ICAST 2018 Highlights

As Capt. Noah Lynk (Noah’s Ark Fishing Charters, www.noahsarkfishingcharters.com) and I headed south down I-95, we knew we weren’t going in the direction of Santa’s Workshop, but we also knew that over the next few days we would get a preview of all that was new in the fishing world, plus another look at a bunch of existing tackle and accessories.  Our destination was ICAST (International Convention of the Allied Sportfishing Trades) at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

A visit to ICAST might even be better than visiting Santa’s Workshop to most fishermen.  Three days and a short outside preview of some special things the day before just aren’t enough to guarantee seeing everything at ICAST.  For the past several years, The IFTD (International Fly Tackle Dealers) Show has partnered with ICAST and added another ten thousand or so square feet of fishing goodies to peruse.  It’s a lot of fun, but done seriously, it’s also a lot of work.

This was the 61st ICAST and it was the largest yet. The show moved from the West Wing to all of the South and some of the North Wings of the Orange County Convention Center.  According to ICAST promoter, the American Sportfishing Association, the 2018 ICAST and IFTD Convention covered more than 220,000 square feet of the Orange County Convention Center and attracted more than 15,000 vendors, buyers, and other attendees.  There were 626 companies exhibiting, with exhibitors and attendees hailing from 71 countries.

Unfortunately, ICAST isn’t an open show.  It is only for fishing and marine manufacturers, representatives, buyers , dealers and the fishing press.  You’ll have to visit vicariously, but I promise you there was a bunch to see.  I had a plan and tried, but I’m not sure I saw it all.

Bill Shedd, president of American Fishing Tackle Company (AFTCO) and  a long-time ASA member and ICAST attendee said, “I’ve been coming to this show for 44 years. I can honestly say this was the best ICAST ever.  I saw all the people I wanted to see and the energy, overall, was excellent.”

ICAST began on Tuesday, July 10, with the ICAST Cup, an industry bass fishing tournament on Lake Toho in nearby Kissimmee, sponsored by the FLW Bass Tour, that paired professional anglers with media representatives and other industry professionals. There was also a Florida Sportsman Magazine Bass and Birdies fishing/golf event held on Tuesday.

Capt. Noah and I occasionally fish fresh water, but it isn’t an obsession like salt water fishing.  We don’t play golf either, so the event we attended on Tuesday was ICAST On The Water.  This was an outdoor display area, mostly under tents, but with demos on the water and was held on a small lake just outside the entrance to the North Wing of the Orange County Convention Center.

ICAST On The Water was a preview of some of the things that were waiting inside the convention center when ICAST opened on Wednesday, but with an opportunity to demo a lot of tackle, fishing gear and accessories.  There were kayaks and other watercraft in one section of the lake and a casting area to try rods, reels and lures at the other end.  A double handful of manufacturers and their reps braved the heat and humidity to show and demo numerous accessories and related products ranging from marine electronics, underwater cameras, sunglasses, coolers, dry boxes, kayak accessories and more.  There was even special underwear and a fishfinder/GPS combo that linked with a drone.

As already noted, ICAST can be a bit overwhelming. There is lots to cover and you keep running into old friends that you want to catch up with a bit and some that have seen something exciting and have to take you and show you.   Once in the Convention Center Wednesday morning I always begin in the “New Product Showcase.”  Not that there aren’t some new and unique things on the show floor, but this is where manufacturers enter new products they think are special in hopes of winning a Best of Category in one of twenty some categories or the coveted Best of Show Overall award.  It’s a great place to get a feel for the show.

Buyers and the press vote on the products displayed in the New Products Showcase.  I had several choices that were winners and several that weren’t.  The full list of winners is below.

Technology was on full display and in spite of my resistance to it, two of the things that caught my eye were full on into technology. The thing that grabbed my attention the most wasn’t in the New Product Showcase, but it got a head start as it was ideally suited for demonstration during ICAST On The Water on Tuesday.

Raymarine (www.raymarine.com) has incorporated a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) App into its Axiom line of multifunction display Fishfinder/GPS combo units.  The UAV App is specific to the DJI Mavic Pro Drone (www.dji.com) and allows operating the drone from the touch screen of the Axiom display.  The controller unit for the drone, plugs into the multifunction port on the Axiom display and relays commands from the touch screen to the drone from a touch screen on the fishfinder.  Meanwhile, the video or pictures from the Mavic Pro’s 4K camera are displayed on the Axiom’s screen.

Raymarine made the great decision to have the Axiom with the UAV App and a drone outside for demo on Tuesday at ICAST On The Water. Seeing it in operation was impressive and there was no shortage of requests for a demo.  The DJI Mavic Pro is a popular and highly automated drone and the linkup seemed to work flawlessly, including automated launches and landings.  As impressive as it was, the drone operators said they were still learning the full capabilities of the combination.

