ORLANDO, Fla. — One corner of ICAST's New Product Showcase carries an extraordinary influence on the entire show at the Orange County Convention Center. The new hard and soft plastic lures are the tail wagging the dog, so to speak.
"It's like when the Alabama rig came out," said “Facts of Fishing” host and B.A.S.S. emcee Dave Mercer. "There weren't any rods to throw it."
But there were plenty of A-rig rods the next year. That's just one reason why a close examination of new lures is worthwhile. But these new lures, when viewed overall, also reveal trends in the sport, even if they don't require technique specific rods, reels and tackle-toting systems.
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Two trends stand out after a walk through this year's New Product Showcase: 1) size, both large and small; and 2) realism.
The swimbait craze over the last few years has made big lures a common sight. This year you can see the emphasis on "big" in other types of lures.
Possibly the hottest bait on the tournament bass fishing circuit is the giant Ben Parker Magnum Flutter Spoon. This 10-inch version of an old standby led to an FLW win on Kentucky Lake and a B.A.S.S. Collegiate win on Pickwick Lake the same weekend recently. It weighs 3.5 ounces and carries a 3/0 Owner Stinger treble hook.
Bandit's Deep Crankbait is another offering in the land of the giant lures: It's almost eight inches long (20 cm) and is designed to be fished in the 15- to 20-foot range.
Both big in size and outlandish in appearance is SPRO's BBZ-1 Rat. Lure designer Bill Siemantel has worked for two years perfecting the action of this topwater lure that is 10 inches long, featuring a 5 ¼-inch body and a 4 ¾-inch articulating tail. It weighs 2.5 ounces. There are many technique specific frog rods on the market now; look for a rat rod in the new products next year.
Square-billed crankbaits aren't immune to the super-size trend. Strike King is introducing the KVD 8.0 that will dive to seven feet. It's based on the original Strike King KVD 2.5 squarebill, only bigger — five inches long and 1.5 ounces in weight.
On the small side, you can see the trend especially in soft plastics, like the Yum Sharp Shooter, an ice pick-thin finesse worm that comes in 4.5- and 6-inch sizes.
Also on the thin rather than fat side is Gene Larew's 3.5-inch Rally Grub with a thumping tail designed to swim at the slowest retrieve speeds. Trigger X has a 1.5-inch Panfish Bite with wing-like appendages for a gliding action on the fall and tentacles in the tail section for added swimming action.
Z-Man has added a host of small soft plastics designed for use with another new product, a Finesse ShroomZ jighead. The Slim SwimZ are an example — a down-sized swimbait with a paddle tail that comes eight to a package and is available in 12 colors.
Among hard plastics, Rebel has introduced micro versions of its already smallish originals like the Crickhopper. The microCritters — in Popr, minnow and crawfish versions — feature a barbless hook, both for the safety of young anglers and long-term health of fisheries.
As to realism, LiveTarget has been a key trendsetter for a couple of years and took a Best of Show Award at last year's ICAST for it's BaitBall series. LiveTarget has continued to add realism and lure options, from topwaters to crankbaits, that look like miniature aquariums. And the company has a new addition — the Hybrid Shrimp. It's a combination of hard and soft plastic with a hard body and soft legs. It comes in 3 ½-inch (3/8ths oz.) and 4-inch (1/2 oz.) sizes.
The Fish Arrow Flash-J soft plastic is billed as "the most advanced, realistic minnow in the bait industry." That's a matter of opinion, but it's definitely in the ballpark. It has a paper-thin aluminum foil core that acts like a spine to give it a more lifelike swimming action, plus an extra-soft body. It's available in 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-inch sizes.
Whether it's a minnow, a shad, a crawfish, a crab or a shrimp, some company now makes a product that looks as life-like as possible.
It's just a matter of time until rod, reel, line and tackle box systems adapt to accommodate the most popular of these new products.
Click here for videos, stories and photos from ICAST 2014.