Story courtesy of Mary Jane Williamson

Orlando, FL – Last night, the 25 New Product Showcase Best of Category awards were presented during the New Product Showcase Awards reception held during ICAST, the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades.

ICAST, the world’s largest sportfishing trade show, is now in full swing (July 10 – 13), at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

Produced by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), the industry’s trade association, ICAST – in its 61th year as the association’s trade show – is the annual destination for representatives from the global recreational fishing industry to see the latest innovations in tackle, gear, accessories and apparel.

One of the most prominent features for ICAST exhibitors and attendees alike is the New Product Showcase. The New Product Showcase, sponsored by Fishing Tackle Retailer, embodies the sportfishing industry’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit and rewards that ingenuity through the New Product Showcase awards competition.

This year, 974 products, accessories and apparel were entered by 331 companies into 25 categories, all vying for the overall ICAST 2018 Best of Show award.

“My congratulations go to all of the winners and everyone who participated in the New Product Showcase,” said ASA President Glenn Hughes. “Remember, there are also 949 products that also deserve recognition. This year, for the first time, all the New Product Showcase entries are available for viewing on ICASTfishing.org and on the ICAST app under the Exhibitor listings. I urge you to check them out.”

“This year we are living up to our reputation as the world’s largest sportfishing trade show,” said Trade Show Director Blake Swango. “We the most attendance and the largest number of exhibitors, ever.”

Swango also noted, “I also want to congratulate our New Product Showcase award winners and thank all our member companies who submitted products for judging. I also thank Fishing Tackle Retailer for their sponsorship of this important event.”

2018 ICAST New Product Showcase Best of Category Award Winners
For product details, images and other information please contact the individual award winners’ contacts listed below.

Best of Category – Boating Accessories – Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc.
Product:  Minn Kota Ultrex

Best of Category – Boats and Watercraft – Jackson Kayak
Product:  360 Angler

Best of Category – Eyewear – Costa Sunglasses
Product:  Baffin

Best of Category – Footwear – Rivers Edge Products
Product:  Fish Sandals

Best of Category – Giftware – Number 6 Brands
Product:  Cauldryn Coffee

Best of Category – Lifestyle Apparel – AFTCO/American Fishing Tackle Company
Product:  Hexatron Performance Fleece

Best of Category – Technical Apparel – AFTCO/American Fishing Tackle Company
Product:  Hydronaut Heavy-Duty Waterproof System

Best of Category – Electronics – Garmin USA
Product:  Garmin Panoptix LiveScope

Best of Category – Fishing Accessory – YETI
Product:  YETI Tundra Haul

Best of Category – Fly Fishing Accessory – YETI
Product:  YETI Panga Backpack 28

Best of Category – Fishing Line – PowerPro
Product:  PowerPro SuperSlick V2 Brand

Best of Category – Kids’ Tackle – AnythingPossible
Product:  Kid Casters DUDE PERFECT Fishing Kit & Casting Game

Best of Category – Tackle Management – Tak Logic Lure Lock
Product:  Lure Locker

Best of Category – Terminal Tackle – Rapala
Product: VMC NEKO Skirt

Best of Category – Freshwater Hard Lure – Westin
Product:  Freddy the Frog

Best of Category – Saltwater Hard Lure – 13 Fishing
Product: Octopi

Best of Category – Freshwater Soft Lure – LIVETARGET
Product:  LIVETARGET Hollow Body Crawfish

Best of Category – Saltwater Soft Lure – LIVETARGET
Product:  LIVETARGET Fleeing Shrimp

Best of Category – Fly Reel – SEiGLER Reels
Product: Seigler MF Fly Reel

Best of Category – Freshwater Reel – Shimano American Corporation
Product:  Curado DC Baitcasting Reel

Best of Category – Saltwater Reel – Shimano American Corporation
Product: Tekota 500 Levelwind Reel

Best of Category – Rod & Reel Combo – Lew’s Fishing
Product:  Team Lew’s® Custom Black LFS Combo

Best of Category – Fly Fishing Rod – St. Croix Rods
Product:  Mojo Trout

Best of Category – Freshwater Rod – St. Croix Rods
Product:  Legend Glass

Best of Category – Saltwater Rod – St. Croix Rods
Product:  Mojo Yak

Pros’ List Top Tips and Mistakes

By John Neporadny Jr.

Countless hours of trial and error on the water have made the touring pros experts on what to do and what not to do when pursuing bass.

BassResource surveyed some of the top tournament pros for their best advice on how to help novice or weekend anglers improve their fishing skills.  The following lists are their top tips and the biggest mistakes they see beginning anglers make.

