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  • Ken Perrotte

Soft Lure Wins 2021 ICAST Best of Show; Pure Fishing Dominates Competition This Year

A soft lure won Best of Show honors at last week’s ICAST (International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades) show in Orlando, Florida, the first time such a lure won the top prize.

The bluegill-shaped lure, Berkley’s PowerBait Gilly, is infused with a flavor touted to entice fish to bite and hold on. PowerBait flavoring has been a staple ingredient of Berkely soft lures for years.

Best of Show winners are typically higher-end items such as electronics, boats, or expensive rods and reels. The soft lure competition category is usually one of the most heavily entered. The last time a soft lure under $10 was considered a serious challenger for Best of Show was in 2019 when LIVETARGET debuted its Hollow Body Craw design .

According to a Berkely announcement, the new lure was inspired by Japanese bass fishing techniques studied by Berkley pro Mike Iaconelli. The bait resembles a chunky forage fish, anything from a crappie, bluegill, or sunfish to a tilapia or gizzard shad. The lure, available in September, will be offered in standard and HD colors. The suggested retail price ranges from $6.49 to $7.49.

The ICAST show, now in its 64th year, is always a favorite, sporting a laidback vibe, even though it’s the world’s largest sportfishing trade show. This was the first time in more than a decade I missed attending in person. Last year’s show was held “virtually,” a valiant effort by the American Sportfishing Association, the show’s owner.

“Best of Show” and “Best of Category” winners are selected by credentialed buyers and media who vote on products in the New Product Showcase, sponsored by Fishing Tackle Retailer magazine.

This year saw 686 entries by 218 companies, a somewhat surprisingly high number after last year’s shutdown. Years preceding the COVID-19 pandemic routinely saw about 1,000 entries in the competition.

A Pure Fishing Blitz

Berkely is a Pure Fishing [] brand, along with other iconic names such as PENN, Fenwick, Garcia, Mitchell, Shakespeare, Stren and others. Pure Fishing entries took 10 of the 30 awards in this year’s competition. Frabill and Plano Molding, brands acquired earlier this year when Pure Fishing bought Plano Synergy Holdings Inc., won four categories, including Boating Accessories, Soft and Hard Coolers, Fly Fishing Accessory and Tackle Management. Pure Fishing kept the Plano Synergy product lines best suited to its market interests while selling hunting and archery brands to GSM Outdoors.

Pure Fishing’s 2021 performance marks a strong resurgence for brands many perceived as struggling, at least in terms of management marketing attention, when the business was controlled by Newell Brands from 2016 to 2018. Sycamore Partners, a New York-based private equity group, now owns Pure Fishing.

The best boating accessory is Frabill’s Ultralight Conservation Net, with fish-protecting innovations like knotless, dipped, micro-mesh netting and a flat, linear bottom that reduces fish rolling while supporting the entire weight of the fish.

The winning cooler, Frabill’s Universal Bait Station, is soft-sided and insulated with a molded, nonslip base. It holds up to eight quarts of water and has a battery-operated aerator to supply bait with oxygen.

Plano’s EDGE Micro Magnetic Fly Box was the best Fly Fishing Accessory while the Atlas Tackle Pack won the Tackle Management category

Other Pure Fishing category winners included Berkley’s Choppo, Saltwater Hard Lure; Abu Garcia’s Zenon Rod, Freshwater Rod; Abu Garcia’s Veritas Baitcast Combo, Rod & Reel Combo; and Greys Tital Fly Reel, Fly Reel.

Apparel company AFTCO (American Fishing Tackle Company), [] dominated the apparel entries, winning four categories, including Lifestyle Apparel for Women with the Womens Fields Utility Overall and Lifestyle Apparel for Men with the Rescue Regenerated Fishing Shorts. AFTCO also won the warm weather and cold weather categories of Technical Apparel with the Adapt Tactical Phase Change Hooded Shirt and the Barricade Elite 4L Waterproof System, respectively


Daiwa won both the Best Freshwater and Saltwater Reel competitions with its Zillion SV TW and Saltist MQ, respectively.

Other Winners by Category

Boats and Watercraft: BOTE LONO Aero + APEX Pedal Drive

Giftware: HitchFire Forge 15

Footwear: XTRATUF Ankle Deck Boot Sport

Eyewear: Costa Del Mar, Inc. Untangled Collection - New Frames Made from Old Nets

Electronics: Hummingbird MEGA Live Imaging.

Cutlery, Hand Pliers/Tools: Bubba Pro Series Cordless Electric Fillet Knife

Fishing Accessory: Kahuna Wagons’ Sidekick Fishing & Beach Wagon

Kid’s Tackle: Anything Possible Brands’ ProFISHiency NERF 5FT 6IN Micro Spin Cast Combo

Terminal Tackle: Sharkbanz Fishing The Zeppelin - World's First Shark Deterrent Tackle

Ice Fishing: Garmin LiveScope Ice Fishing Bundle LI

Fishing Line: Seaguar BasiX

Freshwater Hard Lure: Rather Outdoors’ Strike King Chick Magnet Flat-Sided Crank Bait

Saltwater Soft Lure: Savage Gear USA, Inc. Duratech Crab

Fly Fishing Rod: G. Loomis NRX T2S 8810-2

Saltwater Rod: Bull Bay Tackle Company Banshee Rod - Bull Bay Rod

For an ICAST-produced video featuring company representatives outlining features of some of the best new products, check out the link below.



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