ICAST 2023, Seeking Out Next Season’s Hottest Gear

by Jared Mounts

  The world’s largest sportfishing trade show, ICAST, kicked off their 66th year at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando Florida from July 11-14th.  The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia is responsible for bringing manufacturers, distributors, media, and retailers from all over the world together under one roof in Florida for four days.  

  This event has become an annual ritual for the Jake’s Bait & Tackle family to attend to find out what’s new and upcoming to bring back to our great customers to help them catch more fish or bigger fish.  As a Regional Editor for Woods & Water Magazine, I want to bring this news to W2 readers as well.  

  Networking and building relationships with industry anglers are also a big part of the ICAST experience. Front Royal native and angler Cilla Johnson also attended the ICAST on the Water for the first time this year.  She has quite the resume in the fishing industry.  Cilla reps for Berkley Fishing, Abu Garcia, Jackson Kayak, Power-Pole, Cashion Rods, ZMan, Torqeedo, and YakAttack and many more.  She represented the United States and Team Philippines in the 2023 Kayak Fishing World Championship held in Tennessee.  Whether she is chasing snakehead on the Potomac or competing in the NVKA tournaments, Cilla is an ambassador for woman anglers.  

  At the State of the Industry breakfast we learned 54.5 million people, six years old and older went fishing in 2022. Kids fishing from 6-17 years old is up 2.5 million from last year.  Woman are up 42% for first time fishing.  An amazing 1,100 new products were introduced in 2023.  

  Our first stop was the ICAST On The Water event held on one of the ponds next to the convention center.  Approximately 20 vendors were set up along the walkway promoting their product.  The unique thing about this outdoor venue is participants can try out the product on the water.  

  Kayaks, watercraft, and the Torqeedo electric motor can be seen buzzing around the pond. Rods and reels were also used casting lures into the pond.  

  Bill Siemantel of of FishLab BBZ was on hand to introduce us to their new line of spinnerbaits and buzzbaits.  The 4.5” Bio-Blade Buzzbait is one of a kind with a two-piece independent blade design that can be bent on the water to provide a different clack pitch.  We were able to see on the water how quickly this buzzbait got up on plane and we could hear firsthand the loud distinct pitch on a slow and fast retrieve.  The buzzbait was built for adding a plastic frog as it is skirtless.      

     Another noteworthy new soft plastic bait is The Bomba by Missile Baits.  This is a 3.5-inch finesse, thick, craw body worm that casts and skips like a rocket!  Fish it Texas-rigged and weightless to erratically fall to the bottom while gliding, rocking, and even going away from you at times.  

   Jacob Wheeler and Rapala worked extensively to create the CrushCity soft plastic line.  Wheeler noted he created “the soft baits I need to win tournaments”.  The Bronco Bug has the most lifelike action with snapback “bronco kick” when it lands, imitating a defensive craw.   

  The new forward facing sonar technology has opened a new market for lures.  The new Yamamoto Scope Shad is a three-inch perfect profile rigged for a vertical presentation.  Throw this on a Buckeye Scope Head that is weighted to give it a horizontal natural presentation for suspended fish.  

  The last soft bait that caught our attention was the Geecrack Bellows Gill Swimmer.   Most are familiar with the popular Bellows Gill profile.  They’ve added a paddle tail for more water movement.  At 3.2 inches, it is recommended to use a 4/0 EWG swimbait hook to rig it horizontally.  

   Manufactures can enter new products into 37 different categories as part of the New Product Showcase.  Participants vote on their favorite in each category.  Here are a few of the category winners that you may be most interested in.  Release dates for each of these products vary as some are available now and others may not be available for several months.  

Best Freshwater Soft Lure

The Berkley PowerBait Nessie 

  This soft bodied jointed glide bait is slow sinking, great for skipping, and has the Powerbait scent.  It features a mesh reinforced joint for durability while allowing for free range of motion and stabilizing fins for consistent action.  It comes in 10 custom-painted, forage-matching finishes in three sizes and retails for $12.99.  A quick disclaimer on this lure: at the time of writing this article I came across a post by Mike Bucca in reference to a dispute between Grow Design Works and Berkley Fishing.  You can check out Bucca’s post on his Facebook for more details and discussion.  

