This week, all eyes are on the annual ICAST show, where manufacturers showcase their best new options in fishing tackle. Held annually in Orlando, ICAST reminds us that there’s still a bunch of engineers tinkering to build better mousetraps. Or, at least, trendier ones.
While I normally wait to report my findings until after the show, I thought it might be interesting to discuss some general trends, evident by what’s being showcased as new products. Perhaps, by looking carefully and considering the intent of the manufacturers, we might draw a conclusion of things to come, and the direction of our own industry.
The world of bass fishing, as you know, is always changing.
I must first comment on what I see as perhaps the greatest initiative of any manufacturer: AFTCO’s submission of a women’s apparel product into the ICAST new product showcase. Why is this so groundbreaking? Because the group’s Women’s Reaper Hoodie will have to compete against an army of men’s apparel, which will be voted on for Best of Show, largely, by men.
AFTCO’s marketing push has been geared toward women recently; they sponsored one of the best-known female captains in the Louisiana market, and here they’re ready to go mainstream with the idea.
I would wager that the AFTCO piece has a real shot to win. From the perspective of a guy with a fishing wife, I can assure you that women’s fishing apparel, up until this point, has been lost in the stone age. Perhaps we’ll continue to see a push to expand the sport to females. Better yet, will someone finally figure out how to do it for bass fishing?
ICAST 2019 will showcase more braided line than ever before, with many lines being technique-specific. There’s braids for flipping, braids for night fishing, braid for fishing ChatterBaits. Yes, you read that correctly – there are now “lure-specific” braided lines, designed to be the ultimate blend of flex and force, for a given lure.
I highly doubt this will catch on. I mean, is it really relevant for us all to have specific rods, reels and lines for each individual lure? Okay, don’t answer that.
Sure, looking back at the evolution of hardcore bass tackle, we can all vividly remember someone asking us. “Why do you have so many rods?” with the obvious answer explaining technique-specific fishing for maximum efficiency. Perhaps it’s time to take that example to the extreme?
Moving on, this year will finally prove to be the time for expansion in the trolling-motor market. I say “finally” because we’ve heard rumors of introductions for several years now, with nothing to show for it. But in 2019, I’m assured both Lowrance and Garmin will enter the electric trolling-motor game. It will be interesting to see how this percolates down through the field staffs of those companies, as nearly all of today’s top pros are currently using the Minn Kota Ultrex. Will the new models have what it takes to compete?
Also in the boating market, we’ve seen more movement into digital switching for outboard motors. This may seem boring, but it really shows development across the board for outboard propulsion and more user-friendly models. Soon, all boats will drive more like cars; quick, clean and quiet.
As is the case each year at ICAST, new lures will make up the real bread-and-butter of the show. The general trend there: smaller finesse jigs and plastics, and high-tech topwaters.
The jig game is a no-brainer, as everything in the bass world has revolved around the Ned Rig for a while now. I always have to chuckle a bit about the Ned Rig, as it’s documented use has really been around for years, as reported by In-Fisherman, but evidently it took a while to catch on.
Perhaps it was all about timing. The Ned Rig excels in tough fishing environments, as we all know, and may have been previously overshadowed by power-fishing techniques, and publicity for tournaments featuring mega catch rates. Perhaps recent finesse-focused events have gained attention for the rig. Or maybe the BPT’s “all fish count” format can be credited. In any case, what we’re seeing now are dozens of micro jigheads and, literally, hundreds of small, matching plastics to ride along. Are we now focusing on quantity first in our fishing?
Regarding topwaters, press releases show walkers, splashers, spitters and wobblers. Some have wings, some have blades, and all have incredibly sharp hooks. Much like the attention to detail we saw infuse the swimbait market several years ago, anglers are now demanding the most realistic and refined topwater lures ever. Are we trending toward a more enjoyable bite, or are bass becoming more susceptible to baits on top as the rest of the water column becomes overcrowded?
Finally, I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t recognize the advancements in tackle storage. While we’ve seen numerous players enter the market in recent years, 2019 will showcase the breakthrough designs of one of the industry’s most iconic brands: Plano. A revolutionary rust elimination system was recently introduced, as well as a completely new concept in Stowaway storage that brings the storage concept into an entire new category. Will consumers recognize such quality and open their wallets, or continue to demand $3 tackle boxes for their $20 lures? Maybe times are indeed changing.
Ah, yes. ICAST. Where fishing geeks unite, to see just how far the public will go – and how much money they’ll spend – to fool one more fish.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)