Advanced Angler’s 2014 ICAST Best of Show

Bucks Skeeter Yamaha
Bucks Falcon Mercury

One of our favorite stories each year is our own “ICAST Best of Show Awards.” Each year, the media and buyers are asked to vote on the products that they feel deserve awards as the best items in their categories. The one problem with these awards is that the media and industry attendees are asked to vote before they even get the chance to learn about the products.

We like to examine all of the products during the actual show days and then determine what items we think are going to have the most significant impact on the tackle and fishing year ahead. Our intent is not to belittle the winners named at the show, but rather to provide you – the reader – with our objective opinion after we have had a chance to take in the show floor.

You will see that some of our picks are site partner products, but they are there because they match our desire to see innovation and ingenuity in a product offering. Many of these products are not produced by partners of Advanced Angler; but rather products that we believe deserve some extra attention for their merit.

Our panel of voters include Advanced angler’s managing editor Dan O’Sullivan, and Rob Lever, staff writer and founder of the We Love to Fish program.

Rob Lever’s Picks



I’m a guy that fishes a ton by myself so having a good system when I launch is important. The summer months are the easiest because it’s not bad getting in the water but spring and fall in New England can be tough. This year on the floor in Orlando I found the product that is perfect for launching by yourself on those cold mornings; the Z-Launch.

The Z-Launch is a “bungee” style cord that makes it easy to stay dry when launching. It is simple; you back the boat down the ramp until it is floating in the water and then drive up the ramp slowly until the trailer is out of the water. The Z-Launch stretches and then pulls the boat back up to the ramp for you. Once you unhook the cord you can drive up and park your truck. Check out the video on the Z-Launch in our Raw coverage section and you will see how cool this new product is!

Team Lew's Lite

Team Lew’s Lite

Lew’s Team Lew’s Lite
Weighing in at 5.7 ounces the Lew’s Team Gold Lite casting reel is amazing! The best part is that it’s not just the weight that makes this new offering from Lew’s amazing. Once in your hand you will see how amazingly smooth this reel is. Over the course of the week at Icast I was able to see many reels but everyone that compared to the weight of this Team Gold didn’t seem to be as smooth.

Also another great feature of this reel is its handle. Made of carbon and featuring cork paddles, this handle is crazy! I was lucky that I was able to spend some time using the reel at Tackle X and I was completely blown away by how easy it was to cast. A simple flick of your arm will launch your lure out an amazing distance. Retailing at $239.99 is a great price for this amazing for a reel of this caliber.

Rigid Industies Trolling Motor Light

Rigid Industies Trolling Motor Light

Rigid Industries Trolling Motor Light
If you couldn’t tell from my first pick, I’m addicted to gadgets for my boat. Yes I admit that I have a problem and Rigid Industries’ Trolling Motor light just adds to my addiction. This power LED light is made for my Minn Kota FORTREX and will make it easy to get around on congested water during early morning tournaments. This will serve as a great addition to my Rigid lights that are already installed on my boat.

EGO Lure Retriever
We have all had that day when we were nailing fish on our favorite crank bait. This next product is perfect because we all know you will get hung up right as you are searching for that kicker fish. The EGO lure retriever is going to be your best friend when this happens. Part of their S2 Slider line, this cool attachment to their slider handle is going to be in my boat soon.

I was introduced to this product by Elite Series angler James Niggemeyer. Running a successful guide business on Lake Fork,   Niggemeyer raved about how many lures have been saved during guide trips. His exact quote was the EGO S2 Lure Retriever is “worth the price of admission”. This is just the product I need to help me save all my favorite lures.

Gene Larew Rally Grub

Gene Larew Rally Grub

Gene Larew Lures Rally Grub
An article I once read said that grubs are like bass candy and when the fishing gets tough I normally have a grub tied on. This year Gene Larue has release a ribbed body grub with a flat knob tail called the Rally Grub. The difference in the tail is what gives this grub a different action that mimics a small bait fish.

