July 17, 2023
Our first "Beilue's Best" from ICAST 2023 detailed the trend of lighter, smaller profiles in lure design to assist anglers in catching pressured or reluctant bass, whether using forward sonar or retrieving along the bottom. That trend of smaller lures has an upstream impact on the rods and reels designed to toss these baits, with most manufacturers downsizing their existing reel platforms or softening rod actions to accommodate the demand for finesse tactics.
Furthermore, designs around fishing lines continue to evolve, with companies putting new twists on line development.
What follows is only a small sampling of reels, rods and lines we uncovered during the show.
The Stradic is an iconic spinning reel platform in the always impressive Shimano lineup and this year’s release is now a Best of Show winner in the fishing reel category. Beefed-up internal gearing allows easier cranking under a heavy load and the improved braking system is silky smooth.
Daiwa Tatula 100
Another iconic reel franchise is the Tatula series from Daiwa. This 100 series reel is incredibly lightweight and has very low startup inertia, which simply translates into easier casts with lighter, downsized lures. Daiwa has integrated the popular HyperDrive design found in the Steez and Zillion into the Tatula 100, offering extremely smooth retrieves and powerful winding performance.
Lew’s Custom Light Shallow Spool BFS
Coming out of ICAST 2022, Bait Finesse System (BFS) was starting to gain traction with the fishing public and a year later, it’s even more popular. These shallow spool designs hold less than 60 yards of line and can cast small poppers, plugs, and finesse jigs with ease.
One of the most intriguing releases at this year’s ICAST, the iReel connects to your phone via Bluetooth to provide real-time stats such as casting distance and retrieve speed. Additionally, the app allows you to provide input as to the line material, test weight, and lure weight, then electronically manages the braking system during the cast to reduce the dreaded backlash. As a stand-alone reel, the iReel has the feel and performance of a high-quality baitcaster. It’s definitely garnering plenty of attention at this year’s show.
Shimano Mastiff FC Fluorocarbon Line
The Shimano name is synonymous with high-quality rods and reels, yet this new fluorocarbon is now a Best of Category winner for best fishing line. What makes Mastiff FC unique is NANO ARMOR technology, comprised of micro-ridges throughout the line for improved knot strength by reducing knot slippage under pressure. The ridges aren’t noticeable in your hands, as Mastiff maintains a smooth and soft feel.
KastKing TriPolymer Line
It's not a fluorocarbon or monofilament, but hailed as the best of both. TriPolymer is comprised of three layers of nylon material that performs very similarly to fluorocarbon, with very low visibility underwater, improved abrasion resistance and handling, and a faster sink rate than monofilament. To top it off, this line retails for less than $10/spool.
Lew’s Custom Light Medium-Light Action Rod
When paired with their Custom Light Shallow Spool reel, this lightweight and well-balanced rod adds a little extra fun to your fishing regardless of the size of the fish.
Z-Man Drew’s Ultimate Ned Rig Spinning Rod
Tennessee cork handles have fallen out of style in the last few years, yet the ability to tape the reel seat to find the precise balance point of the rod and reel is a major advantage with this "old school" design. Two models will be released: 5’4” and 5’10”, both in medium-light action.
Editor's Note: Shane Beilue hosts Game & Fish's Bass Crash Course video series on bass fishing.