Top tips

  • Simplify.  “I think we have a tendency to over-analyze, over-technique, over-color and over-size,” says Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mark Menendez. “As I have gotten older I have realized that less is more a lot of times. It doesn’t have to be that hard to catch a bass. If the wind is blowing hard put the wind to your back and cover as much water as you can with a reaction bait (spinnerbait or a crankbait). If it is a day that is slick and high, blue skies, slow down (with a shaky head, jig or Texas rig).”
  • Stay in your comfort zone. “Don’t try to push something that you are not real comfortable with in a tournament,” says Jordan Lee.  The Elite Series rookie suggests trying techniques and lures that are out of your comfort zone during practice or fun fishing but never during a tournament.
  • Become versatile. “You need to be able to do it all,” says Texas pro Todd Faircloth.  “If you are not real comfortable with a spinning rod, take a spinning rod and leave everything else at the house. Go to a lake, pond or stream that has a lot of fish and try to catch fish on it. That is where you gain confidence in a technique or a specific bait and that is going to help you. At some point you will be in a situation where that technique or bait is needed to be successful and if you have confidence in it that is a big deal in our sport.”
  • Improve your casting. “The thing that most weekend bass fishermen can do to really improve their catch rate is to really practice their casting,” says B.A.S.S. superstar Kevin VanDam. “Being able to make an accurate cast with a soft presentation is just critical. If you are casting overhand and landing that bait next to that stump and it lands with a big splash you are scaring most of the fish that you could be catching. Being able to make a good accurate cast without any splash catches a ton of bass.”
  • Spend time on the water.  “You cannot get really good in this sport without time on the water,” says bass fishing legend Denny Brauer.  “You have to experience all of the subtle changes in the fishery itself and how it relates to different weather changes such as what do the fish do when it rains or what they do when the lake is dropping or rising. All of that will make you a better fishermen more so than anything else you can do.”
  • Limit expectations. “Bass fishing can be really good one day and not so good the second,” Oklahoma pro Jason Christie warns. “Even the pros have days when they really catch them and days when they don’t catch them so much.  I see when beginners have those days that they don’t catch a lot they tend to get frustrated.  Those are the days that you appreciate when you really catch them.”
  • Be a sponge.  Elite Series pro Marty Robinson suggests gathering all the information you can from magazines and videos. “There are so many avenues today to learn techniques on how to catch bass,” he says.
  • Fish from the back deck.  Ohio pro Bill Lowen suggests starting as a co-angler in tournaments.  “I jumped in head first (as a boater) and it was a big learning curve for me,” he recalls.  “I can remember coming into weigh-ins and having only one or two fish and swearing that everyone was cheating because they would have 10 or 12 pounds.”

Biggest mistakes

  • Denny Brauer notices the biggest mistake novice anglers make is losing focus of what their lures are doing throughout the day.

    Denny Brauer notices the biggest mistake novice anglers make is losing focus of what their lures are doing throughout the day.

    Using the wrong hook.  “A case in point is using an extra wide gap hook for flipping,” Menendez says. “That hook has to turn and then come forward to have any hope of catching a fish. A flipping hook should be a straight shank round bend hook. An extra wide gap hook is a better choice for fishing a soft plastic jerkbait or for any kind of hook set in which it is a side sweeping hook set instead of a snapping up motion. “

  • Picking the perfect lure. “A lot of times beginning anglers think it is a certain bait or certain technique when a lot of times it is more about being around bass rather than having the great lure on,” Faircloth says.  “A lot of times people think they can’t catch a bass unless they have a specific lure.  It doesn’t matter how pretty your bait is if you are not around bass you are not going to catch them.”
  • Getting caught up in the past.  “Just because you caught bass on a spot last weekend or yesterday you think it is not going to change,” warns VanDam. “You have to be very aware of the conditions and surroundings and all of the variables because it changes by the hour out there on a lot of days. So forget about what happened then and fish in the moment and fish the current conditions.”
  • Losing focus.   “There is nothing wrong with looking around as long as you are looking for certain things such as when a fish blows up on the surface,” Brauer says.  “Those types of things can help put more fish in the boat for you.” However the Texas pro advises you should remain aware of “what your lure is doing at all times” to catch more bass.
  • Doing too much. Christie sees newcomers trying to learn too many techniques simultaneously.  “Pick four or five baits that you have confidence in and establish those,” he says.  “Once you feel confident in those learn the other baits one at a time.”
  • Fretting over colors. “That should be the least of your worries,” Robinson says.  “I would rather be fishing the right area with the wrong color than the wrong area with the right color.”  He suggests keeping color choices simple with natural hues for clear water and bright or dark colors for dirty water.
  • Chasing dock talk.  Lowen recalls early in his career when he would try the patterns the local anglers would tell him was working when he arrived for a tournament. “I struggled with that and I just went back to doing the way I fish,” he says.