Measuring 3.5 inches and coming in 12 different colors this grub will be a great addition to my tackle. Tackle X gave me a head start on using this bait. Paired with a light line spinning outfit I was able to cast the grub a mile and feel the vibration of the tail with the rod tip.

Dan O’Sullivan’s Picks

Skeet Reese Double TriggerWright & McGill Co. Skeet Reese Flippin’ Rod
When Skeet showed me this innovative new trigger system he incorporated into his new Flippin’ Stick, I had two reactions. First, I wasn’t surprised, because Reese is the kind of angler who creates products that solve problems anglers face, and secondly, I thought, duh, why didn’t I think of that?

The rod is made of a new carbon material and high-end components, but the reel seat and trigger system were unique. Reese incorporated a secondary trigger at the front of the reel seat that allows anglers to use multiple hand positions have extra leverage during hooksets and fighting bass in cover fish without sacrificing grip. We give this patent pending invention a major thumbs up – Bravo Skeet.

Quantum Line Weight Marker

Quantum Line Weight Marker

Quantum Smoke Line Marker
Chris Strickland showed me this new invention at Tackle X, the day before ICAST began, and I had to put this in the “that’s frickin’ brilliant” category. Apparently, a certain angler from Alabama with a penchant for making people laugh got tired of stickers and writing line sizes on his rods, so he helped Quantum figure our this unique addition to the rod butt.

This marking system allows the angler to turn a spring loaded dial at the butt of the rod to display line weights from 6 to 65-pound-tests so an angler can know what line weight he or she last spooled on the reel. Talk about making the job of organizing a little simpler. I only hope that they decide to do an aftermarket version that will allow me to mark all of the rods I currently own. This is innovation at its best.

GMan Flippin' Fluorocarbon

GMan’s Sunline Flippin’ Fluorocarbon

Sunline Flippin’ Fluorocarbon
Sunline is the first company to offer technique specific fishing line, and in conjunction with Gerald Swindle, they offered up their new Flippin’ Fluorocarbon line. Specially formulated with a little extra stretch to absorb jackhammer hooksets, and finished with a unique tracer system that features 30 inches of crystal clear line with 10 to 12 inches of hi-vis yellow to help see strikes in cover more easily.

Being a line watcher myself, I love the fact that I have this bright spots to help see the line jump when a bass strikes the lure, and being Sunline, it’s sure to be some of the strongest stuff on earth. I can’t wait to try this product myself.

Gamakatsu Aaron Martens Tournament Grade Wire Hooks
Aaron Martens is fanatical about his terminal tackle, and he worked with Gamakatsu to release his new Tournament Grade Wire (TGW) treble and dropshot hooks at the show. These hooks feature a higher grade, smaller diameter wire that is stiffer than standard hooks, and a new Nanocoat finish that makes the hook slick during penetration.

The treble hooks are made to penetrate easily and hold hard, which is especially beneficial during cold winter fishing when the mouths of fish are harder. The dropshot hooks are a new shape that positions the worm perfectly and hooks and holds strong as well. Martens raved about these hooks for most of my visit with him in the Gamakatsu booth, and I can’t wait to play with them more myself.

Duo Realis G87 20A

Duo Realis G87 20A

DUO Realis G87 20A Crankbait
I had a hard time choosing between this and the new SPRO Rock Crawler Crankbait designed by Mike McClelland, but when Elite Series pro Grant Goldbeck showed me this crankbait, I had to give it the nod just because of a few features that have been engineered into it to make the lure perform a peak efficiency.

Goldbeck showed us a bait that has a swept up diving lip, narrowed down sides and a brace with a channel incorporated into the bottom side that allows water to pass through, aiding the lure in reaching depths. Goldbeck reported that the lure reaches 25 feet easily, and the finishes we saw were a great combination of American colors with Japanese flair. I’m looking forward to trying this plug.