I’ve heard about the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (iCast) for many years, but never actually made it to one before this year. As a member of Florida Outdoor Writers, I can obtain a media pass and given this year’s convention is in Orlando, it seemed like a great opportunity. iCast is the largest sportfishing trade show, with about 10,000 attendees. Essentially every manufacturer, from small town operations to major international businesses, come to iCast to present their new products for buyers to see and order. Most of the new products shown are not available to purchase at the time of the show. There were hundreds of exhibitors; this is a list to give you an idea of who was there.
While the show begins on Tuesday and runs through part of Friday, I decided to go for two days and arrived on Wednesday morning. The registration area really gave no clue as to the size of the show, which was truly overwhelming.
This is just a tiny section of the convention center…
Obviously some kind of plan is needed, but I just wandered down aisles and asked about new products that would be of interest to my kind of fishing…..light tackle, inshore with light tackle. I passed up the ice fishing booths fairly easily. There were four huge aisles with nothing but fly fishing tackle and products.
One of the first new products that caught my eye was an attempt to find the holy grail of inshore fishing with artificials….a weedless topwater bait. Z-man lures have been around for a while and use a unique compound for their soft baits, one that is amazingly tough and stretchy….and it floats. Their new bait is called the Pop Shadz and when rigged Texas-style it is weedless and floats on the surface, even with a hook in place. With our massive amounts of grass in the late spring and much of the summer, if you like to fish topwater baits you are out of luck, but I’m looking forward to giving this a try. It’s built as a popper but the rumor is that they are working on a walk-the-dog type bait. This bait is shipping next week and I’m looking for some in the mail.
A new product that has generated lots of chatter is the Hobie Pro Angler 17T. This massive kayak is more of a fusion vehicle than a kayak; it’s not going on top of your car, but can be easily trailered and launched. A tandem unit, it’s very flexible with seating. It uses two of Hobie’s Mirage drives, introduces a new hexagonal rail to attach extras, and will provide an amazingly stable platform for two people. One great addition for livebaiters is the self-contained livewell with built-in 6V battery, a movable partition and two extra rod holders.
I’ve had the opportunity to fish with TJ Stallings at a previous Outdoor Writers Conference. TJ is the driving force behind TTI-Blakemore, makers of Road Runner lures and Blakemore Real Magic. While a lot of Road Runner lures are targeted for freshwater species, there are always some excellent salt-water possibilities. One that caught my eye was the Bang-Shad Buffet Rig, a double jig with spinners that would absolutely kill trout when fishing the Big Bend flats.
Lots of cooler activity at iCast. The two heavyweights, Engel and Yeti, have been developing lots of competition. Both companies have come out with portable heavy duty coolers that go way beyond any portable cooler you’ve seen before, both in features and in price. This is Yeti’s contribution.
Several makers have determined that fishermen might not feel comfortable cutting bait on top of a $750 cooler, so one hot new item is an integrated cutting board that fits inside the cooler. In addition, Engel has developed metal trays in pairs that fit into their larger coolers. The bottom tray sits directly on the ice. The trays provide lots of flexibility in terms of storage.
Coleman has also gotten into the high-end cooler game with their line of Esky coolers. Available in four sizes from 55 to 205 quart models, they range from $350 to $750 and have a cutting board integrated into the top of the cooler.
I saw lots of items that I thought were exciting, from kayak anchor poles to integrated technical buffs and shirts to Daiwa’s new sealed Ballistic spinning reel which should be totally salt-water resistant. Here are several things that caught my eye. A small company makes a plastic weedguard called the Slide-Off that slides over a jig eye and extends to the hook, making it weedless. It comes in multiple sizes. Calcutta baits is selling an actual vending machine that dispenses frozen chum and bait 24 hours a day. Wild River has made the tackle bag that should include everything you might need for a long trip; it has built-in LED lights inside and outside, a USB charger, an accessory solar charging attachment, and a stereo system.
It was also great to see a lot of friends I’ve made over the years from all over the country that are regular attendees at iCast. For the past few years the convention has alternated between Las Vegas and Orlando, and while I might not make the trip to the desert, I’ll be looking forward to the next Orlando meeting. A great, if somewhat overwhelming experience.