This is long, but so was “War and Peace”. So grab a cup of coffee and your credit card….
Recently I got to go to Orlando and the Magic Kingdom on a business trip. No, not the one with Mickey Mouse. The one where the seven million square foot Orlando Exhibition Hall was full the newest fish baits, rods and reels, outdoor gear and accessories. Disney who?
Seriously, the annual ICAST is like Disney World for fishermen. It’s not even opened to the public, but it’s the showplace of outdoor manufacturer’s and buyers and they invite a few old outdoor writers and broadcasters to come examine and report on everything. Of course, I said yes.
Nearly 1,000 manufacturers and businesses displayed everything you can think of at ICAST — officially the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades annual show. It was held July 23-26. Inside. In the air conditioning.
The show lasts three days and even at that, it isn’t enough time to see or ask about everything. But like a curious fish, there were several things that “hooked” me. I’m sure others would have a different list, but here’s a TOP 20 that I just couldn’t pass up. Some are on the market. Some are still awaiting manufacture and are set to the be hot items of 2022. Here’s my top Dozen & A Half:
Berkley’s PowerBait Gilly — This amazingly lifelike bass fishing lure was voted 2021 Best In Show. The soft bluegill shaped lure infused with PowerBait flavor could pass as a real live swimming bream or it can be retrieved to perfectly mimic a wounded baitfish. I know a guy that would probably take a look at this lure and try to scale it and fry it whole. And another who wouldn’t hesitate to put it on a trot line to try and catch big ops in the D’Arbonne. Here’s how impressive it was. The Gilly was the first bait to ever win Best of Show, which is big. That is usually won by electronics, rods or reels. Gilly’s will be available in September in six standard and six HD colors in three sizes (90mm, 110mm and 130mm), selling for $6.49 -$7.49. Shown here with the award and a pack of Gilly lures is Nathan Ragsdale with Pure Fishing, parent company of Berkley
Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Pro Rocket 100th Anniversary Reel — This iconic reel brings back memories. The silver Ambassadeur 5000 was the first open faced baitcasting reel for thousands of anglers, me included. In fact, I’ve still got two of them (they aren’t in quite as good a shape as the new one). This reel continues the 100 year-old tradition of success. It’s not flashy or made of space age components, but it’s a solid, a positive move back to the future and sure to be a hit with fishermen and collectors. It looks a lot like the original with an obvious makeover worthy of 100 years of Abu Garcia finesse.
B n’M Poles 75 Series — Another celebration of longevity — 75 years for the old Broom & Mop Company — this new rod and reel combo with diamond shapes and gold colors is almost too good looking to fish with. It’s light, powerful and the extended grip that allows comfort for a long day of single poling shows why B’n’M continues to be the No.1 crappie pole company in the world. The balance and feel of the gear is thump on. B’n’M Poles President Jack Wells is understandably proud of his company’s 75 years and the 75 Series rods and reelsThe company is also celebrating with a Diamond Series Premium Crappie Pole. And we would be remiss if we didn’t congratulate Jack on his upcoming induction into the Legends of the Outdoors National Hall of Fame later this month!
Hummingbird MEGA Live Imaging — It was nice to see a fishing company whose name didn’t start with “GAR” to win the electronics Best of Category in this year’s show. Stand up and take a bow, Hummingbird MEGA Live Imaging. Humminbird expanded MEGA Imaging®️ technology allowing anglers to see fish and structure in real-time, even watching fish on-screen as they move in to bite an angler’s lure. You know, like those other guys (who became a little uppity, just so you know) but maybe better. Still pricey. New technology is around $1,500 and that is if it is compatible with your exisitng units. have to buy the whole setup, add the cost of the unit, wiring, etc., as well.
Buzbe Soft Sides — Prairieville based Buzbe created a buzz with a new soft-sided tackle storage line, so new that only prototypes were available at ICAST. Plastic windows on the boxes are a clear plus to add to their modular tackle management line. They’ll be available in the late Fall. Buzbe’s new soft-sided boxes, shown in the foreground, are a perfect compliment to the company’s modular boxes, shown here by Caleb Sutton and Ashley Hymel of Prairieville. The boxes are a little more costly than the run of the mill plastic box, but that’s because they aren’t the run of the mill plastic box.
Bobby Garland Itty Bit Slab Hunt’R – Go small or go home seems to be a crappie lure theme and this 1.25 inch plastic recommended for 1/64 and 1/32 jig heads in all the popular Garland colors will slay some slabs. Summertime and often in the spring when crappie get on the trees, they seem to really key on little baits. PRADCO has another winner here.
Emma Bean’s Pesky Bug Spray and Itch Reliever – In Louisiana you can never have too many options for “bug spray”. This is an spray that you can rub in and it uses all natural product that repels everything from no-see-ums to mosquitoes, ticks and flies. And they make an itch reliever for spots that you might miss and get bit. It really works. And what outdoors lover doesn’t need that? Company owners Jeannette and Dean Miller show some of their products and tell the interesting story of how they came upon the blend. You should google and read it.
H&H Tipster – Lowly Catfish don’t get much respect at this high brow show, but Baton Rouge based H&H is offering a new floating catfishing system that is so well designed, easy and economical, why would anybody want to make homemade rigs any more? And among all the newest and latest and greatest, it’s always soothing to see an old friend in the mix, the original H&H 3/8 ounce single spinner. I grew up casting and trolling these things (remember, you had to put the hook in yourself?) and we caught loads of crappie and bass. The old H&H is still around finding it’s way into tackle boxes and putting fish in the grease. H&H Operations Manager Ryan Guerin showed us all the new stuff.
