ system will be able to retail for less than $200 and I plan to have one before long.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I never have enough rod holders on my boat or storage for my rods and reels at home. Rods and reels aren’t heavy, but they are long and can be somewhat awkward with a stiff butt end and a flexible tip. The Garage Door Storage Rack from Cobra solves this problem. It is so simple and so good, My introduction brought a head in hands face plant and the question – “Why didn’t I think of that?”
The Cobra Garage Door Storage Rack comes in 18 and 21 inch lengths to fit all garage door panels. They are simply a pair of curved plastic pieces that use thumb-screw clamps to mount to the edges of the garage door panels. A set of them is two racks and each rack has 6 holes to store six rods. It only takes about a minute to attach them to the garage door panels and once they are attached they can be loaded with fishing rods – and lots of other things.
Cobra Garage Door Storage Racks hold anything shorter than the width of the garage door. This includes fishing rods, gaffs, brushes, paddles, oars, mops, rakes, brooms, shovels and much, much more. Now your rods and reels are stored where they are out of the way, yet still easy to reach. When the garage door opens, they move with it and are overhead until the door is closed. This impressed other folks too, as it won the “Best in Show” award for Tackle Management.
Most folks don’t think of gloves as a fishing accessory until they cut themselves wiring or cleaning fish. Then it gets serious quickly. Fish Monkey is a new company that showed a full selection of gloves at the recent ICAST. Fish Monkey offers gloves for everything from sun protection to Kevlar reinforced gloves for cleaning fish and gloves with padding and abrasion resistance in the right places for reeling, catching, and handling big fish. It was an impressive selection of well made gloves.
It was a fishing show, so new and improved rods, reels and lures were front and center. There was one reel from Star Rods that wasn’t finished in time for the show, but I saw some pictures. It specs out as good as it looks and I signed up on the spot to be a tester and hope to be stretching string with one by fall.
Penn proved they listen to their customers and brought back Slammer spinning reels. The new Slammer III looked and felt good and must have impressed a good number of folks as it was named “Best Salt Water Reel.”
Star Rods brought in a new line named VPR rods that are extremely lightweight, strong and durable. The boat rods have carbon power butts and the spinning rods have split grips to keep the weight light. These are slow action rods and they really felt good in the show with a buddy or the salesman tugging on them. I bet they’ll feel even better with a big fish bending them.
There were shiny new lures on every isle. A fish couldn’t have gotten anywhere without chomping on something. Many were very nice, but several things got my attention. One was the abundance of soft plastic shrimp lures. I believe that everything that lives in salt or brackish water eats shrimp. Some things that live is fresh water eat shrimp too.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed with the lure manufacturers. Many of the new shrimp lures were noteworthy. My favorites are soft shrimp with movement. The Betts Perfect Sinker was released last year and looks very natural as it sinks. Savage Gear and Vudu Shrimp have jointed bodies and move very realistically. This year I added then Z-Man EZ ShrimpZ jointed shrimp to my favorites. The jointed construction makes it move naturally and their ElaZtech material makes it buoyant and slow sinking, with a lot of action. ElaZtech is also very durable and should hold up well to catch lots of fish.
Mark Nichols at DOA lures thinks like a fish and tests his own prototypes. This removes a step in the process of bringing things from ideas to working lures. His latest creation is a weedless topwater lure. These are hollow soft plastics tubes with a piece of closed cell foam inserted for floatation and a heavy duty swimbait hook to make them weedless. I’ve always wanted to throw topwaters to red drum feeding in flooded grass, but never could figure a way to keep the hooks from snagging. This lure appears to have solved the tendency to snag and I’m expecting to see strikes that peg my pulse as puppy drum whirl about in super skinny water to smack it.
Many fishermen have been successful with the MirrOdine series from MirrOlure. These suspending lures catch a little bit of everything, but the largest (MirrOdine XL) had been only 3 1/8 inches long. Now they have a new big brother. The MirrOdine XXL (37MR) retains the same peanut pogy shape at 3 7/8 inches long and still suspends, just a little deeper. The XXL weighs an ounce, so it should cast well and may be an excellent option for surf fishermen. I look forward to giving some puppy drum, specks, stripers, snook and more the opportunity to snack on one.
ICAST has been a launching point for kayaks for the past five years. Either a kayak or a kayak fishing accessory has won the coveted “Overall Best of Show” award since 2011 until this year. The kayaks were there this time – in spades. There were ten kayaks in the boat section of the New Products Showcase and even more kayak manufacturers with many different models on the show floor.
Several manufacturers introduced pedal drive models, and Feel Free Kayaks introduced a combination pedal and motor drive. Hobie, who began the pedal drive kayak insurrection many years ago with their Mirage Drive, did what many thought was impossible by introducing the Mirage Drive 180. This is the latest revision of their pedal/flipper drive and allows shifting from forward to reverse.
There are many things that catch your eye at ICAST and for a wide variety of reasons. One of those things this year was Oystaflage from Tideline Outfitters. Oystaflage is just what it sounds like it will be – camouflage using oyster shells – at least printed oyster shells. They have traditional and performance shirts printed with light and dark oyster shells. Shucks (pun intended) it just really looked good and they’re a Carolina company too. You should check them out for both the novelty and the practicality.