One feature, aptly named “Fish On,” caught the attention of almost every fisherman.  This command is activated with a single touch of the Axiom’s screen. Once activated, the Mavic Pro launched and climbed to a pre set height and distance from the boat, then began to circle the boat while filming the fisherman fighting the fish.  The Mavic Pro comes with a stabilized 4K camera that can be focused automatically or manually.  There are also multiple filter options for overly bright, cloudy or other light conditions , so the pictures or video are excellent quality.

This was very intriguing and the prices being quoted weren’t ridiculously expensive.  They reps said it is super easy to fly, with auto launch and land modes, and that even someone as technically challenged as me could easily fly one.  I don’t know that I’ll ever have one, but it really caught my attention and has me wondering.  It sure would give me the ability for different angles on pictures.

I met the folks from ProNav Marine (www.pronavmarine.com) at ICAST 2017, when they introduced their Angler GPS Autopilot Unit and App that allowed quickly converting any electric trolling motor into a remote controlled unit capable of basic maneuvering, running a course or holding precisely over structure.  After talking with them for a while, I felt they were fishermen looking to use their knowledge of technology to make fishing better or easier and they didn’t let me down.  For 2018, they returned to ICAST with their all new, patent pending ProNav Angler Motion unit.

This is so unique the superlatives escape me.  The ProNav Angler Motion is a waterproof, hand held controller that pairs via Bluetooth with the ProNav Angler to give you complete boat control independently from or in conjunction with the ProNav Angler mobile app.  ProNav Angler Motion includes PointDrive point-and-go driving, PointJog automatic positioning, and many additional features to make boat control easier than ever.

PointDrive technology allows fishermen to control their bow mount trolling motor with certain gestures  and pointing, similar to motion controllers used with popular video gaming systems.  It offers intuitive, point-and-go driving, quick and easy GPS anchoring, and a full suite of features that will define a new generation of motion controlled navigation. PointJog makes for easy small adjustments while fishing.  It allows the user to point the controller at a location on the water where they wish to anchor and the trolling motor automatically repositions the boat.

ProNav CEO Travis White said he was extremely excited about introducing this technology to fishermen and he should be.  Now fishermen don’t have to look and see which direction their trolling motor is pointing before moving.  They can move in any direction, from anywhere in the boat, at any time, simply by pointing the Angler Motion controller in the desired direction.

There was booth after booth of lures and I’ll bet most will catch fish.  However, I grew up fishing MirrOlures and remain a fan, especially of their MirrOdine series of suspending lures.  MirrOlure (www.mirrolure.com) chose ICAST to introduce their new MirrOdine “Skins” series and got my attention at the New Products Showcase, even if they didn’t win.

The “Skins” series uses a photograph of popular baitfish for their color and markings.  Needless to say, they look very realistic.  The MirrOlure shine is so good I had to have someone block the light to get a picture.  They will be available in 17 and 27 size in pinfish, shad and pilchard colors.  My expectations are for fish to like them as much as I do and I expect to hear of many nice catches with them.

There were also numerous booths of boat and fishing accessories and it’s likely that one of them has anything imaginable.  I have used Stealth QR rod holders on my kayak for several years and love the rod holders, but haven’t been able to find mounts that would hold up to continued hard strikes of king mackerel and trophy red drum.  The Stealth standard mount would handle the stress, but wouldn’t fit where needed on my kayak.

Stealth (www.stealthrodholders.com) was at ICAST for the first time this year and I was happy to see them promoting their excellent product .  The quick release feature of Stealth rod holders is what makes them different than other similar appearing rod holders.  They have a safety strap for extreme situations, but Stealth rod holders use a gripping cam strap to secure your rod while fishing and this allows picking the rod straight up and setting the hook at the same time.  Most other rod holders require removing the rod before setting the hook.  With a Stealth QR Rod Holder, the fish doesn’t feel anything and drop the bait or lure before the hook is set.  Trust me, it works.

Even better, the folks at Stealth now offer a variety of mounts, including a rail mount that looks made heavy enough to stand up to repeated hard swift strikes.  I was certain enough these will solve my problem with the mount flexing during a hard strike that I ordered a pair on the spot and will be mounting them on my kayak as soon as they arrive.

Fishermen who liked the old Penn Fathom Master Downriggers will be glad to see Seahorse Downriggers from Troll-Master.  These downriggers are almost the same as the Penn downriggers that were discontinued several years ago.  A spokesman for Troll-Master said they started with the old Penn downrigger design and there have been some improvements, but many of the parts will interchange.  Some of the noticeable changes are the spool and several options for rod holders.

While there is a dealer network for new purchases, Troll-Master also offers a trade-in program through the factory.  Fishermen wishing to change, upgrade or switch downriggers for whatever reason can go to the Troll-Master website (www.troll-master.com) and fill out a form with information on their present downrigger(s) and will receive a quote on its trade-in value within 24 hours. If you’re in the market for a downrigger, this is one with a proven history to check out.

