Per the ICAST website, “ICAST, the world’s largest sportfishing trade show, is the premier showcase for the latest innovations in fishing gear, accessories and apparel. ICAST is the cornerstone of the sportfishing industry, helping to drive recreational fishing product sales year round.
I was fortunate enough to attend this year’s show and to say the least, it was overwhelming. Nearly every manufacturer in the fishing world had a booth there and all of them were dying to show me their latest creations. I’m not sure if it was the energy created by a large group of like-minded, excited people in one place or my bass-like attraction to shiny things, but it was easy to get caught up in the buzz, and, at least momentarily, feel like I NEED all of these new gadgets and toys if I ever hope to catch a fish again. Honestly, it really is fun to just get swept away like that every now and again. But now that I’ve had a couple days to calm myself, I realize that most of it was hype. Don’t get me wrong. I love the fishing industry and support the idea that the important renovations and ideas come from this constant cycle of “new and improved”. But rather than look for that “magic” item that will make fish throw themselves into my boat, I look for improvements that make the tools I use to catch fish more reliable and efficient. Let me tell you about a few of the items that have stuck with me a week after the show. And, please bear in mind, I am not compensated by any of the manufacturers I am about to discuss. These are just my observations and opinions.
I saw the Insight Genesis mapping system from Lowrance and almost immediately saw the possibilities. This system allows you to create detailed, customized, contour maps of the water you’re fishing while you’re fishing it. Now, I know that technology has been available from a couple of the electronics manufacturers for a couple years now, but this system has a few features I was unaware of until this show. Not only can you plot depth contours, you can also overlay vegetation growth data and bottom composition. That’s huge! As you know, vegetation edges and bottom composition changes don’t always follow a specific depth contour line consistently. As I’ve always done, I would try to position my boat the proper distance from fish-holding edges to make consistent high-percentage casts. The best, and only, way I have known is to follow a specific depth as I worked my way down an edge. It was always understood and accepted that a certain percent of my casts would be less than ideal as those edges meandered unexpectedly. Now those edges can be displayed on my map unit. Plus, in the upper-Midwest, where I do most of my fishing, weed beds grow and shrink with the seasons. With this system, I could save a spring, summer and fall map, so that no matter what the season, I could put my boat and my casts in the perfect, highest-percentage spots every time. It’s not magic, and I still need to know what to do with the information, but it really could increase efficiency in a meaningful way.
This next one might fall a little closer to the shiny new toy column, but I still find myself thinking about it. Live Target is introducing a Hollow Body Sunfish that fits into the hollow body topwater frog category. I guess what I like about it is that it offers a distinctly different choice to the traditional frog profile. This bait really does dive and twitch like a dying sunfish, but can be fished in and around the heaviest weed cover. My only concern is whether the hooking percentages will be similar to the best frogs, but that remains to be seen. In any case, it’s a very cool idea that offers a viable option to one of my favorite tools.
Reel manufacturer Ardent is now selling a new style of fishing line that was developed in Europe. They call the line Gliss. Gliss is an extruded fiber that combines the smoothness and cast-ability of monofilament, with the low diameter-to-break strength and zero stretch of braid. And, the production process is supposed to be so efficient that the cost will be 20% lower than most braids. I haven’t had a chance to fish with it, but I did check it out at the show and it feels pretty good. Maybe not a game changer, but it’s still been popping up in my thoughts. I look forward to discovering its applications.
In the category of “taking care of the variables you can take care of”, dependable, smooth, high-quality reels can make an important difference. The fish don’t know or care what reel you’re using, but not worrying about your equipment leaves you free to focus on your fishing. Shimano has always been a solid choice for smooth, trouble-free reels. One of their flagship models, the Aldebaran, is unbelievably smooth–butter, I tell ya’. But, that kind of quality and precision comes at a price that a lot of guys will not want to afford ($400-ish bucks). If you do decide to invest, you will not be disappointed. However, Shimano has released another option that really is worth considering. The new Casitas comes in at around $120, and I can tell you, feels surprisingly good for that price range. Think of it as the Aldebaran’s scrappy little brother. It is very compact, ergonomic and lightweight. I have not had a chance to put it through its paces on the water, but I have been using many of Shimano’s reels for years and I would expect similar performance from this model.
Shows like this are great for the fishing industry, which, in turn, is great for the fisherman. True advancements and innovations are born here. Like I said, it’s easy (and, admittedly fun) to get caught up in the hype, but remember, most of it will not actually help you improve your success on the water. So, my approach to the show is much the same as my approach to fishing. I gather information with an open mind, sort through the distractions, and keep fishing forward.