While clothes are on my mind; there was a new shoe company that caught my eye. Soft Science showed what they touted as supreme comfort footwear. These are lightweight casual shoes that cover the area from flip flops to boots, with the Fin, a vented and draining water shoe that appears to be just the ticket for fishermen, coastal explorers, SUP enthusiasts, kayakers and more. They felt good enough in the booth I ordered a pair.
Fishfindermounts.com is looking for fishermen who don’t want to drill holes in their boats to mount fish finders. They have a line of magnetic, clamp, strap, glue and other fish finder mounts designed for canoes, kayaks, inflatable boats, tubes, pontoons, Jon boats and more. Their full system includes a watertight battery housing or you can purchase just the mount. I see their magnetic mount as an answer for kayak fishermen wanting to run sidescan transducers, but not wanting to cut or drill their kayaks. The magnetic mount has four sets of aligned magnets that I could barely pull apart, so it should be plenty secure. The watertight battery holder is an excellent touch too and they have different models for different size batteries.
We all knew a fishing drone had to be in the works and Aguadrone premiered theirs at ICAST 2016. The Aguadrone is waterproof and capable of landing and taking off from fresh or salt water. It uses easily and quickly interchangeable pods to fish, act as a fish finder, or film.
The fish pod will carry a bait up to 2 pounds and release it on a remote command. It can also skip or jig baits. The find pod has a fishfinder transducer and can transmit its fish finder image to a Wi-Fi enabled smart phone or tablet or record information to be reviewed later. The film pod has a 360 degree waterproof camera that can film from the sky or be landed on the water for underwater shots. The folks at Aguadrone said the drones are easily customizable for special uses too.
It was difficult to walk by the Miya Epoch booth without stopping to stare. They had a host of their electric reels on display and the line covers anything you might want. Some of the simpler models are pretty basic reels with electric motors and a controller. However, some of the more sophisticated models can continue to fish while you get a snack or take a bathroom break. Seriously, some of these reels look like computers with a handle and spool. They can be programmed for jigging, dropping to mid depths and much more. There is also a programmable, remote control teaser reel. This was the booth the computer geek fishermen had to visit.
There was much to see at ICAST 2016. With more than 700 manufacturers and more than 700,000 square feet, there had to be a lot to fill the building. This was my fifth trip and I still haven’t devised a system to be sure to see everything. I hope I didn’t miss anything important, but I’m sure I missed things. Hopefully you think some of these things that caught my eye are noteworthy too.
SIDEBAR: ICAST 2016 Best of Show Awards
One of the highlights of ICAST each year is the New Products Showcase. Still, there are some neat new products that aren’t entered for a variety of reasons. As a member of the press working the show, I have a vote on the 24 Best of Show awards and the Overall Best of Show. I didn’t always agree with the products chosen, but there weren’t any losers. There were more than 1,000 products that had to be narrowed to 24 category winners and one overall pick. I believe this is harder than being a judge at the Miss America or Miss Universe pageants. Everyone is beautiful and everything looks good! The list of winners is below.
ICAST 2016 Overall Best of Show – Johnson Outdoors – Minn Kota Ultrex;
Best of Show – Freshwater Rod – St. Croix Rods – Legend Glass Rod;
Best of Show – Saltwater Rod – Lew’s Fishing Tackle – Lew’s Mach Speed Stick/Inshore Rod;
Best of Show – Fly Fishing Rod – St. Croix Rods – SOLE;
Best of Show – Freshwater Reel – Lew’s Fishing Tackle – Team Lew’s Custom Pro SLP;
Best of Show – Saltwater Reel – Pure Fishing, Inc. – Penn Slammer III;
Best of Show – Fly Reel – Pure Fishing, Inc. – Pflueger President Fly Reel;
Best of Show – Hard Lure – Savage Gear USA – 3D Suicide Duck;
Best of Show – Soft Lure – Squidnation – Longtail Flippy Floppy;
Best of Show – Lifestyle Apparel – Under Armour, Inc. – Men’s UA Fish Stalker SS;
Best of Show – Technical Apparel – Plano Synergy – Frabill I-Float Suit;
Best of Show – Boating Accessories – Johnson Outdoors, Inc. – Minn Kota Ultrex;
Best of Show – Boats – Johnson Outdoors Watercraft, Inc. – Old Town Predator PDL;
Best of Show – Combo – Lew’s Fishing Tackle – Mach II Speed Spool Combo;
Best of Show – Electronics – Johnson Outdoors – Humminbird – HELIX 10 SI;
Best of Show – Eyewear – Costa – Rafael;
Best of Show – Fishing Accessory – YETI Coolers – Hopper Flip 12;
Best of Show – FishSmart – Adventure Products – EGO Kryptek S1 Genesis Medium Clear Landing Net;
Best of Show – Fly Fishing Accessory – Boomerang – Retractable Fly Box;
Best of Show – Footwear – Shimano American Corporation – Flats Wading Boots;
Best of Show – Giftware – Weego – Weego Jump Starter 44;
Best of Show – Kids’ Tackle – Steinhauser, LLC – 48″ Starter Rod Combos;
Best of Show – Line – G. Pucci & Sons, Inc. – P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon;
Best of Show – Tackle Management – Cobra Garage Door Storage – Cobra Garage Door Storage Rack;
Best of Show – Terminal Tackle – Trapper Tackle – DropShot/Live Bait/Finesse Hook.