Strolling the aisles of ICAST, officially known as the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, in search of top new tackle makes us feel like kids in the proverbial candy store. What could be better than methodically making your way down rows of booths filled with the latest gear to help us have more fun and catch more fish?
In fact, the hardest part is taking it all in, without being overwhelmed. It's not unlike walking into a sprawling tackle shop or well-stocked fishing section in a large outdoor retailer. Where do you start?
To help fellow fishing fans begin processing it all, we offer this rundown of 10 top new fishing gear items. Pulled from a variety of categories — selected to compliment those covered in other new-product highlights on lures, reels, and bass baits — it provides a sampling, in alphabetical order, of what ICAST had to offer.
Fenwick HMG Rods
No matter your favorite fish, chances are Fenwick's HMG rod lineup has you covered. We admit, Fenwick introduced its first HMG — or High Modulus Graphite — model way back in 1973. But today, the company is releasing a totally redesigned HMG series that begs inclusion in any rundown of notable new products. The reborn HMG cradles proven high-modulus blank material beneath a strength-enhancing carbon wrapping to create the new Carbon Bound blank. Other upgrades include a comfortable Fuji 5K reel seat, titanium guides, slimmed-down (and 10 percent lighter) handle, and easy-to-hold, soft TAC grip with EVA foam accents. Available in six baitcasting and 17 spinning models, in ultra-light to medium-heavy powers and lengths from 6 to 7½ feet. fenwickfishing.com
Frabill Crankbait Net
Woven of snarl-resistant hexagonal mesh, knotless, and cloaked in poke-resistant vinyl, the Crankbait Net puts an end to netting nightmares wrought by writhing gamefish and multi-treble lures. Another plus — its flat-bottom design is also gentle on fish. Offered in three sizes and a variety of hoop and handle options, including the Conservation Series 9517, 9521, and 9522, Tru-Trax 3813 and 3814, and Sportsman Net's 3443 and 3444. frabill.com
Humminbird Bow 360
Humminbird answers the call for a frontal version of its 360 Imaging system with the new Bow 360. Compatible with current, Ethernet-capable Humminbird Side Imaging-equipped models, it mounts on your bow-mount trolling motor via a Quick Release Mounting Bracket. Features include 150 feet of sonar coverage 360 degrees around the boat; the ability to mark waypoints anywhere on the screen; zoom; video and screen-capture recording; audio alert when a waypoint nears casting range; four sonar speed settings, and more. humminbird.com
AutoChart lets you create your own detailed hydrographic maps of your favorite fishing holes using Humminbird sonar returns and GPS data. Simply record sonar logs on the AutoChart Zero Lines SD card (included), which is loaded with the shorelines of more than 2 million lakes. Next, convert your data into a map with AutoChart PC software. Export the map onto the SD card, and display it on any LakeMaster-compatible Humminbird unit. AutoChart is compatible with LakeMaster's Depth Highlight, Water level Offset, and Shallow Water Highlight features — as well as Minn Kota's i-Pilot Link Follow the Contour. An AutoChart Pro version ups the ante, providing bottom hardness and the ability to overlay Side Imaging returns for a three-dimensional view of the bottom. lakemap.com
Lowrance Elite-5 HDI
The Elite-5 Hybrid Dual Imaging series blends Broadband Sounder and Downscan Imaging technologies to reveal fish while painting an amazing portrait of the underwater world. Available as a stand-alone fishfinder, chartplotter, or combo unit, the Elite-5 HDI offers top-shelf features such as Advanced Signal Processing, TrackBack, and Downscan Overlay. Chartplotter models include a built-in GPS antenna and detailed U.S. map with more than 3,000 lakes and rivers, plus coastal contours to 1,000 feet. It accommodates Lake and Nautic Insight HD and PRO cartography, along with Navionics Gold, HotMaps Premium, Fishing Hotspots PRO, and Jeppesen C-Map Max-N charts. The units are also compatible with the new online Insight Genesis map-making service, which lets you create custom, high-resolution maps of contours, bottom hardness, and vegetation from recorded sonar logs. All Elite-5 models feature a 5-inch, high-resolution color display. lowrance.com
