ICAST 2023 is just around the corner.
Here are this year’s pre-show top 10 items that have piqued my interest.
10. St Croix Reveals Mojo Bass Trigon Series
What’s New: The popular Mojo Bass lineup of rods gets a major overhaul with new anthropometric split grip TRIGON agglomerated cork handles. The form factor on these handles vs a traditional round grip is marketed to increased angler comfort and control.
What I like: Offered in a huge array of 25 models these rods feature SCIII blanks (S-Glass blanks on reaction models), IPC mandrel technology, SS guides with aluminum oxide rings, New Dynamix reel seat with machined aluminum locking nut, and GRASP handle on select swimbait models. 5 Year warranty.
What I don’t like: With Design changes and improvements this series is becoming incrementally more expensive than its original price point target. MSRP $165-$270
9. St. Croix dives into reels: SEVIIN GF Baitcast and GS Spinning Reels
What’s New: St. Croix is debuting a new series of reels dubbed SEVIIN. With an introductory price point of only $120 these low profile baitcast reels will come in 6 different models with both right and left-hand retrieve and 6.6:1, 7.3:1, and 8.1:1 gear ratios. The companion GS Spinning reels will debut at $140.
What I like: Ground up workhorse designs with a one-year warranty backed by no-questions-asked accelerated replacement program.
What I don’t like: It seems nowadays the trend is for OEMs to fill out product lines with their own take on reels and/or rods. While competition is always good, market influx of cheaply made price point goods isn’t. Hopefully these reels cut the mustard.
8. The New Penn Spinfisher VII
What’s New: The popular Spinfisher lineup from Penn originally saw a major tooling revamp with the V series with a wide range of new sizes, full metal body form factor, Superline Spool with line capacity rings and a large, oversized bail that made it harder to trip on aggressive casts. The updated Spinfisher VI introduced a number of new sizes and a more formal IPX5 rating as well as CNC gearing on select models. This new Spinfisher 7 will hope build on these design improvements at ICAST 2023 and keep the Spinfisher name a popular go to. (MSRP TBD depending on size)
What I like: Penn keeps on improving product lines in rapid fashion over the past decade. They’ve come back in a big way from the Penn brand I remember growing up with.
What I don’t like: More and more production reels from Penn are being made overseas. I think it’s just the modern reality of doing business in a highly competitive market segment.
7. Lew’s Mach Jacked Combos
What’s New: Lew’s keeps the COTs combo train moving with another preassembled set of fishing combos with great features and aesthetics.
What I like: While I’ve never fished them, the Lew’s pre paired combos always seem to go well together and feel like a great value for up-and-coming anglers. The Winn knobs and 10 bearing system in the baitcast reel looks good on paper and probably feels great in hand. MSRP $259
What I don’t like: Should probably include a 7’6″ Flipping stick option for those that like to flip.
6. Z-Man Chatterbait Elite EVO
What’s New: Building on continued success of the Chatterbait brand the new Z-Man Chatterbait Elite EVO features a new sculpted head design, Chatter Spike bait keeper, custom tweaked 5/0 black nickel hook, and metal plated glitter finishes.
What I like: Custom tweaks to build a better bait. Wire tied skirt. Cheaper $9.99 price point vs. The Jack Hammer.
What I don’t like: Its not a Jackhammer. The Big Bass mojo of that established bait will be hard to top.
5. Shimano CURADO 200 M and STRADIC FM
What’s New: Shimano revamping two of their bread-and-butter mainstream reels. The Curado and Stradic are both perennial best sellers because of their industry leading quality and price point.
What I like: What makes these reels so popular is they both sit at the advantageous position to continually inherit the envelope pushing features of their more expensive siblings. This model year will be no different.
The new Curado 200 M builds on a legacy of workhorse reels with the integration a multitude of Shimano’s core feature sets including HAGANE body, MGL III spool, Micromodule gearing, Silent tune technology, SVS Infinity, and X-Ship. 6 7.4-7.6 oz Left and Right-hand retrieve models with 6.2, 7.4 and 8.5:1 gear ratios (MSRP $199).
The new Stradic FM will inherit core flagship technologies including InfinityXross, Micromodule II, Infinity Drive, Duracross Drag system, and a new Anti-twist polymer fin on the underside of the line roller for better line management. 5 models ranging in size from 1000 to 5000. (MSRP $199 to $229)
What I don’t like: I kind of miss the boldness of the Curado E color scheme. The new Curado variants and color schemes over the past few years just feel so cold generic.
4. Shimano Poison Ultima Rod
What’s New: This JDM flagship rod features Shimano’s highest end features. Carbon Shell Grip, Full Carbon Monocoque, X-Guide, Spiral X Core +, Hi-Power X, and CI4+ Reel Seat.
What I like: This is the highest end rod model to come stateside from Shimano. A no holds barred flagship JDM product that sits above the Conquest line up of rods in terms of aesthetics and performance.
What I don’t like: Unfortunately, flagship products warrant a flagship price. $879 will be a hard pill to swallow for even the biggest Shimano / Jackal fan.
3. More Premium Trolling Motors: Garmin Force Kraken Minn Kota Quest, Power Pole Move
What’s New: 2023 Features a number of trolling motor releases with the debut of Power Poles MOVE, Garmin’s Kraken, and Minn Kota’s updated Ultrex QUEST lineup.
What I like: Brushless motor technology lets anglers chose and 24v vs 36-volt setup. Wireless electronics integration is becoming standardized. Marketplace competition is driving quieter and more robust motor designs.
What I don’t like: With rapid design improvement comes a new standard in pricing. The original 2016 Ultrex hovered around $2300 for the basic US2 version and 2019s Lowrance Ghost and Garmin Force pushed trolling motor price points into the $3500 range. These new updated contenders will push the market segment into the $4000 range with the MOVE being the most expensive with an MSRP of $4999.
2. Smart Reels Go Mainstream? KASTKING iREEL ONE
What’s New: The team over at KASTKING is going for broke this year with their all new I REEL ONE. This new smart reel will follow Daiwa Japan’s IM Z Limit Breaker baitcast reel into the land of blue tooth capable connectivity. Other features include an IFC (Intelligent Frequency Controlled) braking system, Wide aperture Axis Eye Line Guide, 11+1 bearing system, 16lb drag, IPX6 waterproof protection and electro plated matte finish. This new flagship reel will surely be an attention grabber at the show. MSRP $350
What I like: Envelope pushing reel, lots of new features packed into a reasonable price point for what is considered a flagship product.
What I don’t like: IFC digital braking system and Axis Eye line guide can be seen as a blatant sidestepping of leading OEM competition technological feature sets.
1. JDM Niche finesse plastics: Yamamoto Yamatanuki 3.5 and 2.5
What’s New: With all the bad ass tackle on the market sometimes the simplest items can define a market category or create a whole new one. A number of typically obscure JDM finesse baits have gained traction in the past few years around the mainstream and tournament circuits including the Nikko Hellgrammite, Deps Cover Scat, OSPs dice rubber, Geecrack’s Imo Kemushi, and this nubby bowling pin guy right here.
What I like: If you haven’t hopped on this train yet you are missing out. This little morsel of JDM bass goodness is gaining traction as a Power Finesse bait. Fished weightless this chunky soft plastic bait is proving to be a deadly option on pressured American waters where bass have seen everything under the sun. Fully expect more and more niche finesse JDM imports to become American tournament mainstays in the coming years.
What I don’t like: JDM baits becoming too well known. Have to keep something in my back pocket.