After last year’s International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades went virtual, it was gratifying to be able to see this year’s new crop of fishing gear in person, rather than on a computer screen. And the New Product Showcase didn’t disappoint.
On the first day of the show, journalists and buyers voted on their favorite items within 30 categories. Once the category winners were announced, voting began for an overall winner. That entrant was from a category that had never produced an overall winner, a result that set the expect-the-unexpected tone for ICAST 2021.
But first, let’s look at some noteworthy category winners.
The winner in this category was the Humminbird MEGA Live Imaging sonar ($1,499), which adds livestreaming to MEGA imaging technology. Not only do anglers get a near-photographic view of what’s down under, but they can also see the fish swimming in real time. The transducer mounting bracket has three modes: down, forward and landscape, the last of which is a bird’s-eye view looking out and around the boat.
Although it didn’t win in this category, a product called ClearWater AR ($1,199 plus $99 yearly subscription) showed something we have not seen in the marine industry. It uses a pair of augmented-reality Nreal glasses that interface with the ClearWater Premium smartphone app to let the wearer “see” beneath the water surface. Using technology similar to what’s in fighter jets and premium automobiles, the product helps wearers visualize depth gradients and structure in a 360-degree radius, up to 300 yards away. Using simple hand gestures, the wearer can switch modes or mark promising fishing spots. For safety when running, virtual buoys appear above the water surface to warn of shallow areas. Built-in StrikeLines cartography is good for more than 28,000 North American lakes, rivers and coastlines.
This year’s winner was a product designed to prevent anglers from reeling in fish heads after an involuntary payment to “the taxman,” aka sharks.
Sharkbanz Fishing’s Zeppelin ($75) is the first shark-deterrent device that can also be used as a sinker on a bottom rig. It uses magnetic technology (that never needs charging) to overwhelm a shark’s electroreception, a sensation sharks find unpleasant. Coastal Carolina University researchers tested this technology by baiting human dummies and dropping them in the middle of a gang of aggressive bull sharks. (The tech worked.)
Sharkbanz Fishing also makes a wristband version for divers and surfers called the Sharkbanz 2 ($84), which former-President Obama reportedly wore last year while on vacation in Hawaii.
Bull Bay Rods’ Banshee series (starting at $160) earned the win in this category. The first thing that attracts consumers to one rod out of a rack of 100 is the color, and the Banshee’s desert-sand tan motif just looks cool. The rod has a very sensitive tip that is perfect for tossing light lures, allowing the angler to load it up with minimal effort for making deadly accurate short casts around docks and up against mangroves. And this rod has enough backbone to muscle fish out of heavy cover.
The winner of this category was a really well-made tackle transport beach cart from Kahuna Wagons called the Sidekick Fishing and Beach Wagon ($580).
The most unusual entrant in this category was the Brite-Strike Bug-Strike light-based insect repelling system ($30). It uses a trio of lights that stick to the brim of a baseball cap and provide about 200 hours of protection. Using a combination of ultraviolet, infrared and blue light, the product can repel mosquitos, horseflies, gnats and deerflies, keeping them up to 16 feet from the wearer.
This year, two winners were entries made from recycled fishing nets. The first is Costa’s Untangled Collection sunglasses (starting at $219). They are stylish, durable and made from a material called NetPlus, which Bureo makes. The latter brand has converted more than 3 million pounds of discarded nets in South America to make a variety of products.
More than 8 million metric tons of plastics enter oceans every year, and AFTCO’s use of a recycled polyester called ECONYL helps prevent fishermen from improperly discarding their nets. It won the Lifestyle Apparel for Men category with its Rescue ECONYL Fishing Shorts, $89.
Daiwa scored a sweep of the freshwater and saltwater reels categories this year. The Saltist MQ (starting at $300) is built to be saltwater-impervious. Its Magsealed technology prevents water and contaminants from entering the gearset, and there’s a one-piece body instead of the usual screwed-down clamshell. A range of models covers light tackle to big-game angling. For freshwater anglers, the Zillion SV TW ($350) is being touted as the best bait-caster Daiwa has ever made. The ergonomics are outstanding, and it feels great in your hand (thank you, in-person ICAST). The 100X models have a super-fast 8.5-to-1 gear ratio to help trigger strikes or quickly retrieve errant casts.
You have to love any kayak named after a Hunter S. Thompson novel (The Curse of Lono) and with graphics from his longtime illustrator, Ralph Steadman. Even still, Bote’s Lono Aero Classic Teak inflatable kayak (starting at $2,298, $2,999 with Apex Pedal Drive and Rudder System) won its category on the product’s merit. This kayak packs up in a tote bag and is perfect for taking on the boat. It’s constructed using Aero technology, which makes it super-rigid and highly durable for an inflatable.
Also in this category, Hobie unveiled the Mirage Lynx ($2,699), which has a 45-pound hull styled like a short paddleboard with a premium seat and customization options. It also has Hobie’s penguin-inspired kick-up fins and is stackable with other Lynx models for rooftop transport.
The sticker shock award of the show goes to the $13,698 carbon fiber Apex Watercraft Tyr kayak with a Torqeedo 1103 electric motor. C’mon, lottery.
Freshwater Soft Lures
And now, the biggest news of all: For the first time in ICAST history, a fishing lure took home Best of Show.
From Berkley comes the PowerBait Gilly ($7.49), designed with help from bass pro Mike “Ike” Iaconelli. This lure has raised ribs on its back half that give it a realistic, fluid swimming action. When dropped, it does an impressive imitation of a dying bream. Made of scented PowerBait, this is a soft bait that bass will be lining up to crush. n
This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue.