By Todd Ceisner
Officially, the doors to the 2017 ICAST show don’t open until 9 a.m. Wednesday, but Tuesday certainly offered ample opportunities to get a taste of what’s to come.
Between the On the Water event, held this morning and afternoon at a pond adjacent to the Orange County Convention Center’s North/South Concourse, and the New Product Showcase on Tuesday evening, some may be already suffering from sensory overload.
Here are 5 things that stood out to me:
Can’t Go Wrong
I spent roughly three hours in the oppressive heat and humidity at the On the Water event, getting a chance to see some of the new-for-2018 products in action. Thirty-three manufacturers were represented and the proximity to the pond gave media and buyers ample opportunity to try out kayaks and paddleboards as well as the latest rods and reels from the industry’s top brands. A couple bait companies were present, but their overall representation was lacking.
Quantum was there. So was Abu Garcia. Shimano, too. Daiwa had a booth, as did St. Croix. 13 Fishing was on hand. Newer brands like Favorite Fishing and Ark Rods had a presence as well. I had all of their latest gear in hand and got to make at least a few casts with each. Later on, I was asked by a product manager from one of the companies how I thought his employer’s new products stacked up. He didn’t mean to put me on the spot, but it happens sometimes in my job.
I was careful how I replied, but I was honest: It’s hard to rank these products anymore in an objective way. His company hit a home run as far as overhauling a well-known product line and keeping it in a reasonable price range.
I also said it must be a tough time (and a great time) to be an angler – bass, crappie, pike, walleye, inshore, offshore, ice, fly, etc. – because there are so many solid options available in terms of equipment. Nobody, in my estimation, makes a bad product and the competition for market share has never been fiercer.
Each price bracket in the rod and reel segments is loaded with quality choices for virtually any on-the-water pursuit. In the end, the consumers are the winners.
Props are a popular feature being incorporated into more and more baits lately.
Put a Prop On It
If you pay close enough attention to the tackle industry, you’ll notice certain trends that pop up over time. We’re mostly still in the abyss-diving crankbait phase and swimbaits continue to swell in size, but over the past couple years, the popularity of River2Sea’s Whopper Plopper has prompted companies to incorporate paddle props into some of their new baits.
River2Sea has seized on its success and will introduce several new baits this week that have various prop or Whopper Plopper-like features to them. Among them is a new hollow-body frog that’s called the Phat Mat Daddy Frog, the brainchild of pro Ish Monroe. The Phat Mat Daddy is a bigger bodied frog, but River2Sea connected a plopper blade to the hook to create more of a disturbance on the surface. Another version of the same frog has a rattle chamber, instead of the blade, connected in the same fashion.
Japanese tackle giant Megabass, which has grown its presence in the U.S. and always has a clean and crisp space at the show, will not have a booth at ICAST this year.
"Given that we release the majority of our new product in Japan in February, the increasing reach and prominence of the Bassmaster Classic Expo both as a media event and as product release platform presents a perfect opportunity to pivot toward the Classic Expo, aligning our natural release schedule with one of the most impactful consumer events in our industry," said Megabass of America president Yuskei Murayama.
Other companies sitting out the show as exhibitors this year include Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits and Navionics.
Buckets of Cash
While a 5-gallon bucket often isn’t much to look at, when the suggested retail price is three figures, it’s worth a closer look. Among the items on display in the Boating Accessories category of the New Product Showcase was a 5-gallon bucket made by HUCK Performance Buckets. It’s an off-white color with a sturdy, coated handle and padded non-slip feet on the bottom made by Vibram, which is a global player in the outdoor footwear world.
This 5-gallon bucket from HUCK Performance Buckets will retail for $119.95.
The product description claims it’s a 5-gallon bucket on steroids. So, too, is the MSRP at $119.95.
Century Club (Almost)
Speaking of price tags, Ranger Boats on Monday night unveiled its 50th anniversary Z521L Icon Comanche at its annual dealer conference in Branson, Mo. The price tag (equipped with a Mercury 250-horsepower Optimax Pro XS) – a cool $98,995. Ouch.
U.S.A. Bassin team wins ICAST Cup
The three-man team of Richard Patterson, Dave Smith and Glen Cabezas caught a 20-07 bag this morning to win the third annual ICAST Cup at Lake Toho.
Patterson and Smith are sponsored by U.S.A. Bassin, a team tournament trail with divisions in 22 states. Cabezas was the media representative. He’s the chief content provider for AnglerGear.net.
The event drew a record field of 69 teams and raised $14,000 for the Keep America Fishing Foundation.
“This was my third time fishing (the ICAST Cup) and I’m glad to be here,” said Cabezas. “It was a great day and really showcases what the lake is capable of.”
His partners of Patterson and Smith are locals who fish plenty of tournaments on Toho and help run U.S.A Bassin’s Toho Division.
“I nicknamed our team ‘hammer and two nails’ today,” said Patterson. “We caught our fish early and then around 8:30 or 9 o’clock it started to slow down. That is when we thought things might be going pretty well.”
“We rolled up on a waypoint this morning and doubled on a 4- and 6-pounder right away,” added Smith. “It was a great time. When the fishing slowed down, we just slowed down with them.”
The trio targeted clumps of grass with a lipless crankbait, vibrating jig and a Texas-rigged big worm.
Here’s how the top 10 teams finished up:
1. U.S.A. Bassin (Richard Patterson, Dave Smith, Glen Cabezas): 20-7
2. T.A. Mahoney Co. (Tom Mahoney, Mike Hardy): 19-12
3. C-MAP (Greg Huff, Candler McCollum, Kyle Wood): 16-15
4. 13 Fishing (Ricky Teschendorf, Jesse Mizell: 16-4
5. Bob’s Machine Shop (Steven Pelini, Tim Parker, Les Bendert, Thomas Oltorik): 15-4
6. Boca Bearing (Fisher Cusic, Brian Stockl, Andrew Mata, Bradley Dortch): 15-2
7. Vicious Vision, Nitro & Bass Pro Shops (James Barnett, Rob Jordan): 13-12
8. Aqua Tech Marine/Bass Cat Boats (Robert Branagh, Thadeus Ragan: 13-7
9. Lew’s (John Carman, Peter Thliveros): 12-11
10. Shimano (Matthew Mattingly, Andy Hagedon, Alex Davis): 12-10