The International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, better known as ICAST, kicked off Tuesday and will continue through Friday in Orlando, Fla., giving anglers an exciting look at all the new equipment that major companies in the fishing industry are set to release this fiscal year.
Fle-Fly, an Oklahoma-based fishing lure manufacturer that is known for several top panfish lures such as the Go-Go Minnow, Crappie Kicker, Kaboom Swimbaitand, my personal favorite, their lead-free feather jigs, recently expanded its offerings considerably, moving beyond fishing lures into the realm of rods, reels and terminal tackle.
The company put out its own signature fishing rod and reel — each sold separately — with crappie and bluegill anglers specifically in mind, and I’m happy to report that both of these products exceeded expectations when it comes to quality and durability.
The classic spinning rod, which comes in 4 1/2-, 5- and 6-foot lengths, is a sensitive ultra-light that manages to find a terrific balance between being a wet noodle and a stiff broom handle in terms of its flexibility. It is whip-like enough to get a solid parabolic bend to help keep the tension on the line so a fish doesn’t come free, but it isn’t without a backbone either, despite being an extremely lightweight rod. It can handle solid, constant pressure without snapping or bending out of shape, and its quick tip picks up even the lightest bites on monofilament line when fishing vertically, though not as much horizontally.
I’m waiting to see how much more sensitive it is on braided line, as I recently ordered Fle-Fly’s new 4-pound micro-braid, but after seeing how well it picks up the vertical bites on mono, I’m certain it will be even more impressive with the low stretch of braid.
The cost is moderate at $50, as you can certainly find other solid light and ultra-light rods at half the price, but it has a quality that is comparable to some of the custom rods that begin at $100 or more.
As good as the rod is, the spinning reel is even more of a value at $30. The reel has a 5.1:1 gear ratio and a five ball-bearing system, which is fairly standard for an entry-level spinning reel of its size. It comes in two models: the SR10, which can fit about 200 yards of 4-pound test line, and the SR20, a slightly larger reel that can fit about 175 yards of 6-pound test line.
It is one of the smoothest reels I’ve used, on par with the Lew’s Mach II Speed spinning reel, which runs about $79.99 regularly. That smoothness not only makes for easier, more efficient reeling, but greater casting distance even with light tackle. During a recent fishing trip, I was using a 64th-ounce feather jig under a light crappie float and getting significant distance on my casts — outcasting what my other rods would get even with a significantly heavier lure tied on. It actually took some adjustment after using my other reels, as it’s easy to overpower a cast if you’re used to less fluidity.
Again, I’m eager to see how much the performance improves, if at all, with the addition of Fle-Fly’s micro-braid. I’ve typically gotten better casting distance using low-memory braid than I would with the less-slack mono lines.
The reel, which feels quite sturdy in hand compared to other reels made mostly with cheap plastic, also has an impressive drag system that is more fine-tuned than your typical entry-level spinning reel, which allows you to more precisely set your drag for a variety of different species, depending on what you’re targeting. When a fish does start pulling line off your reel, it comes off smoothly and has that iconic clicking sound that gets anglers’ blood pumping.
The biggest downsides I can see to this combo are a lack of power for bigger fish, which is to be expected on an ultra-light, and the price point being a bit high if you’re not a serious angler. It makes for a great mid-level panfish combo to transition from the $20 Walmart combos into customs and other high-end, high-dollar combos. I probably wouldn’t use it when targeting bass, and definitely wouldn’t for catfish, but it has enough backbone and power to handle small- to medium-sized fish of both of those species. It can take a 3- to 5-pound fish, though the battle is going to be intense, but I definitely wouldn’t suggest it for something 8 pounds or above. It probably wouldn’t break your rod or reel, but it’ll definitely put a strain on them and wear them down much quicker. It’s just not built to handle that. If you like trout, crappies, bluegills and other panfish, this is a great combo for you, as that is what it’s specialized for.
Also, you’ll probably want to change out the factory line as soon as possible, as it is a fairly light and easy-to-snap monofilament. I’m excitedly awaiting the arrival of my micro-braid so I can swap that out and really go after some hogs. It’ll hold up to a 10-inch crappie or a nice bluegill, but anything larger and I would start to get worried about snapping off with the default line.
The micro-braid panfish line, which runs from 4- to 10-pound test and is $9.99 for 150 yards, isn’t the only other new Fle-Fly product I’m eager to test. The company recently released its Smelly Smax, which are similar to Berkley’s Crappie Nibbles or artificial salmon eggs but come in shad flavor, on its website. The Smelly Smax come in four colors — chartreuse, orange, pink and white — and run $3.99 a jar.
Having used Fle-Fly’s other lure flavors, which come in a spray bottle in both bubble gum and garlic scents, I am excited to try out these bait balls on my lead-free feather jigs to see how much it helps the bite. If the other lure flavors are any indication, these may replace Crappie Nibbles as my go-to lure flavoring come winter white bass time at Lake Shawnee.
To purchase these products and check out what else Fle-Fly offers, go to http://www.flefly.com.
Another small lure company based out of the Midwest, B&P Jighead from Carlyle, Ill., recently flooded its website with all sort of new products, as well.
The company, which makes some awesome weedless Ned Rig jigheads with a sickle hook that pokes back through the body of the worm like a Texas Rig, also produces some terrific soft plastics. During a recent fishing trip, I hooked into a ton of largemouth bass while fishing the B&P 4-inch senko-style worm on a VMC Neko hook, rigged weightless. It’s slow sinking action makes the lure like candy for top-feeding bass, and the Motor Oil Crawl is an awesome color choice for slightly turbid water on sunny days.
Ben Louer, owner of B&P, recently added a ton of new color combos for all of his soft plastics, as well as new sickle crappie jigs and some potentially solid ice fishing lures, including Slab Spoons, Tail Spinners and Little Georges, all with treble hooks. The Little Georges and Tail Spinners sit in the water horizontally as the eye of the jigs are on the top, perfect for jigging vertically above crappie so that the fish below will see the silhouette of the jig against the light from the sky. They both have metal spinners attached near the rear of the lure, which make a vertical retrieve possible, as well. The Slab Spoon, which functions like a chandelier jig, is a colorful jigging spoon that sits more vertically, with the hook hanging below. This lure would be great paired with a minnow head attached to the hook to bring in winter-time walleye or crappie.
The company also recently released a new 6-inch Senko Blood Worm, a clear-skinned worm with a streak of red through the middle that looks like a dynamite weapon for bass fishing.
To check out B&P’s new products, go to https://bpjighead.com/.