Home2016 ICAST RawAdvancedAngler’s 2016 ICAST Best of Show Awards by AdvancedAngler.com’s Staff Another ICAST has come and gone, and now that the new products have been announced, it’s time for Advanced Angler to do our annual Best of Show Awards. While there is a Best in Show contest at the show, we have long felt that the awards would be better served if the voting was done after the media and buyers had the chance to display and explain their products prior to the vote happening. That’s not to say that some of the award winners are not products that we wouldn’t agree with. However, the chance to see, touch and understand a product far exceeds the ability to comprehend a product only on its aesthetics, as the vote is now. As anglers ourselves, we place a premium on innovations and ergonomics in products that we would give the nod to, and while we would love to run down a list of our favorite partner products from the show, we don’t feel comfortable with doing our job for the reader by focusing things solely on partner products. We set out to cover the show in our ICAST Raw coverage, and we ask each team member to evaluate products on their own without the agreement of the collective. Each team member has written their thoughts on the products that they feel deserved some recognition at the show, along with those who won the awards from the voting attendees. They only conversation and organization we have after the fact is to try an avoid duplication of products. If we do have two team members who agree on a product, we allow the one who feels strongest about it take the reins and write their reasoning. In some cases, they may match the awards already handed out, however, in most cases, they are products that didn’t receive any official recognition, but we believe they warrant notice. Without further ado, here is AdvancedAngler.com’s ICAST Best of Show Jacob Fine’s Picks As this was the first ICAST I have attended, I tried to keep an open mind and look for innovative new products for my top five. After watching ICAST from afar every year via social media and only getting a small glimpse of the products at the show I was a little overwhelmed with all the new products there. Still, after years of only seeing the products that had lots of media coverage as being the latest and greatest thing to ever happen to bass fishing, I had a mindset to find those products that might really change the industry. Frabill Mesh and Weigh Bag with Aerator After seeing a lot of products that were just newer versions of the same thing, I stumbled upon this new weigh-in bag from Frabill. With fish care becoming an increasingly important aspect of tournament fishing I see this bag as a great tool to help keep your fish healthy, even in small tournaments that do not utilize large tanks to hold your catch during weigh in. This collapsible square bag comes with a mesh bag that will fit inside most live wells and also includes an aerator right on the side. Lew’s Mach II Combo Rod and Reel While this rod and reel might not be anything new at first glance I do think this product has some interesting features and will be a top seller for Lew’s when it hits the selves. The 10 bearing reel features oversized lime green Winn grips on the handle with a matching lime green Winn grip on the rod which makes this combo look pretty slick. Between the popular black and green color combination and the $179.99 price point I believe this rod and reel is well deserving of the Best in Show combo prize it took home. Bumble Lure Killer Popper As soon as I saw this lure I was ready to take it to the lake and give it a try. This hard bodied topwater lure looks a little funky at first but I find myself drawn to it. I generally fish a floating frog around sparse cover due to the lack of grass on my home lake and this bait looks like it would be a good place to fit in that niche. It has a very buoyant body and an internal weight that keeps the lure up right in the water and with the single exposed hook on the back, hook ups might come a little easier. Kistler Reel and Feel This new rod series from Kistler can be explained in one word – light! I picked this rod up off the rack and my arm just kept going up in the air. Weighing in at around 3-ounces you are going to want to make sure you strap this one down to the deck when you run and gun. The blank on this rod was left un-sanded and has a unique texture to the touch but that also helps keep the integrity of the rod and does not allow for any weak spots to form during sanding. Keep an eye out for this rod in your local tackle stores and if they have low ceilings be careful when you pick it up! SP Gadgets Bottle Mount My final pick for best new product at ICAST might be the most, “why didn’t I think of that” idea ever, a GoPro mount that screws onto any normal plastic bottle! Every time I walk through the GoPro mount section of a store I see several small hand held mounts that are crazy overpriced, but then, what other option do you have? Now you can get this little deal, put on your key chain and BAM you have a pole basically anywhere you can get a bottle! Even better you can partially fill that bottle with sand or water and make a floating tripod! Jason Duran’s Picks I’ve missed ICAST for a couple years because of prior commitments, so, this year I was excited to be back and ready to connect with old friends and meet new people. ICAST really is a unique setting and unlike any other fishing show. Of course my main goal is to shoot videos for our ICAST RAW coverage, but it’s hard not to stop and look