Without a doubt, the highlight of our July calendar each summer is attending the annual ICAST Show. Most all major industries have trade shows and ICAST is billed as the granddaddy of them all for the recreational fishing industry.
ICAST is an acronym – International Conference of Allied Sportfishing Trades, organized and promoted by the ASA – American Sportfishing Association, the membership of which includes fishing tackle and accessory manufacturers, manufacturer’s representatives, product distributors, retailers, and the media. The massive Orange County Convention Center complex in Orlando, Florida was the venue for the 2017 event.
Pretty near everybody has attended a fishing and boat show. Here in Texas, the annual Dave Holder and Associates - Houston Fishing Show is a pretty big deal. Imagine if you can the Houston Fishing Show on about a 100x scale, with tackle and related goods on display from manufacturers from around the world. To add a bit more perspective, the display booths of Shimano and Pure Fishing alone would represent approximately one-third the floor space of the Houston show. You need a program to navigate the place. Attendance this year exceeded 15,000 registered visitors – and several thousand employees and representatives manning booths.
The four-day event opens on Tuesday afternoon with the New Product Showcase. Manufacturers large and small are invited to display the products they will introduce to the market in the coming months, with a head-to-head competition wherein retailers and media attendees cast ballots for their picks of the most innovative and useful new products of the lot. Best of Show awards are awarded by product category and highly-coveted within the fishing community.
Given the incredible array of products displayed at ICAST, and so many eyecatchers, compiling a concise list would be impossible. So, in attempt to bring you the goods and gadgets we liked most, I struggled but eventually pared it down to the these.
Known more their high-performance baitcasting reels, 13 Fishing garnered a Best of Show in the Kids' Tackle category with the Ambition Combo that includes features found on many full-sized rods. MSRP: $59.99
Competition in the Fishing Line category is always brisk. Pure Fishing topped all entries with their new Berkley Fireline Ultra 8, thermally fused line with 4x more abrasion resistance than original Fireline. Pounds-test ratings range from 4- to 30-pounds. MSRP: $19.99
Costa Del Mar, one of the premier fishing eyewear brands and winner of many previous ICAST awards, topped the Eyewear Category this year with their Sunrise Silver Mirror Lens. Shallow water anglers will love the polarized efficiency of these new lens in low-light conditions. MSRP: Starting at $189
The Fish Smart category winner was Eagle Claw’s Flounder Sample Pack. The innovative long shank design of these hooks promotes the hook lodging in the jaw for easy removal – perfect for catch and release of flounder during the November-December special regulations season.3-pack price: $2.86
This year’s Footwear Category winner was Huk Gear with their Huk Attack fishing shoe. Huk’s been turning lots of heads the past couple of years with their technical clothing line. Now the Attack fishing shoe. Keep an eye on Huk! MRSP; $84.99
Keeping with their tradition of offering super-lifelike fishing lures, the LIVETARGET Hollow Body Mullet was very well received and captured Best Saltwater Soft Bait awards. The weedless features of this bait will allow imitating mullet sliding through shoreline cordgrass perfectly. The weedless hollow body concept has been proven highly-effective in other lure types – this one should be killer for shoreline redfish.
Best Saltwater Hard Lure honors were captured by Rapala’s X-Rap 40. This lure can be trolled as fast as 13 knots – the massive lip design enables it to dive unassisted to 40-feet. At 7-inches long and 3.5-ounces and tough steel hooks, this one has king mackerel written all over it. Comes in 20 proven big-water color patterns.
The hits just keep on coming from Shimano. The newly introduced Shimano Sustain C4000/5000 ran away with top honors among all new saltwater reel entries. New gear technology coupled with high line-gather are but two of the features that Shimano has incorporated into these new designs. MRSP: $309.99
Simms Fishing is another brand that has garnered multiple ICAST awards over the years. Any Texas angler who enjoys dry and warm wintertime wade fishing knows why Simms is trusted by so many. The Simms G3 Guide Stockingfoot Wader came away wining the Fly Fishing Accessory category but do not be fooled – sure to be a hit with fly anglers on western rivers and streams, this fine product will perform yeoman service in Texas salt water, too. Features all-new four-layer Gore-Tex pro-shell fabric in the legs and three layers up top. Simms most breathable yet. Chest pocket, hand-warmer pockets, integrated utility tabs, and front and back leg seams. MSRP: $499.95
If there was ever an Energizer Bunny award for new product introductions, Yeti would have to be in the running, it seems they just never quit. ICAST’s 2017 Fishing Accessory Category award went to the new Yeti Panga Duffel. This air-tight fully-waterproof duffel looks perfect for use as a boat dry-bag, packing fishing and hunting clothing and gear, and just about anything you could imagine. The super-tough exterior will stand up to the rigors of as many uses as you can throw at it. Handy straps make it easy to carry or backpack. Comes in three sizes: 50, 75 and 100. MSRP: 50-$299.99, 75-$349.99, 100-$399.99
Another Item we found at ICAST that genuinely piqued our interest is the new Concept-Z baitcast reel from 13 Fishing. 13 Fishing burst on the scene a few years ago and immediately began turning heads with their Concept series baitcasters, delivering exceptional casting performance and silky-smooth drag clutches. Their limited-release Concept-TX, designed specifically for Texas flats and inshore applications, got snapped from dealer’s reel cases as soon as they could be unpacked. Now comes Concept-Z, a reel with a feature that could end up revolutionizing baitcast design.
Saltwater is the all-time nemesis of fishing tackle – even with frequent cleaning and lubing, the ball bearings that have traditionally provided the smooth long-casting capability we require, corrode and fail all too soon. Enter Concept-Z—the reel from 13 Fishing built without ball bearings!While “no bearing” reels have appeared in the past, none performed adequately and soon faded away. 13’s Concept Zero Bearings (CZB) are actually bushings machined precisely from proprietary high-tech polymer, designed and manufactured in the USA. No rollers – no corrosion – all performance. Initial product releases are scheduled to arrive in coming months. I’m dying to get my hands on one!