Diary of an ICAST Rookie

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7/18/2011 – by Steve Reed – Advanced Angler Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: One of our Staff Writers here at Advanced Angler.com is a young man named Steve Reed. Reed is a graduate of the University of California at Davis, a graduate of FLW’s College Fishing program and a friend to many anglers throughout the pro ranks.

Reed spends a significant amount of time each year traveling with the pros, and spending time in their boats during practice and competition. He is well known and well liked among the anglers that we cover in the sport of bass fishing.

That said; the 2011 ICAST show in Las Vegas was Reed’s first. We decided that it would be interesting to hear what Reed though of the show, and allow him a chance to pick some of his favorite things that he saw while there.

So, here it is, the Diary of an ICAST Rookie.

As a first time attendee I was definitely overwhelmed, although I’ve heard that feeling may never go away. There are hundreds of booths with the newest tackle, apparel, and technology from all over the world. Every name badge I viewed presented another industry name I was familiar with and it was a pleasure to finally put faces to the names and in most instances get a little insight into their business. As a media member I wrote more notes, shot more video, and asked more questions than I do in the other 51 weeks of the year combined.

At the end of each day I found myself mentally drained, but anxious for the next day where I’d have the opportunity to do it all over again. Walking around trying to get a feel for the show was a lost cause. This is the kind of thing you have to jump right into and pay attention because around every corner is another product with an unexpected innovation that could be the next big thing. Here are some of the products that stood out to me.

Gamakatsu Swivel Shot:
From the mind of one of the most innovative finesse anglers on the planet, Shinichi Fukae, the Swivel Shot by Gamakatsu is perhaps the most innovative finesse tackle since the wacky jig head. The product is a dropshot hook positioned right in the middle of a rotating swivel. Attached to the bottom of the swivel is a line pinch like what you find on most drop shot weights.

Shin Fukae Swivel SpinAs best explained to me by Fukae himself, the new hardware will stop most line twist encountered by the traditional drop shot, but unlike similar products it does not spin the bait around. You will still be able to present the bait in the same manner as before. He also adds that the tangled mess you often find in the fish’s mouth is no longer a problem because now you can simply remove the leader line attached to the weight and deal directly with removing the hook. I really liked this product and think it could lead to more creative ways of dropshotting.

New Rods G.Loomis, Phenix, Okuma:
When I attended the new product showcase the night before the event I went through each of the new rod offerings. Many companies chose to do off the wall color schemes or concepts. Usually I think this sort of thing is good for the growth of the industry, but after taking a look at some of the most ridiculous rods I had ever seen I was rewarded with the following three companies’ new series.

G.Loomis GL2 rods are leaps and bounds ahead of most entry level rod offerings. I know that most people would suggest at their nearly $200 price tag they should be, but just scanning their competition in that range you will notice these rods are far from ordinary. The new handle is ergonomically designed to fit in the palm of your hand with ease. The design aspects are really neat and their new designation of application specific rods is very savvy from a business perspective.

GL2 GLoomisNext up is the company I had a hard time leaving off my best in show list, Phenix. Phenix is amazing. The rods they delivered showed much more value than their $159-$189 price-point. They have SiC guides and a Fuji split real seat with EVA grips and something about them just feels “right”. I’m not sure how they did it, but the rods really have that “it” factor and the media members that really took the time to inspect them were quite fascinated as well. These will surely be a winner.

Phenix Assassin RodsFinally, the new Okuma Helios series was my choice for best new freshwater rod. These things look as cool as they feel. As I’ve come to find out, I have really expensive taste when it comes to rods and usually dread looking at the price tag of my favorites. This time was different. The new Helios rods from Okuma could have easily held a significantly higher price range.

Okuma Helios RodUpon first glance these look like a JDM product because the detail is really neat. The technical aspects include a higher module blank than most in this price range, with a Pac Bay MINIMA reel seat that heightens sensitivity and keeps the total weight of the rod at only 3.6 ounces for their 7′ model. There may be no better money spent than on the new Okuma Helios series.

Quantum Reels:
I’m certain I’m not the first or the last who will praise the new Quantum EXO reels, but in all honesty they deserve every bit they get. These reels are so cutting edge, so aesthetically brilliant, and so technically sound that I can’t think of anything bad to say. While competitor Shimano cut back on features and alienated a lot of their loyal customers Quantum went out and did it right.

One year after presenting their Smoke reels, which by the way are comparable to most companies top end offerings, Quantum decided to lay the hammer down, or in the words of KVD “Lights out”. With two of the best salesman at their disposal, Quantum decided it was time to join what most enthusiasts consider a two horse race. Not any more. This reel is every bit as well designed as one that may sell for twice its price of $249.

Quantum_EXO_baitcastJackall Clone Gill:
When I saw this bait it only took me a second to think about where’d I’d be utilizing it. The Clone Gill can best be described as an exact replica of a bed raiding bluegill. It’s a very tiny bait that reminds me of all the small brim that hangout around docks and tules and often time are the worst enemy of bedding bass.

This bait will be a killer rigged on a dropshot anytime the bluegill are the primary forage of big bass. Jackall pro Cody Meyer has some really tricked out rigging techniques that he said he’d share with the public right after the Forrest Wood Cup this year, until then he plans to keep it under wraps. This bait and other hyper-realistic plastics from Jackall are going to be a big hit in the spring of 2012.

Jackall Clone GillFinally the biggest industry wide improvement came from the apparel companies. Let it be known that I am very critical when it comes to all apparel. My educational background includes a degree in Textile and Clothing Marketing and several projects I worked on while in school were UPF related. This year the development of comfortable UPF 50+, the highest rating attainable, clothing was the trend.

Simms made a huge splash with a completely revamped line of functional, comfortable, and dare I say fashionable clothing that were presented by their new pro-staff consisting of Kelly Jordan, Brent Ehrler, Aaron Martens, and Ish Monroe. The gear is a little pricey, most items are situated directly atop the price range of similar products, but their unique ability to combine sun protection with comfort is definitely something new in the industry and worth a look.

For an ICAST rookie this experience is one I’ll not soon forget. The networking and camaraderie inside the industry was quite shocking for an outsider looking in for many years. Aside from tournament fishing, this was probably the most enjoyable experience I’ve had within the fishing industry and I’m already looking forward to next year.