This year's ICAST trade show brought oodles of hot new fishing gear to the fore.
Our angler members may have heard about that week every summer when the entire fishing industry shifts focus from America's waterways to the world's largest sportfishing trade show. ICAST (the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades) is not open to the public, so anglers outside of the industry have to wait to hear about all the hot new fishing goodies not yet for sale. We know you would have loved to go, but fear not, we were there to bring you the latest news. While we saw hundreds of new products and dozens of award-winners announced, here are the standouts.
Humminbird's MEGA Live Imaging Targetlock
Anglers across the nation have already adopted real-time imaging systems similar to Humminbird's MEGA Live Imaging, but they all have the same weakness: With the transducer mounted to the trolling motor on the bow, you can only look in the direction the motor is pointing. When spot-locked in place via GPS anchoring, you couldn't control the direction of your view. Enter Targetlock. By creating an adaptive secondary mount that attaches to the trolling motor shaft, but can turn on its own, you can now move the motor and transducer independently via a handheld remote, foot pedal, or from the chartplotter screen. MEGA Live Imaging Targetlock took the prize in the Best New Electronics category, and when we checked it out, we were particularly impressed by the ruggedness of the mount and transducer pole. $1,499 to $2,999 | Humminbird.com
Aftco Woman's Reaper Softshell
In this year's Lifestyle Apparel category, Aftco won for its Woman's Reaper Soft Shell jacket. This fleece-lined, three-layer jacket, made from 90% polyester/10% Spandex fabric, includes an integrated face mask with a shock cord. It has polyurethane-coated zippered hand and chest pockets and delivers both wind and rain protection with its "Durable Water Repellent" DWR treatment. $119 | Aftco.com
It's rare to find a fishing reel so well waterproofed that it carries an IPX rating, but this year's winner in the Best Saltwater Reels category, the Penn Authority, earns an IPX-8. That means it can be submerged to a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes without allowing water intrusion. For oceanic anglers who regularly expose their gear to the saltwater environment, that also means long-term reliability. The Authority features Dura-Drag carbon drag washers, 12 ball bearings, CNC gears, and comes in 2500 to 10500 sizes (for 6- to 50-pound mono); high-speed 2500, 4500, 6500, and 8500 models with boosted gear ratios are also available. $499 to $599 | Pennfishing.com
Considering how many minnows are kept alive in buckets across the nation, you'd think there would be plenty of options for rechargeable aerators. But until now, all have run on disposable batteries. Frabill ends wasteful battery changing with ReCharge. Packing a lithium battery that's rechargeable via a 10v adaptor or a regular USB charger, the ReCharge can be clipped onto just about any minnow bucket or bait cooler. It has a check valve to prevent backflow, a power induction motor, and, according to Frabill, will run long enough on one charge for "extended" days on the water. Approx. $69.99 | Frabill.com
Shimano Stella FK
Do you have caviar for breakfast, get the latest version iPhone the day it's released, and each of the four or five engines on your center-console has as much horsepower as an Indy car? If you enjoy the best of the best of the best, the new Shimano Stella FK, this year's winner in the Best Freshwater Reel category, might be your next choice of spinning reels. We were in a convention center when we handled the 12 ball-bearing FK, so we couldn't actually fish with one, but the smoothness of the reel is dumbfounding. Just as impressive is its light weight. We handled a 2500, which weighs a mere 7.4 ounces — yet it can put out a shocking 20 pounds of drag. 1000 through 5000 (2- to 14-pound mono or 10- to 40-pound braid) sizes are available, in 5.1:1, 5.8:1, 6.2:1, and 6.4:1 gear ratios. $749 to $779 | Fish.Shimano.com
Simms Kid's Tributary Waders
If you have kids who love fishing, you've probably struggled to find them size-appropriate gear. Many manufacturers fail to provide high-quality products in kid's sizes, but Simms steps up with its Kid's Tributary Waders. Available in three sizes, these waders are a blend of three- and four-layer fabrics for breathability and are built to the same standards as the Simms Stockingfoot wader. They feature a reach-through hand-warmer pocket, a woven nylon waist belt, neoprene feet with an antimicrobial treatment, and an attachment point for optional interchangeable flip-out pockets. $149.95 | SimmsFishing.com
Z-Man Kicker Crabz
Fish love eating crabs, but thanks to their odd way of swimming, lure manufacturers have never managed to effectively imitate their motions. Z-Man seeks to copycat those crustaceans with the Kicker Crabz and, judging by what we saw of the lure in action in an aquarium at the show, they may have found the way. The body of the lure is crab-shaped and trails a claw-like appendage with a paddle-tail that kicks and flutters as it moves through the water. The Kicker CrabZ is made from Z-Man’s ElaZtech plastic. It's 3.5-inches long, has a keeled belly that keeps it upright, and comes in a wide variety of colors. $4.99/3-pack | ZManFishing.com
And The Winner Is ...
Each category winner is entered for the Best of Show award. After topping the Soft and Hard Coolers category, the PacBak P88-MK Combo took the top prize. This is one über-cool rotomolded cooler, with 58- and 22-quart compartments, an integrated battery-powered vacuum sealer, a slide-out cutting board, and a locking cutting table on the top. Essentially, it acts as a complete fish-processing station you can take with you into remote areas or far offshore. Use it to vacuum-pack your fillets right on the spot and enjoy the best possible quality meals back at home. $899 | Pacbak.com
Everyone Loves An Underdog
As interesting a product as the PacBak may be, the story of its development is even more compelling. Inventor Brian McKinnon, an Alaska native, is a survivor of the 2017 Las Vegas Harvest Music Festival mass shooting. The trauma of the event, which included the loss of McKinnon's best friend, led to post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and homelessness. The need to refocus his life — along with his memories of the incredible taste of fish cooked on the grill right after being caught — led him to research cooler rotomolding, batteries, vacuum-packing, and countless other issues with product development. Just three weeks before the ICAST show, McKinnon decided he was ready to display the PacBak, but at that late time was only able to secure a small 10-by-10-foot space on the periphery of the convention center floor. Being tucked away in a corner did not, however, prevent him from entering the PacBak in the Best of Show awards — nor did it prevent the PacBak from beating out more than 900 entries to claim the top prize.