Minn Kota Talon
Completely redesigned, the Talon takes shallow-water anchoring technology to new depths — specifically, all the way down to 12 feet. And, thanks to the Talon's three-stage deployment system, its housing height does not increase with the added depth range. Available in 12- and 10-foot models, the new Talon also offers three distinct anchoring modes — Soft Bottom, Auto-Drive, and Rough Water. Designed for mud, sand, and other soft substrate, Soft Bottom mode prevents the spike from being driven too deeply by toning down anchoring force, and by tapping bottom only once. Auto-Drive delivers a trio of sequential hits, using increasing force to ensure the Talon gains a foothold. In choppy conditions, Rough Water mode performs three Auto-Drive sequences to maintain its grip on bottom. minnkotamotors.com
MotorGuide brings its A-game with this high-tech yet tough-as-nails new electric-steer bowmount. Features include a rugged composite shaft that carries a lifetime warranty; sophisticated and silent steering transmission; a heel-toe format wireless control pedal that's easy to use without sneaking glances at your foot; low-profile mount; and cool-running, energy-saving digital technology, capable of capturing and storing power that is otherwise lost as heat. Available in 12-, 24-, and 36-volt models with 55, 80, and 105 pounds of thrust, respectively, in shaft lengths from 48 to 60 inches. The new Xi5 is also available with Pinpoint GPS technology, which can hold the boat on a fixed GPS position, follow a route or heading, and control speed while under way. Plus, MotorGuide partnered with electronics icon Lowrance to offer PinpointConnect, a user-friendly interface between the Xi5 and Lowrance HDS Gen2 and Gen2 Touch sonar/chartplotters. motorguide.com
Plano Guide Series
Plano won a Best of Show award for its revamped Guide Series lineup, and rightly so. One of the coolest attributes is a convenient molded top that cradles a ProLatch StowAway, creating a handy and easily changeable workstation on the water. Other amenities include a molded, impact-resistant waterproof base; padded outer pockets for stowing your sunglasses, smartphone, or other sundries; ample easy-access compartments; all-purpose PVC mesh pocket; pliers caddy, and more. Available in four sizes, from the 20 X 13 X 11 ½-inch 3700 Hydro-Flo flagship, which features an impact- and skid-resistant base, and holds six 3700 series ProLatch StowAway boxes, to the 12 X 6½ X 7-inch 3500 model, which still swallows five 3500 StowAways. All feature waterproof bases to further protect your precious tackle from the elements. planomolding.com
With the ability to boost knot strength up to 100 percent, this slick new string is a shining example of the never-ending advancement of braided lines. The secret? High-strength 'termination zones ' located every 20 feet along the line. Tie your lure, leader, or swivel to one of these 32-inch sections — which are easily identifiable by their black coloration — and reduce the loss of strength that typically occurs when braids are knotted. Benefits include the ability to cinch down your drag for rock-solid hooksets, without fear of break-offs. Available in 20- and 50-pound breakstrengths, in shades of high-vis yellow and low-key aqua green. powerpro.com
Longtime flasher innovator Vexilar introduces a WiFi-based system that transforms smart phones and tablets into HD-quality, touch-screen sonar displays. Available in portable and permanent-mounting options, Sonarphone creates its own WiFi hotspot to share data from the transducer. Features include noise rejection, water temperature, automatic ranging and sensitivity, plus alarms for fish, shallow water, and low battery. The SP100 portable pod scans with a single 30-degree beam, while the SP200 and SP300 boat-mounted versions feature a 20- and 40-degree dual beam, plus a few extra screen controls. To get a feel for the features and menus, download the free app from the Apple or Android store, then try it in demo mode. vexilar.com