Tackle and Gear Junkies Beware!

The TSFMag crew just returned from ICAST and I am pleased to report it was quite a show.

American Sportfishing Association's International Conference of Allied Sportfishing Trades is the granddaddy of fishing shows. All the latest and greatest products are there and the debut of much that will be introduced in the coming year is unveiled at the ICAST New Product Showcase; the highlight of which is a reception reserved exclusively for members of media and retailers the evening before the show opens to the general ASA membership. Highly-coveted "Best of Show" awards are garnered through popular vote of the invitees while the manufacturer's employees and marketing representatives are excluded to preclude influence on the ballot. And I must say selecting the best new product in each category was a difficult task there were that many great ones.

This year's event was the largest I have attended, held in concert for the first time with IFTD, International Fly Tackle Dealer trade show. Having opportunity to roam aisle upon aisle and see firsthand the offerings of both the conventional and fly-fishing tackle industries was enough to drive this junkie insane.

Apart from the glittering array of goods and barrage of promotional hype, the ICAST is perhaps even important in other ways. Trade shows at this level are excellent indicators of the health and growth of industries they represent. And since anglers of all persuasions benefit greatly from ingenuity and innovation in tackle design, witnessing the willingness of tackle manufacturers to invest in R&D required to bring new and improved products to market each year serves as a barometer to gauge where the industry is headed and how we as anglers will benefit. Also important is discovering the impact of regional markets on the industry.

From what we saw I'd say the industry is healthy and growing, and Texas is receiving greater attention than ever.

Clothing may be the fastest growing commodity right now, not only the fashion aspect, but function as well. High-tech fabrics are being developed specifically for fishermen and garment design has achieved a quantum leap past the old bellows-pocketed styles that made fishing under a midsummer Texas sun nearly unbearable. Advances in waders, wade-fishing footwear and jackets are equally impressive and everybody in the industry is aware Texas is the epicenter of wade-fishing in coastal water. Texas-based ForEverlast Products won a Best of Show with their G2 Wade Fishing Net and wait till you see what Simms has in their 2014 catalog.

For paddling enthusiasts, we saw more attention being given fishing kayaks and kayak fishing gear than possibly all previous ICASTs combined. Power-Pole won Best of Show honors with a shallow water anchor system designed expressly for kayaks and micro-skiffs. That tells me a lot.

Rods, reels and lures were in profusion. Shimano hauled in a stack of New Product awards and announced a Chronarch with casting brake system so revolutionary it may well change the industry.

I found ICAST 2013 exceptional; great news for Texas anglers.