Size Matters

Size Matters thumbnail

OK, you just saw Fat Head and me skipping a jig in the Salem Canal, a tributary of the Delaware River. It was the only way to catch them. Our day was cold and blustery. The fish were positioned back under the shoreline cover and aggressive doesn’t describe the bite. That’s called tough.

But, we had to make the best of it. Filming, fishing a tournament or fishing on your day off work is all the same when it comes to the weather. You deal with current conditions. Period.

We fished with Missile Jigs’ Mini Flip jigs. There’s a reason for that: It’s the best small skipping jig that’s available when the bite gets tough, and I don’t say that just because I’m a part of their team. It’s the bait I used to win the Bassmaster Elite Series event on the Delaware River.

There are at least four things that make it my go-to lure for the kind of fishing conditions you saw on Salem Canal Revenge.

The first is that it’s small and compact, much smaller and more compact than other jigs of the same weight. Even the largest size, 1/2 ounce, is relatively tiny. When you don’t want to show the bass a huge profile this one’s where it’s at.

That small profile is useful when the local forage is small. If the fish aren’t actively feeding, you don’t want to show them something different, something they haven’t seen over and over again. That’s an immediate turnoff.

Buy Missile Jigs Ike’s Mini Flip Jig

The smaller size also gives the Mini Flip a faster rate of fall for its weight. That helps trigger a reaction bite when the fish are tight to cover. They have no time to figure anything out. They’re predators. They attack.

The last thing — not counting quality construction and an affordable price — that makes this jig so great is that the head design makes it skip easily and with super accuracy. You can put it back where the fish are, and where the other guys aren’t.

No lure can live up to its potential, however, unless you throw it on the right tackle. My choices for the Mini Flip are:

I start with a 7 foot, 2 inch medium-heavy Abu Garcia rod with a soft tip. (It’s one of my Signature Series rods.) The length is critical. I designed this rod specifically for skipping small jigs. I added 2 inches beyond the 7 foot mark because that’ll give you extra distance and accuracy without the rod becoming too long and too heavy.

My reel was an Abu Garcia MGX model, 7:1 gear ratio. I spooled it with Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon, 17-pound-test. I selected that particular line because it’s heavy and has a fast sink rate. That helps the jig get down quickly where it needs to be. That’s a part of triggering a reaction bite.

I’ve mentioned each product I used not because it’s the only good stuff out there. It’s not. But it is what I use, and I only use products that help me catch fish and that I can rely on day after day under tough conditions.

Let’s walk-the-dog

Let’s walk-the-dog thumbnail

Many anglers think of topwater presentations as something of a fun deal. They really don’t think of them as a primary pattern or something that can be used on a regular basis. That thinking limits their ability to put bass in the boat because a skillful topwater angler can often out fish other anglers two-to-one. That’s especially true if he or she chooses the right lure and presents it properly.

The best lure and the best presentation — at least for covering water and catching bigger fish — is a hard stickbait gliding back and forth across the water. We all know that presentation as walking-the-dog.

Rapala Skitter V
Rapala Skitter V

There are plenty of hard stickbaits around. Probably the best known is a Zara Spook. They’ll catch fish, of that there is no doubt. But for my money the all-time best is a Rapala Skitter V. It’s 4 inches long and weighs 1/2 ounce. That’s just what you need for most bass fishing.  Just as important, though, is that it has a kind of keel on the bottom that helps it glide from right to left and from left to right.

If you want to make that glide happen, you need to work your rod correctly. Start with the rod at the two position and bring it down to the four or five position. Do this with a sharp, quick snap on a reasonably tight line. As soon as your rod tip is down you should bring it back up on a semi-slack line. Then, before you snap it down again; take up all the slack. Develop a cadence. That’ll make all the difference in the world.The process is a little hard to describe in writing. I’d suggest you go to YouTube and watch some videos before you start your on-the-water practice.

Abu Garcia "Ike" Delay Series Casting Rods
Abu Garcia “Ike” Delay Series Casting Rods

Walking-the-dog correctly requires the right equipment. Start with a fairly soft rod that has a parabolic bend, and make sure it’s no longer than 7 feet and has a short butt for a handle. I have one that’s designed just for this technique. It’s the Abu Garcia 6 foot, 4 inch short butt Delay Series rod.

Abu Garcia REVO Premier Generation 3 Casting Reel
Abu Garcia REVO Premier Generation 3 Casting Reel

I use an Abu Garcia 7:1 reel. That’s fast enough to keep my line coming in and plenty strong enough to handle big bass. Most of the time I spool it with 40-pound-test Berkley Trilene Professional Grade Braid and I usually tie a short monofilament leader on to give me a little more shock protection.

Learn to walk-the-dog this year if you don’t already know how. It’ll make a big difference in your catch.