ICAST 2018's New Product Entries: mind-blowing electronics, cool lures, hi-tech rods
Updated: Feb 24
The 2018 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, better known as ICAST, show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando recently wrapped up. Held July 10-13, it attracted more than 15,000 representatives from the domestic and international recreational fishing and boating community. ICAST is produced by the American Sportfishing Association, the sportfishing industry’s trade association.
Two of my favorite venues are ICAST On the Water, where manufacturers exhibit and demonstrate some of their top new products at a large pond in front of the convention center and the New Product Showcase, sponsored by Fishing Tackle Retailer. Here, manufacturers enter what they believe is their best new fishing tools or accessories across 24 categories. Once individual category winners are selected, an overall “Best of Show” champion is selected. I get to vote in this competition. This year’s showcase had 974 products entered by 331 companies. I picked seven winners with two other products that won making my “second place” list. That’s down from my best year when I picked a dozen winners, but I’ll take it.
Here’s a look at some of the new stuff that caught our eye. As asterisk * denotes a showcase category winner. First, a drum roll, please…
Garmin won ICAST’s “Best of Show” award for its new Panoptix LiveScope. This is a live-scanning sonar that gives anglers high resolution and easily interpreted images of structure and the bait and fish swimming below. The simulations Garmin had running are somewhat mind blowing as you can see fish, including their size and numbers around the boat. Garmin says it’s even possible to identify the fish species with the unit’s clarity. See Panoptix LiveScope in action here. Bassmaster Elite Series and Garmin pro, Fred Roumbanis, said, “Never before have you been able to tell what species of fish you are looking at like this. You can see the movement, you can see the profile. I was snapping a jig on the bottom and I saw a walleye and I could see the fins of the walleye! There’s no way I could have seen that before.”
Like other Garmin Panoptix transducers, LiveScope features two modes in one transducer – LiveScope Down and LiveScope Forward. It can be installed on a trolling motor or the transom (recommended only for LiveScope Forward) and easily be adjusted to change views. Point it down to see directly below the boat, or forward to see around the boat. Either view provides real-time scanning sonar images up to 200 feet down or away from the boat. The scanning sonar system includes a compact GLS 10 sonar black box with an LVS32 transducer and a simple plug-and-play Garmin Marine Network connector for integration with a compatible Garmin chartplotter. A trolling motor barrel and shaft mounting kit and a transom mounting kit are also included. Panoptix LiveScope is compatible with Garmin’s ECHOMAP™ Plus 7Xcv/7Xsv/9Xsv chartplotter/sonar combo series, as well as the GPSMAP® 8400/8600 multifunction displays, GPSMAP 7400/7600, GPSMAP 10X2/12X2, GPSMAP 12X2xsv Touch and GPSMAP 7X2/9X2 series chartplotters. The MSRP is $1,499.99. For more information, videos and images, visit www.garmin.com/panoptix.
Raymarine is tapping into the increasingly popular world of drones and now is the first to integrate unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV/drones) flying and video capturing into its on-deck electronics, controlling the UAV and viewing images directly from the Axiom display. Compatible with the DJI Mavic drone, the Axiom UAV app automates many common tasks including launch, airborne imaging, in-flight navigation, and return-to-boat. The app can send your UAV aloft to observe fish, bait, reefs, weed lines and more. Raymarine’s Jim McGowan demonstrated the technology at ICAST’s On the Water event. The “Fish On” application had the drone preprogrammed to launch at the touch of a button, fly on auto-pilot 50 feet above the boat (or, in this case, tent) and then orbit while shooting video of the action below. It can also be programmed to automatically avoid obstacles. Another push of the button returned it to its launch location. This is some cool sh-tuff! www.raymarine.com/multifunction-displays/axiom/. See a video of McGowan's demo at the Miami Boat Show here.
New small watercraft always get a lot of attention. This year’s showcase winner was the Jackson Kayak Blue
Sky 360 Angler, another in the increasingly popular line of pedal-driven boats. This 13-foot, 4-inch long, twin hull craft is designed for stability with an ample 30-square-foot deck for gear. It’s like a pedal driven (12:1 gear ratio), personal pontoon boat. It features a swivel seat, rod holders, four storage hatches and gear tracks. Handles 400 pounds and sports an MSRP of $3,499. Yes, they’re pricey. But if you routinely access lakes or ponds where motorized craft are prohibited or want to slip into unmolested creeks and channels on bigger bodies of water, these personal craft can be terrific.
Many of the other new small boat offerings this year reflect a downsizing of existing product lines. For example, Old Town’s Predator PDL kayak was a recent-year best in show winner. I have one and love it. It’s fast and stable, affording excellent hands-free fishing. It’s also big and not easily portable. Old Town’s new Topwater lineup has two paddle-powered versions that shave a couple feet and about 35-45 pounds off the weight (depending on the model). These load much easier into your truck or carrier. TheTopwater 120 handles the same 500 pounds as the larger Predator PDL. It weighs 82 pounds. The Topwater 106 is more compact, weighing just 73 pounds. The MSRP is $999 and $899, respectively. The new, pedal-drivenTopwater PDL Angler is 10.5-feet long and weighs 100 pounds fully outfitted. It’s priced 1,999 ($800 less than its bigger brother). Old Town is offering Topwater customers through Sept. 28, 2018, a free Humminbird fish finder with the purchase of any new Topwater Series fishing kayak. Customers buying an Old Town Topwater 106 or 120 can get a Humminbird PiranhaMAX 4, while customers getting a Topwater PDL receive a Humminbird Helix 5 CHIRP GPS G2. www.oldtowncanoe.com/topwater.
There were hundreds of new lures to examine. And way too many to cover here. Many are variations of lures designed as long as 50 years ago. Others change a blade design on a spinner or combine features from two previously diverse lures. Some just look like upgrades of tried and true products, whether it’s crankbaits, jerkbaits, buzzbaits, jigs and more. This video looks at the 13Fishing Octopi jig and more. I may have caught and released a world record fish with that jig the day ICAST ended. It was an oyster toad - some wouldn't call that slimeball the king of fish, but I'd take a record anyway I can get it. It turns out we'll never know. We didn't want to slime the nice blackfin tuna already in the ice chest so Mr. 5-Pound Toad went back into the water. I'm sure this jig will catch other species, too. See that story and some video here.
Here’s a quick rundown.
Anytime I've fished a buzzbait, my expert buddies tell me I have to "burn that thing" over the surface. This buzz bait is a standard size bait but instead of having to rip it fast across the water it’s designed to be
fished slower without sinking. It has a quick-planing head with a keel configured to keep the bait running true. The unique S-curved blade cups more water producing a bit more drag, letting you work the lure slower. It has a 5/0 hook, complete with bait keeper, comes in 3/8- and 1/2-ounce versions and six colors. MSRP: $7.99. www.booyahbaits.com.
Cotton Cordell Minnow
There are always new variations of crankbaits and jerkbaits. This (it comes in many different patterns) looks like it would be a great lure for walleye trolling, but would certainly entice bass, as well. The CO7S version is a medium-diving minnow that dives 6-8 feet deep. The C07D is a deep-diving minnow that can reach 12-14 feet deep. MSRP: $5.49. www.cottoncordelllures.com.
Odin Lures and “Fish Smack”
This New Hampshire-headquartered company makes its saltwater and freshwater lures in the United States. Company president Robert Sundstrom told me he hand paints each one. The lures are plugs, some designed to float, some to dive. You inject via a port in the lure’s mouth a thick, liquid fish attractant called Fish Smack. This slowly oozes out small vents in the lure’s “gills”leaving a scent trail and a taste that fish are supposed to find delectable. There have been other lures in the past that incorporated scent. We’ll find a way to give this one a try. Sold online only. $32-$39 for starter packs. $19-$29 for just the lures. www.odinlures.com.
Z-Man Eye Strike Fishing Weedless Eye Jighead
Good jigs equipped with a good soft plastic catch a lot of fish. This looks like it’ll be a really good jig. The concept is a jighead that resembles an oversized set of fish eyes. They’re touted to be exceptionally good at catching redfish in cover. I think anything in cover will like these when rigged with an appropriate soft plastic. The designers recommend a 3.75-inch Z-Man StreakZ for speckled trout or a pearl-white Z-Man MinnowZ. Bull redfish favorites include a Scented PaddlerZ or Diezel MinnowZ. The weed guard protecting the hook wards of snags from grass, oyster shells and more without compromising hookups. Molded into the base of the jighead, a conical dual trailer-keeper locks baits in place. The current hook offering is a heavy duty, 3/0 black nickel
Mustad®UltraPoint. Available in 1/8-, 3/16- and ¼-ounce weights and five colors. $6.99 for a 3-pack. www.zmanfishing.com. I also liked Z-Man's new Finesse Bullet Z weighted jig head. Check them out.
LIVETARGET Hollow Body Craw *
This was the lure many voters thought might be the first $10 product to win ICAST's “Best in Show” award. It won the best new, soft freshwater lure, blending elements from bass jigs and hollow body topwaters. In some respects, it’s a lot like a pig and jig and could be fished much the same, but it can also work on rocky or sandy bottoms to mimic a fleeing crawfish (or, if you prefer, crayfish). The lure’s hollow head and cephalothorax anchor a snag-resistant design. The hook eyelet protrudes from the top of the slightly curved abdomen, orienting any retrieve the way nature intended, with the craw moving in reverse—head, pincers, antennae, and a flared silicone skirt that mimics a craw’s walking legs and feeding appendages. The internal jig head weight produces tapping, clicking and clacking sounds to attract bass. It will be available later this year in three lengths and weights with eight ultra-realistic color patterns. MSRP of $9.99-$11.49. www.livetargetlures.com. Also check out LIVETARGET's winning saltwater lure, the "Fleeing Shrimp," and the new "Commotion Mullet."
Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow
All Crystal Minnow Freshwater lures have Yo-Zuri’s traditionally distinctive “flat-sides” and features highly detailed bodies with prism finishes that light up in murky water. These are attractive lures, designed to mimic an injured baitfish, swimming erratically and sending out flashes of reflected light from its broadside of scales. The lures feature Japanese black nickel split rings and treble hooks, and realistic, oversized holographic 3D eyes. Multiple sizes and color patterns. MSRP $10-$13.99. www.yo-zuri.com.
Westin Freddy the Frog *
This hard-bodied lure remembles a big bullfrog, with a realistic body and multi-jointed legs that kick as you crank it through the water. Danish lure manufacturer Westin designed it with a front lip that allows the angler to slowly wake Freddy the Frog on the surface at almost any speed. It dives/dips just slightly when retrieved. When paused, it sits nose up out of the water, similar to a frog’s natural position when floating. The lure has a large single hook on the tail of the bait as well as a 1/0 treble hook on the belly that can be removed to reduce snags when fishing in/around heavy grass. This lure is designed for larger, predatory fish. It’s 7 ¼ inches long; priced at $29.99. www.westin-fishing.com/en.
Savage Gear 3D Swim Squid
This ultra-realistic lure will have you thinking you can make calamari if you don’t want to fish with it. It’s based on a 3D scan of a squid with pulsating fins and tentacles. MSRP: $12.99. www.savagegear-usa.com.
Lunkerhunt Saltwater Assist Jigs
These come in three body styles: the flutter, needle and cur bait jigs. I really liked their finish and could easily see a fish attacking this jig as it fluttered in the water column. I also like the feathered hook setup. MSRP: $7.99. www.lunkerhunt.com.
Mojo Yak *
St. Croix won three awards for best new rods. Here's a look at two of them. This new rod is available in six spinning and two casting models, ranging from 7 feet to 7 feet, 6 inches long in medium-light, medium and medium-heavy powers. The fast-action rods deliver casting distance are designed to offer generous backbone to hoist fish up from water level with the sensitivity to understand exactly where your lure lies beneath the boat. They’re made with high-modulus SCIII graphite, have a Fuji DPS reel seat with black hoods on spinning models or a Fuji ECS reel seat with black hoods on casting models, Kigan Master Hand 3D guides, a custom Winn split-grip handle and a Kigan hook-keeper. Priced $150-$160. www.stcroixrods.com
Legend Glass Spinning *
This St. Croix line extension is new for 2019. It’s a 7-foot, two-inch medium power, moderate action spinning model designed for smaller crankbaits and lighter line. It’s made with linear S-glass, Fuji K-Series tangle-free guides, a Fuji DPS reel seat with frosted silver hood, cork handle and a Kigan hook-keeper. It’s backed with a 15-year transferable warranty. $260. www.stcroixrods.com.
