One of the standouts in new fishing lures to make its debut at the show this week was Lunkerhunt’s Phantom Spider, a realistic topwater bait designed to look like a spider. It got all sorts of attention online when it debuted, and it likely will be a hot commodity when it arrives later this summer. It is retailing on Tackle Warehouse’s website for $8.99, with pre-orders available. The lure earned the Best of Category award for Freshwater Soft Lure, topping out some of the lures that I thought coming in had a great chance at winning the award, including Z-Man’s new TRD BugZ.
Ultimately, however, I would have to say the lure is certainly deserving of the title, as it’s an innovative new lure that looks hyper-realistic and has great action, with the legs flailing about as the spider is walked across the surface, creating a tasty target for bass and other predators. It was far from the only experimental topwater bait, however, as other companies also sought to become the next big thing following the success of Westin’s Danny the Duck and other nontraditional frog-style lures, including bats, lizards, snakes, rats and more.
One of the more notable ones this year came from Chasebaits, an Australian company that is relatively unknown in the U.S. The company put out some pretty wild-looking lures, including a variety of bird-based topwater walking lures called The Smuggler, as well as a swimbait with a buzzbait-style propeller lodged inside the middle of the fish to flash colors and disturb the water called the PropDuster Glider Swimbait. They look a bit gimmicky, but some of the best baits sometimes do. Danny the Duck topwater lure looked gimmicky to me until I tried it, and now it’s my favorite frog-style lure.
Garmin made big news by entering the trolling motor market. Its new Force Trolling Motor won both the Best of Show award and the Best of Category award for boating accessories. The Olathe-based company also won Best of Show and Best of Category in Electronics in 2018 for its Panoptix LiveScope.
The Force is integrated with the Panoptix and Panoptix LiveScope sonars, with a wireless chartplotter and built-in autopilot, along with anchor lock, and a wireless foot pedal that still feels and steers like a cable-steered pedal. It includes CHIRP traditional and Ultra High-Definition ClearVü and SideVü scanning sonars, with imperceptible sonar noise interference, and has a floating remote control that gives you full control of the trolling motor, as well as simple point-and-go gesture steering. The motor will retails for $3,199.99 for the 57-inch model and $3,099.99 for the 50-inch motor. Hobie, meanwhile, earned the top prize for Boats and Watercraft with its Mirage ProAngler 14 with 360 Drive Technology. The pedal-driven kayak features rotatable fins that allow for easy maneuvering and control. The nearly 14-foot-long kayak has a 600-pound weight capacity and will be available for purchase in fall 2019.
Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronic, Inc., took home awards in the Ice Fishing and Electronics categories, respectively, for the new Humminbird Ice Helix 7 CHIRP GPS G3N All-Season flasher and MEGA 360 Imaging system. The Ice Helix features GPS, SwitchFire Sonar, a dual-spectrum CHIRP digital sonar and can mount to a boat for open-water use. The MEGA 360 allows for high-definition underwater sonar imaging in a complete circle around the boat that measures out to 125 feet in all directions. Aqua-Vu also unveiled its new HDi Gen 2 underwater camera, delivering a crisper-than-ever live look at what’s going on beneath the surface.
Rods and reels
One of the least shocking winners was in the Freshwater Reel category, where Shimano again took home the top prize after winning last year with the Curado DC digitally-controlled baitcaster. The company came back again with a surprise announcement, unveiling the SLX DC Baitcaster, a lower-priced option for those wanting to use their digital control technology.Digital control reels are big in the Japanese market, but just now making the way over to the U.S. The digital braking system is controlled by a micro computer chip that measures your spool speed 1,000 times per second to prevent backlashing and maximize casting distance. It is retailing at $189.99 in the U.S., compared to $249.99-plus for the Curado DC.
Shimano also took home the top prize for saltwater reels with its Stradic FL Spinning Reel, while SEiGLER Reels earned best Fly Reel with its new SF (Small Fly) reel.
Lew’s earned the nod for best rod and reel combo with its new Mach Smash Baitcast Combo. Lew’s also won the category in 2018 with its Team let’s Custom Black LFS Combo.
St. Croix was the most popular company among those voting for the best fishing rods at ICAST 2019. The company swept the Freshwater Rod, Saltwater Rod and Fly Fishing Rod categories with its Mojo Bass Glass MGC72HM Rip N’ Chatter Rod, Avid Surf VSS80MMF and Imperial Salt IS908.4 rods. They really need to work on getting some catchier names. The Mojo is a freshwater rod geared specifically toward throwing ChatterBaits, crankbaits and rattlebaits. At 7-feet, 2-inches long, the heavy-power, moderate-action rod retails around $160.
Lines and tackle
PowerPro again took home the award for best new fishing line with its new Moon Shine Braid, which glows when illuminated by a blacklight to help with night fishing applications. It’s a cool feature, but it’s nothing new. Slime Line has been doing that for a while with its monofilament, but I guess Slime Line must not have been at the show. Honestly, a lot of people have probably never even heard of Slime Line unless they’re big-time catfish or crappie tournament anglers or just fishing nerds like me, even though it has a huge following online (83,000-plus followers on Facebook). Unlike PowerPro, which you can find on the sporting goods counter at just about every Walmart you go to, and which took home the award last year, as well, with its SuperSlick V2 braid.
VMC also was a repeat winner, with the new Bladed Hybrid Treble hook taking home the best terminal tackle award. VMC, which is a subsidiary of Rapala, won the award in 2018 for its Neko Skirt.
Plano, one of the OGs (original gangsters) in the fishing world, took home the award for best Tackle Management with its new Plano EDGE tackle box, as well as the top award for Cooler and Bait/Storage for the Frabill Magnum Bait Station 30.
Other notable category winners include:
• 13 Fishing: Best New Giftware, Fillet Table Beverage Management System
• AFTCO/American Fishing Tackle Company: Best Lifestyle Apparel, Yurei Air-O-Mesh Performance Shirt; Best Technical Apparel - Warm Weather, Overboard Submersible Shorts
• Bubba: Best Cutlery, Hand Pliers or Tools, 110V Electric Fillet Knife
• Costa Del Mar, Inc.: Best Eyeware, WaterWoman
• Frogg Toggs: Best Footwear, Skipper
• Simms Fishing Products: Best Fly Fishing Accessory, Dry Creek Z Sling Pack