July 17, 2022
By Alan Clemons
Note: Check back for updates from ICAST 2022, scheduled July 20-22 in Orlando.
Whether you’re going after trout, bass, inshore saltwater fish or something else, you definitely want the best fishing rod to get the job done.
A heavy flipping stick won't cut it on the salt flats to dance a topwater for specks. A limber inshore rod likely won't give you the right action for freshwater baits. It pays to have the right tool for the job.
The annual summer ICAST Show is upon us again in Orlando. It’s when the fishing industry flocks to central Florida like bugs to a dock light. New products are introduced, along with touchups or tweaks to old products and maybe a push for an old standby here and there.
Sales are made, meetings are held, press conferences extol the virtues of this or that. Because it's an industry trade show, and the public isn't inside, Joe and Jill Angler want to know what's up. That's where we come in.
Here are some of the best fishing rods at ICAST this year:
Fenwick Freshwater Elite
The Elite series of rods has been beefed up with more engineering in the rod blanks, design and components. Anglers will find four lines in this series: Casting, with the most popular actions, weights and lengths for bass; Predator, with longer handles and beefier actions for pike, musky and catfish, Light Finesse, in spinning for techniques such as drop shot and Neko rigging that require sensitivity; and Walleye, also in spinning with tougher components for trolling artificial and live bait for big ‘eyes. Info: fenwickfishing.com
Kistler Rods founder Trey Kistler has been at the fishing game for decades, first as his father created a couple of successful companies and then with his own.
Kistler’s lineup is solid for inshore and freshwater techniques from panfish to redfish, but bass fishing carries the load. Kistler Rods has three new models this year including:
Grasshopper, a 4-foot-6-inch graphite rod for kids and adults. It has many features of the bigger Kistler Rods cousins, including Fuji Carbon reel seat, Smart Grip EVA foregrip, stainless steel guides, metallic thread wraps with Flex Coat finish and more.
Texas Mag, a wading rod designed specifically for inshore anglers. It weighs less than 3 ounces, with a KC9 carbon blank, short handle to keep out of the water, saltwater-proof Cerecoil and Recoil guides with larger ring diameters for leader knots and more. It also has the latest Texas Coast TPWD length regulation fish markings for trout and reds.
Chromium Scope, which is designed for anglers using today’s modern sonar systems to find, watch and target fish on a screen. The rods’ light carbon blanks have faster actions, carbon split-grip handles, Fuji carbon reel seats, stainless steel guides and more. They’re designed for umbrella rigs, topwaters, deep cranking, swimbaits and other popular techniques. Info: kistlerrods.com
Ugly Stik Catfish Special
Ugly Stik Catfish Special rods offer a touch of class for whisker-hunters with stylish designs, an eye-appealing burnt orange color and the ability to haul in monster cats. The spinning rod is available in 7-, 8-, 9-, 10- and 12-foot lengths in 10- to 30- and 15- to 40-pound ratings, in Medium Heavy with moderate action. Baitcasting rods are offered in similar configurations. The rods have been designed with the legendary Ugly Tech construction in which fibers are laid and wrapped around the mandrel for more durability and strength. Catfish Special rods have a clear tip for better detection of light bites or for fishing at night with lights. Comfortable rubberized shrink-wrapped handles well up the rod provide two-handed action when battling big catfish. The rods come with a 7-year warranty. Info: uglystik.com
St. Croix Legend
You’ll do a double-take when you see the new Legend Tournament Bass rods from St. Croix. The rods — more than two dozen in the technique-specific series — come with new glass blanks, ergonomics and cosmetics. Swimbait models, for example, are available for light, mid and heavy swimbaits in 7-foot-10 lengths for the first two and 8-foot-6 for the latter. The rods have St. Croix’s new “Grasp” reel seat, which is supposed to “effectively combat the hand and wrist fatigue that commonly sets in when casting and retrieving heavy lures and doing battle with large, powerful fish.” The pistol-style grip supposedly offers more control of the rod and fish, and has a SoftTouch coating. Info: stcroixrods.com
13 Fishing Meta
Veteran pro angler Gerald Swindle doesn’t compromise with his gear: rods, lures, boat, any of it. After more than two decades, he knows what he wants and what it’s supposed to do. When he teamed with 13 Fishing to create the new Meta series, it took two years to get the line of spinning, casting and cranking rods designed to his specifics while remaining affordable for Joe Angler. The blanks are built with a boatload of features: Japanese blank construction, split grip EVA handles, custom reel seats, stainless steel guides with DuraLite inserts and more. The rods come with a 5-year warranty and Swindle’s tournament and Guntersville-pounding stamp of approval. Info: 13fishing.com
Ugly Stik Carbon Inshore
The new Ugly Stik Carbon Inshore rod line is expanded this year but retains top features including a 100-percent graphite blank, solid graphite tip, crisp actions and increased sensitivity in the nine models. Available in spinning and casting models, this the Carbon Inshore has one-piece stainless steel Ugly Tuff guides that handle a variety of lines and conditions. You’ll also find premium cork foregrip, shrink tube rear handle, Fuji reel seats with styles that vary by model, and the most popular actions in six spinning and three casting models for almost all inshore possibilities. The Carbon Inshore rods feature attractive seafoam ocean-blue cosmetics and the traditional Ugly Stik diamond wrap. Info: uglystik.com
Bubba Tidal Series
Bubba Tidal Series inshore rods have been tested in real-world conditions coast-to-coast by captains, guides and other anglers. Designed for performance and durability in the harsh conditions of coastal angling, the Tidal, Tidal Select and Tidal Pro lines offer spinning and casting options in the most popular lengths, actions and powers. They feature corrosion-resistant Fuji components, Toray graphite construction and Bubba’s reliable Non-Slip Grip for all-day comfort. The rods are backed by a limited lifetime warranty. Info: bubba.com
The AquaFin Series by Fitzgerald Fishing is designed for inshore and nearshore saltwater anglers. Tru Action Technology proprietary rod blanks are fast action for longer casts, more sensitivity, and more fighting power. Hand wrapped with saltwater grade American Tackle 316 stainless steel guides that are great for braid, fluorocarbon, and monofilament fishing line. Available in fall 2022. MSRP: $189.99 - $199.99. Info: fitzgeraldrods.com