There are numerous booths with tech clothing, T-shirts, caps, foul weather gear and such, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen underwear at ICAST.  However, after listening to the spiel from the folks at UFM (Underwear for Men, www.UFMunderwear.com) I was ready to try a pair.  UFM was outside at ICAST On The Water on Tuesday and it was hot and humid that day – a swampy day, if you know what I mean.

The UFM promise of wicking material that didn’t get wet and chafe got my attention right away.  When they guaranteed comfort, I was sold.  It took a little effort, but I convinced them to give me a pair for a test ride the next day and let them know what I thought.

There won’t be any pictures to show this, but I was impressed.  The feature most people will immediately recognize is a front pouch that is adjustable using a drawstring.  There is a short period of wearing the underwear and adjusting the pouch until it is most comfortable, but once this is done, they really are super comfortable. The fabrics also perform as advertised and breathe, wick moisture away and don’t chafe.  In short, they do what they say.

I can see why they are endorsed by surgeons, golfers and others who stand to work all day.  Marketing them to fishermen, hunters and other outdoorsmen is the next logical step. The comments on their website are mostly 5 star recommendations.

Once again, let me emphasize that ICAST was a huge show. There was isle after isle of interesting products related to fishing and it was difficult to cover the show in the three days.  ICAST on the water was a tease the day before the real show began and it gave folks an opportunity to try out a variety of kayaks, rods, reels, lures and accessories. Some of the new products are available now and others will begin working into the marketplace over the next several months.

ICAST 2018 New Product Showcase; Best of Category and Best of Show Awards

The New Product Showcase is a big part of ICAST. This year the selection of the Best of Show was done differently.  In years past it had been the highest vote getter of the Best of Category awards, but this year it was a separate vote after the Best of Category awards had been presented.

Several companies won in multiple categories. Garmin won in electronics and secured the coveted Best of Show Overall award.  Shimano scored twice with best saltwater and freshwater reels, while St. Croix dominated the rods categories and tripled with best saltwater, freshwater and fly fishing rods.  LIVETARGET scored with both freshwater and saltwater soft lures, AFTCO won in Technical Apparel and Lifestyle Apparel and Yeti topped two of the accessory categories. The complete awards list follows.

Best of Show and Best of Category – Electronics – Garmin Panoptix LiveScope, Garmin USA;

Best of Category – Boating Accessories – Minn Kota Ultrex with MEGA Down Imaging, Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc.;

Best of Category Boats and Watercraft – 360 Angler, Jackson Kayak;

Best of Category – Eyewear – Baffin, Costa Sunglasses;

Best of Category – Footwear – Fish Sandals, Rivers Edge Products;

Best of Category – Giftware – Cauldryn Coffee, Number 6 Brands;

Best of Category – Lifestyle Apparel – Hexatron Performance Fleece , AFTCO;

Best of Category – Technical Apparel – Hydronaut Heavy-Duty Waterproof System , AFTCO;

Best of Category – Fishing Accessory – YETI Tundra Haul, YETI;

Best of Category – Fly Fishing Accessory – YETI Panga Backpack 28, YETI;

Best of Category – Fishing Line – PowerPro SuperSlick V2, PowerPro;

Best of Category – Kids’ Tackle – Kid Casters DUDE PERFECT Fishing Kit & Casting Game, AnythingPossible;

Best of Category – Tackle Management – Lure Locker, Tak Logic Lure Lock;

Best of Category – Terminal Tackle – VMC NEKO Skirt, Rapala;

Best of Category – Freshwater Hard Lure – Freddy the Frog, Westin;

Best of Category – Saltwater Hard Lure – Octopi, 13 Fishing;

Best of Category – Freshwater Soft Lure – Hollow Body Crawfish, LIVETARGET;

Best of Category – Saltwater Soft Lure – Fleeing Shrimp, LIVETARGET;

Best of Category – Fly Reel – MF Fly Reel, SEiGLER Reels;

Best of Category – Freshwater Reel – Curado DC Baitcasting Reel, Shimano American Corporation;

Best of Category – Saltwater Reel – Tekota 500 Levelwind Reel, Shimano American Corporation;

Best of Category – Rod & Reel Combo – Team Lew’s® Custom Black LFS Combo, Lew’s Fishing;

Best of Category – Fly Fishing Rod – Mojo Trout, St. Croix Rods;

Best of Category – Freshwater Rod – Legend Glass, St. Croix Rods;

Best of Category – Saltwater Rod – Mojo Yak, St. Croix Rods;

ICAST 2019 will be held at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Fla., July 9 – 12, 2019.

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Capt. Jerry Dilsaver has been fishing since he was a child and writing about fishing, hunting and the outdoors since 1986. He is from Southport-Oak Island, N.C. and continues to live there in semi-retirement. His writing features this area prominently, but he has fished and written about the East Coast from Virginia to Florida, the Gulf Coast, California, Alaska and several of the Great Lakes in the U.S., plus several countries in Central America and several Caribbean Islands. He has been on staff at Carolina Adventure, North Carolina Sportsman and South Carolina Sportsman Magazines and his byline has appeared in several other magazines and newspapers.