The Smoke Wagon by JB3 Rods — ICAST is Rod City so I got a little help picking out maybe the best overall deal for fishermen in our area. Justin, Marcy and Kenny (with an “e”) were there from K&M Coffee, Corks and Camo and they picked the “Smoke Wagon”, made right over there in Aggie Country in Texas. Needless to say, they don’t make a purple and gold rod, but they do make 2 lines of rods. Series 1 retails for $135. Series 2 rods are made by hand in College Station for around $200 for a quality American made rod is unheard of.
Crappie Tamer — I love Road Runners, so I’ll admit right up front I had to include one of their new lures. This year’s new innovation with Road Runner type lures has a ringed body with a flaired tail to double vibration and create more sound. The TTI Blakemore lure runs smooth in the water, too. You can fish Crappie Tamers at almost any depth. We got a good lesson in how to use the lure from TTI Blakemore’s Ron Stallings and pro angler Dan Dannenmueller.
Mossy Oak Wellness Fuel – The heat of summer was a great time to release hydration power stick packs. Great tasting, easy to pack and ready to mix in a bottle of water in sugar free Energy, Focus, Immune and Recovery blends. At the show, they had samples and I tasted each one. It’s hard to tell the drink is sugar free and all the flavors were good. And as I mentioned earlier, after walking the show, I needed energy, focus, immune and recovery! We brought home some to try this week while fishing, courtesy of shown by James Heslop of Mossy Oak’s Outdoors RX.
Crappie Magnet Loc and Knoc – Unfortunately, crappie rarely just hang out in open water where you won’t get hung up. There were crappie baits galore here, but it was a little chunk of lead that caught me eye. It slips on your line like a slip cork, twists to lock into place and slides down your line to knock a hung up jig off a stump and save you $3 every time. Nice. Our old Buddy John Godwin was there with Crappie Magnet’s Jeff Smith shows off the new Loc and Knoc lure saver.
Honey Hole – Angling apparel is a hot new part of the outdoor market. None is more attractive, durable or “in” than the Honey Hole line, another Louisiana company from West Monroe. There’s a fishing cap for every day of the year if you want. In fact, in visiting with owner Drew Tyner at the show, he was surprised at how much interest he received. First, as fishermen should, they loved the name. They were also shocked to find out it’s a real life tackle store! My favorite line were the American flag line. If you pay attention to fishing pictures, you’ll see Honey Hole apparel all over the country.
Gamma Line – If you are me, you probably lock in on a couple of old standby brands of fishing line just out of habit. There are lots of new lines to choose from, including Gamma Fishing Lines, which offers a new Panfish copolymer fishing line in optic yellow. I haven’t used it, but talking to others that have convinced me to rethink and respool. I expect some great results. Dale Black is the man behind the plan and a wealth of fishing knowledge, especially about fishing lines. He has numerous top crappie and bass pros on his pro staff.
Premio AI – I’ve never worn a coat and tie to meet a pair of fishing pliers, but frankly when I tested out the new Danco Premio AI (that’s as in Artificial Intelligence, not the name “Al”), I felt under dressed. Created through artificial intelligence, Premio AI is the world’s most advanced, innovative fishing plier. It defies imagination and goes beyond innovation and 3.2 ounces, but is strong as a hammer – handling up to 500 pounds of crimping force. AI is made in America, but it emerged on the world stage today at ICAST. The pliers are elite in every way, including price point – $699. At that price, it might be good if they could make them float. And no, darn it, they were not giving away free samples. And common fishing pliers have hit a whole new level of fashion frenzy with every color, size and pattern you can imagine.
Catch Some Relief (CSR) cream – Walking the ICAST show is a young man’s sport. But I toughed it out. The second day I was sitting in one of the booths rubbing my knees. One of the exhibitors said you need to go next door and check out what they’ve got. I did. CSR cream. A small application of this gave my achy knees relief in less than 10 minutes. And yes, I could still drive. Cannabinoid based cream is controversial, but CBD comes from hemp, not marijuana. So it’s legal. And man, if you are an achy outdoorsman, it does help. I’m not sure it will relieve the stress of not catching fish, though. Just keep that in mind.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission — This group had plenty to promote. Louisiana is called Sportsman’s Paradise, but Florida is without a doubt Fisherman’s Paradise. A highlight of my recent tour of the state was visiting the Hemingway House in Key West, where I saw the very desk and typewriter Hemingway used to write my favorite book, the “Old Man and the Sea”. He came to visit and decided to stay there because of the fishing. The whole state is surrounded by unbelievable saltwater fishing. Inside waters are teaming with freshwater fish. The Florida Commission sets the standard for aggressive fisheries management. Other states could learn a lot from them if they’d take the time to look and listen. Governor Ron DeSantis has even attended the ICASTshows.
Joe Patti’s Seafood — okay, that isn’t an official “fishing” product and it wasn’t at ICAST, but I can’t go anywhere within a half day drive of Pensacola with an empty ice chest if I don’t stop by Joe Patti’s Seafood. We’ve been customers for twenty years. It’s gone from a quiet little bayside seafood market to a foodie destination. It’s still worth waiting in line, especially when Frank, Sr. answered my request to come down the line and personally cut my tuna steaks! Hey, that’s almost like Bill Dance baiting your hook! Tuna, Chilean Sea bass and 10-12 count Ruby Red Shrimp….catch of the day! It’s like fish in your livewell the easy way.
More details on all these products are available from their manufacturers online.