“Live from ICAST.”

This time of year, every media source brings us to the tackle industry’s crowning achievement, the ICAST tradeshow. But rather than cram a bunch of sponsor products down your throats, I’d like to give you the inside scoop from a bass-head just walking around with nothing to prove.

The show is always stellar – well thought out, plenty of aisle room and delightfully cool. But, even in a slightly scaled-back state, the ICAST show is BIG. Huge, really, and nearly impossible to cover properly in the allotted time. I do my best, however, pen in hand, attempting to bring you a feel for what to expect next season.

Let’s start with my favorite category: lures.

The most prominent new products seemed to focus on soft plastics, specifically lure mods catered toward finesse. We’re seeing more anglers and lure designers playing with the possibilities and finding how small lure changes can result in dramatic catch improvements. From what I saw at the show, be on the lookout for worms with minute flappers, arms and rigging possibilities offering a slightly different look.

There were several new hollow frog lures, most with some alternative size, look or legs.

And, of course, there’s always a “random terrestrial animal lure” entered in the new product showcase, this year being an iguana. Yep.

Moving on, there was a push toward hard baits with incredible flashy paint schemes. Almost every new product in that category reminded me of the some of the stuff done in the saltwater market by companies like Yo-Zuri. Look for it to percolate through bass.

Fishing line continues to become more technical, as well. Lines specifically designated for certain techniques increased in popularity a few years ago, and it seems that (marketing) push continues. While it’s a little overdone, many of the newest products are indeed even lighter and thinner. We’re talking, like, mandatory cheater glasses when tying up. And braided line is the most popular category, from what I see, in fishing lines as a whole.

There was even a braid with alternating colors of your favorite college football teams.

Roll Tide.

There were a bunch of new companies in the tackle storage and cooler categories. Once held off by production costs, it seems more manufacturers are jumping in as the world economy changes and international manufacturing continues to trickle down.

And there continues to be tackle systems designed around pedestal seat poles, thank goodness. Remember the old clamp-on jobs that held a couple bottles of Fish Formula close by, along with a rusty spinnerbait and a De-Liar scale? Me too.

Here’s one item I never quite got, but still managed to win a Best of Show category: The Garmin Livescope Ice Fishing Bundle. Can someone explain to me how to use forward-facing sonar when ice fishing? I must be missing something.

Clothing continues to be the big push, more specifically, “lifestyle apparel.” The slogans are beginning to overlap. Life on the water, by the water, around water, from the water, run the tide, living wet, jump in. It seems one of the biggest appeals about fishing is thinking about fishing. And, while I’m critical at times of these latest bumper-sticker sayings, the appeal of such is a sign of positive things. Awareness of environmental issues is a growing trend in our society, and it should be. Nowhere in America are these problems coming to a head more than here in Florida. It’s about time people learned more about the water they play in, and “lifestyle” branding helps that cause.

Continuing with the environmental trends, there was a whole slew of products made from recycled materials, water bottles, nets and plants. Fine with me.

Rods and reels continue to get lighter and more “skeletal.” If you’re a finesse angler, this should fit right into your game plan. Think light, and lighter.

I saw metal-lipped crankbaits (see last week’s story).

And I was blown away to learn that pork rind is making a comeback. Yep, laugh it up. My regular readers will remember me stating publicly that if pork rind reemerged as a bass fishing must-have, I’d break down. Yet, there, in the Uncle Josh booth was the bold-faced headline “PORK IS BACK!!!” Conversations with staff confirmed: there’s still a major public demand for pork in cold-water fishing.

There was a noticeable increase in “catch and keep” fishing products this year. Fillet knives, sharpeners, live bait storage and nets. Not surprising considering the increase in fishing participation last year, as many new anglers fish to bring home dinner. Often, I’m in the same group.

And there was a bunch of “Shark Tank” type stuff; innovations created by a forward-thinking fisher. Like a portable table that fits on a cooler, and a grill for your truck hitch. In fact, I remember seeing at least one sign proclaiming “As Seen on Shark Tank”, though I don’t remember the product being that life-changing. Huh.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite booth, showcasing Wormville, USA, in Colemont, Tenn. You need to see the videos to believe it. Front-end loaders handle composted materials, housing millions of worms on their way to the assembly line.

Ever had Tennessee Spaghetti?

(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.)