Lew’s Custom Black LFS Baitcast Combo *
Lew’s continues to impress fishing industry insiders and anglers with its fine quality, excellently matched rod and reel combos. This winning new combo is built on the popular LFS (Lighter, Faster, Stronger) platform. The baitcast reel features a one-piece aluminum frame with graphite side plates, a premium 10-bearing system with stainless steel double shielded bearings, as well as strong, solid brass Speed Gears, and a new “P2 Super Pinion Gear.” One thing many anglers like about Lew’s combos are the Winn Dri-Tac knobs on the reels and the Dri-Tac split grip on the rods. The rod is a new “Custom Black Speed Stick,” made with a one-piece HM50 Tour Grade graphite blank with nanotechnology, sporting American Tackle Microwave guides with Nanolite inserts for less wind knots and longer casts. The combo comes with either 7-foot medium or 7-foot, 3-inch medium heavy power rods. The speedy 7.5:1 gear ratio reels are available in right or left-handed models. MSRP $279.99. www.lews.com.
Siegler Fly Reel *
Designed in Virginia’s scenic Northern Neck by Siegler Fishing Reels, this lever drag fly reel has a unique asymmetrical spool that improves line lay, capacity and structural integrity. With a 4-inch diameter, it weighs 10.9 ounces. The clutch pack is carbon fiber and stainless steel, producing up to 30 pounds of drag. Interestingly, Siegler just began designing saltwater fly reels a couple years ago. The company’s mainstay products have been inshore big and small game saltwater reels. Many charter boats around the Chesapeake Bay use this small company’s products. MSRP: $1,000. www.seigler.fish.
Shimano Tekota Levelwind Reel *
Most entries for best new saltwater reel were spinning reels, so it’s not too surprising Shimano captured best for this nice, improved levelwind offering. It has rigid, strong brass gears, a smaller palming side plate. Versatile, you can cast with it, troll, or simply jig. MSRP: $209.99. www.fish.shimano.com
Shimano Curado DC baitcasting Reel *
An extension of the wildly popular Curado line, this winning freshwater reel, amazingly, has a small microcomputer that monitors spool speed 1,000 times a second and applies the right braking to minimize backlashes while maximizing distance. Who’d a thunk it? MSRP: $249.99. www.fish.shimano.com.
K4X Kayak/Canoe Anchor
Made by Tightline Anchors, this lightweight (14 ounces) anchor collapses into a compact package, is made of 18-gauge stainless steel and has stainless steel cabling to attach lines. Companies are already designing anchor deployment systems for kayaks that will work well with these new anchors. Lightweight poles inserted through scupper holes are common kayak anchoring tools, but their their length restricts their utility. These lightweight anchors solve that problem. Your anchor line length is your only limitation. Available in 9 Cerakote color options. $65. www.tightlineanchors.com.
Underwear for Men - Defeating the Scourge of Schweddy Balls
Central Florida can be hot during July afternoons, so when a guy at ICAST On the water sees a table with a handmade sign asking, “Do You Have Schweddy Balls?,” it gets your attention. And prompts some, uh, introspection. Florida company Underwear For Men borrowed a classic Saturday Night Live bit and used it to pique angler interest and summon memories of hot, humid days on the water with sweat-welded family jewels. Guys, you know what I’m talking about; ladies, take it on faith. Company CEO John Polidan explains that the latest generation of products is designed to support, lift, isolate, cool and comfort to prevent that swampy feeling that plagues male fishermen. Most fishermen sweat, bounce and get wet leading to chafing and discomfort, unless, as Polidan noted, "You wear Underwear For Men.” Here’s how it works. A patent pending, mesh pouch is integrated into the boxer briefs. This pouch isolates your junk, helping to prevent chafing, sweating and adjusting. I view the design, somewhat, as a breathable jockstrap meets boxer brief. You ease your bobbers into the pouch and then give a drawstring near the waistband a tug and, voila, you lift and separate – to steal a line from an old bra commercial. I tried a sample pair while fishing after for tuna near Fort Pierce after ICAST. Gotta admit - they're darn comfy and perform as advertised. They come in multiple styles, seven colors and sizes from XS to 5X. They range in price from $22 to $26, not bad for the world of high-performance underwear. You can get a $5 promo discount for a first purchase at www.UFMunderwear.com.