at new baits as you walk past the thousands of booths there. Here are the top five that really caught my attention this year. St Croix Legend Series Glass Rods St. Croix Rods has a few new rods this year. The ones that caught my attention were the new St. Croix Legend Glass Series. There are 4 models LGC610MM, LGC72MM, LGC74MHM & LGC711HM. The 7’11 features a Fuji® PSS-SD palming reel seat, which at first in my hand felt a little different. Typically, when you hold a rod you may put one to two fingers above the trigger on the reel seat. On this rod your whole palm and all fingers go above the trigger. This setup will probably take some getting used to, however, once you feel the power you gain on a cast and on hook sets it is easy to see why it’s going be popular. St. Croix describes these rods as premium 100% linear S-Glass rods utilize IPC® tooling technology, are extremely lightweight and make casting, retrieving and fighting fish…a dream. So, yeah, that’s a bunch of lingo we do not typically understand, but I can say the rod feels great in hand as best I can tell on the show room floor. Once they are out I will for sure be interested in having some time on the water with them. They are worth a try for someone looking for an all glass rod. Many of you know the advantage an all glass rod makes in crankbait fishing and fighting fish. Bass Mafia New Tackle Storage Bait Coffin Accessories My second pick is due to my need to always be more organized in life as well as on the water. The one that always is a pain for me to organize is my terminal tackle, and for that, Bass Mafia has a few new tackle organizational options. They have developed the “Terminal Coffin,” this will organize your hooks and weights separately. You can organize them by size, type or however you choose; the options are endless. If you already have a Bait Coffin you can just add the Terminal Coffin inserts to your existing Bait Coffin or you can purchase the whole thing with the inserts. It helps to know what tackle you have and being organized will allow for more time for actually fishing – which is why we are on the water in the first place. Humminbird Helix 10 Electronics have really come a long way in recent years. I’m a technology guy, and when it comes to boat electronics I’ve always had my eggs in one basket, but recently, Humminbird has really caught my attention. The reason is that I fish a lot on the Tennessee River and other lakes where offshore structure is a major factor. When you don’t have a good map of the lake or you can’t see the contour changes on a ledge easily it’s just harder to read the lake. A Humminbird Helix 10 paired up with a Lakemaster chip is quickly becoming a must have for many tournament and even weekend anglers. The screen on these units are brighter and clearer than any unit I have seen. The ability to shade depth ranges on a map with detailed contour lines is excellent. Those features alone are enough for this unit to get my pick, but the features don’t stop there. These units feature AutoChart Live, so if your lake is not mapped, you can simply make a few passes over the area and make your own map. When you add Side Imaging it really looks crisp on the 1024H x 600V HD 10.1 inch 65,000-color, TFT display. So the Humminbird Helix 10 SI gets my pick and is going to be a game changer for me on the water soon. Strike King Rage Swimmer There were countless new soft plastics at the show and with my next pick, I am not necessarily looking at something completely different, but maybe something with just a few tweaks that might produce more fish. The Strike King Rage Swimmer falls into that category. Yeah, there are other baits that are probably similar, but I like the size of the Rage Swimmer especially the width. I think the tail has the right kicking motion in the water. With a company like Strike King producing them, I won’t have trouble find them in stock, whereas with the other guys it was hard to get my hands on any. Savage Gear Suicide Duck and 3D Rat There are numerous items at the show that grab your attention. Sometimes baits seems so weird you think “why did they spend money on that?,” and this next item was one of those. I actually heard about it before the show in a press release and blew it off as a gimmick. When I saw it in person I thought it was cool, but doubtful it would receive any votes, much less win the over all Best In Show in the Hard Lure category. As I walked through the show floor, I spent time looking at this bait with a couple Bassmaster Elite Series anglers. I was again thinking to myself how is that thing gonna catch fish. Then I heard someone say “if I were a bass a baby duck would be a nice meal.” It reminded me of a recent tournament where a raft of baby ducks were swimming carelessly and the momma duck was going crazy. I guess she had seen a bass eat one of her ducklings before. I continued to check back throughout the week at the Savage Gear booth and see what people had to say about the new appropriately named Suicide Duck. The duck was a big hit but 3D Rat that was really my favorite. Yes I think you can catch fish on it, but I really want to buy a bunch to have on hand to scare my kids and wife when they are least expecting it. When I saw it swim in the test tank it was extremely life like. It may be a long shot that this is the next Bassmaster Classic winning bait but stranger things have happened in the fishing industry. Dan O’Sullivan’s Picks Having been to many ICAST shows, you really get accustomed to seeing a lot of “me too” products. This industry is often