Best Terminal Tackle

VMC Swingin’ Ned Rig Jig

  The new articulated jig head design maintains a solid stand up with added flow and natural swing movement to your Ned rig presentation.  Adjustable fluorocarbon keeper, offset point, long shank, and wide gap will work on many of your plastics.  The heavy head and design allows for longer casts, better bottom contact, and great crawling action.  Retailing at $5.49 for a 3 pack in 3/16, 3/8, or   ounce weight. 

Best Freshwater Hard Lure

Z-Man Chatterbait Elite EVO

   Z-Man’s patented direct head-to-blade connection allows for quick start vibration and increased hunting action.  It features a hybrid molded split-grip wire trailer keeper to secure your favorite soft plastic trailers.  What anglers will notice differently about this line will be the new head paint schemes, skirt color patterns, and blades finished with a glitter coat.  Retailing at $9.99

Best Fishing Line

Shimano’s Mastiff Fluorocarbon

  The 100% fluorocarbon, produced in Japan, will offer strength, durability, and smoothness.  Anglers will note the line is smooth to the touch however engineers have added NANOARMOR technology to it.  Nano-size ridges across the outer surface of the line will enhance knot strength and toughness, preventing slippage and reducing the risk of line breakage.  Retail price of $24.99 for 200 yards.

Best Freshwater Reel

Shimano’s Stradic FM

  Smooth as a hot knife through butter, the Stradic FM adds infinity Xross technology for unequaled gear durability and synergy.  This parlays Shimano’s legacy of cold-forged HAGANE gearing for added strength with the refinement of MicroModule II.  InfinityDrive delivers increased cranking power under load while the new Duracross Drag provides the smooth performance of felt with up to 10 times the durability.  Retail Price of $219.99 

Best Freshwater Rod

St. Croix Mojo Bass TRIGON

  This rod features St. Croix’s proprietary, new, ergonomic TRIGON handle and Dynamix Reel Seat design based on anthropometric data.  The rod series is built on premium SCII carbon or 100% Linear S-Glass blanks (reaction-bait models only), with length, powers, and actions to support bass fishing techniques from BFS to eight-ounce swimbaits.  MSR of $175

Best Rod & Reel Combo

Abu Garcia ZATA Baitcast Combo

  The ZATA low profile reels feature a 10+1 bearing system for smooth operation.  The lightweight graphite frame and Infini brake system offers limitless adjustability to handle all of your fishing situations.  The reel is paired on a 24-Ton graphite blank with stainless steel guides offering great sensitivity to strikes.  Suggested Retail of $229.95

Best Motorized Boating Accessories

Power-Pole Move ZR Trolling Motor

   The Power-Pole MOVE ZR scissor lift style is perfect for traditional bow-mount bass boats.  Made to handle both saltwater and freshwater with multi-layered corrosion resistance, it’s built with compound fail safes and held strong with an unbreakable aerospace-grade titanium shaft.  MSRP is $4999.99

  Each year we attend this fishing industry conference, I walk away with a new appreciation for the collaboration of all of the great people bringing angler products that continue to get the job done on the water.  Innovation and improvement to products is always on the minds of the folks in the industry.     

   The owners of American Baitworks is rolling out a new line of Bait Fuel for the saltwater anglers.  They want to make sure it’s not a gimmick but scientifically proven to work through extensive studies.  

   You hear Bill Siemantel with FishLab Tackle talk about the “Science of the Strike”.  The water is their lab and they love research.  Similarly, Jacob Wheeler built a testing pool to create the new Crush City line of plastics for Rapala.  He talks about the perfect hardness as well as softness to get a consistent action that produces often. A desire to be the best and win tournaments drives them to excellence.  

   Whether you are a recreational, weekend warrior or competitive tournament angler you can be assured the leaders in the fishing industry put their time in on the water and in the lab to bring you something that will produce.

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