Costa Baffin Sunglasses *
Costa makes nice sunglasses and the company throws a ton of marketing behind the product. Costa sunglasses are frequent winners in the New Product Showcase – and won this year with the new Baffin line. The cool thing about Baffins are the frames are made from 100 percent recycled fishing nets and are also recyclable. Costa has been a leader in promoting the importance of reducing plastic pollution, especially in our seas. MSRP: $199. www.costadelmar.com.
Wiley X Kobe
The brand I want to cover in more detail here is Wiley X. I discovered this brand via its connection to the military and the innovative glasses they began making during the wars in the desert. Their soft, removable “Facial Cavity” seal let you have quality sunglasses that behaved more like goggles, sealing out wind, airborne debris and reflected light. Another thing going for Wiley X is the lenses meet ANSI-Z87.1 High Velocity and High Mass Impact Safety standards. Beyond filtering UV light, these can protect your eyes when unforeseen projectiles come hurtling your way. That, alone, makes them my top choice. Plus, their price points are often 25-50 percent power than many competing lifestyle brands. Wiley X rolled out several new models this year. Two “Climate Control” styles (WX Wave and WX Titan) include the facial cavity option. Then, there are four new Active Lifestyle Series glasses (WX Ace, WX Kobe, WX Hayden and the WX Klein), including the company’s first-ever metal framed aviator style shades. www.wileyx.com.
AFTCO Hydronaut Heavy Duty Bibs and Jacket *
This rough weather gear is made from a two-layer nylon shell with polyester tafetta lining. The bibs have adjustable Velcro shoulders, handwarmer pockets, a pliers pocket, a buckle waist cinch,and Cordura-articulated knees and seat. They open by zipper up to the knees with the opening protected by a double storm flap. The bibs sell for $229. The hooded jacket has covered chest pockets, pouch and handwarmer pockets, and rubberized internal sleeve cuffs. It sells for $249. Oh, and since everyone wants a body cam to record their greatest moments, the bibs come with a Cyclops integrated camera mount pocket while the jacket has a Molly system camera mount pocket. These will be available in October 2018. www.aftco.com.
Mustang Survival Hudson Drysuit
Mustang, a longtime maker of foul weather and survival gear for the military, now offers this recreational dry suit. It’s made from 4-layer Marine-Spec BP fabric, the most durable waterproof and windproof material in the Marine-Spec family. The outer layer is formed from durable fabrics with abrasion-, salt water-, and UV-resistant features. Internally, a fully waterproof and windproof non-porous membrane combines with a microporous coating for maximum protection. Nick Mitcheltree, a Coast Guard boatswain’s mate who accompanied me to the show and visited the Mustang booth was salivating over the great neck gaiter on the suit, noting that the stuff he wears on duty in rough weather would benefit from this design. MSRP $999. We also checked out Mustang’s Bluewater 55 liter pack (see video below). It retails for about $118. www.mustangsurvival.com.
Rivers Edge Fish Sandals *
You'll be "styling" all day in these award-winning new fish sandals from Rivers Edge. The voters went for form over function, eschewing classic entries such as fishing shoes, wading boots, deck boots and more for these $14.95 beauties. Get two pairs!
Scales Baiting Suits
Finally, if you've kept up this far, here's a "can't miss" little lifestyle number for the seagoing/fishing lass. A $90 bikini from this south Florida company -- but it looks worth it, especially with the teaser baits accenting the hips! They make a couple different models. That's all for now...