one that sees companies take advantage of a sales trend by making their own versions of products that have taken the industry by storm recently. The other thing we tend to see each year at ICAST is a rehashing / redesigning of existing, successful products. A company may try to recolor, tweak or completely redesign an existing product line and release it as new. For these reasons, we at Advanced Angler came up with the concept of doing our own Best of Show awards. This approach allows us to view the products during the week, and make our own selections with a premium on innovations and ingenuity. I personally selected several products which I believe are innovative, unique and either solved problems for the fishing community, or made fish catching a little easier, or more enjoyable. Rapid Fishing Solutions Line Guide and Line Clip To be honest, I knew this would likely be a product line I would choose even before ICAST. I had seen the products and even helped the company prepare for the show some. Because they are products that solve everyday problems for anglers, I expected them to be a part of our story, but searched the show for something to replace it, and did not locate it. These are simple, effective products that make line management easier. From stringing the rod guides with the Rapid Line Guide to storing rods more efficiently with the Rapid Line Clip, Mickey Grant, the co-owner of Rapid Fishing Solutions absolutely hit a home run with these products. Biwaa Lures – Divinator “Clone Tech” Colors I saw these lures in the final moments of the show, and immediately fell in love with the color schemes on them. I’m a fan of tailspinners from long ago, and had purchased some of the Divinators when I saw them after their release several years ago. The combination of tailspinner and swimbait is excellent. When I saw these realistic, Clone Technology finishes applied to the soft plastic bodies of the Divinator Series, I freaked out. I’ve seen these lifelike, realistic printed finishes done of hard baits, but hadn’t seen it applied to a soft bait. Biwaa Lures hit this out of the park with this one, and I can’t wait to fish one of these baits, as the Divinator has become one of my favorite offshore offerings. DUCE Rods Echo Series I saw these rods on setup day and spent the rest of the show looking for something I liked better for this award –I didn’t find it. There was something really cool about the combination and the graphics and the spiral wrap that made this series an eye catcher. I used spiral wrapped rods exclusively for several years, and only stopped because the company that was building them for me went out of business. So, coupled with the fact that I know how effective the technology is, and the striking new color scheme, unique reel seat and hook keeper hood, and how comfortable it felt in my hands, I had to go with this one in my choice. I have to admit, using the reel seat thread nut as a hook keeper is absolutely ingenious. SIMMS Challenger Tackle Bag The moment Rich Hohne at SIMMS showed this to me, I told him it had won my award for one of our Best of Show awards. It’s not that I’m personally a user of tackle bags often; my own “tackle box” is 20 feet long and made of fiberglass. But, as a boater, nothing is more frustrating than trying to move through the boat to land a fish and trip on a non-boater’s bag. What usually happens is that I lift my foot to go over the bag effectively, but my toe catches on the handles, and I either stumble, or become distracted while trying to free myself, or my lures get snagged in the handles as well when rods are laying on the deck. The Challenger Bags are effective storage units with a transparent lid to see supplied Plano boxes, a bucket bottom for water resistance and most impressive are SIMMS Quick-Stash, tuck away handles that slide inside the confines of the bag – out of my way. Brilliant! T-H Marine Dual Kong Dash Mount Dual dash mounts for the modern bass boats are really cool. Having the ability to positions two fishfinders directly in front of the driver is absolutely amazing. Up until now, there has been one major drawback; the units are not easily removable, which means anglers will be leaving them on the dash more, which concerns me for security while parking in hotels and on the road. The T-H Marine Dual Kong mount is a boat specific mounting plate equipped with two short KVD Kong mounts that are solid and secure for use on the boat, but also allow the angler to quickly remove the entire unit and its gimble mount from the boat to put in the truck or the hotel room at night. This is the best of both worlds for anglers with expensive dual fishfinder mounts. Rat-L-Trap Stutter Step I love innovation, and the Rat-L-Trap Stutter Step topwater bait really caught my eye because it’s not your average topwater bait.. From seeing a unique arched shape with a pogy-style tail to create action and then seeing the videos of the bait in actions with its varied retrieves, to the explosions from bass on public waterways; the Stutter Step will have a spot in my arsenal the moment it becomes available. Wrapping Up That wraps up our 2016 ICAST Raw coverage. Again, there are products that received actual awards during the show that we completely agree with, would have selected ourselves, and would have added in here, but these are some that we feel needed some recognition for their innovation, uniqueness and problem solving. Look for these and many other products from ICAST coming soon to Monster Fishing Tackle See you next year from ICAST 2017 in Orlando.