The 60th International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, known to fishermen and industry moguls simply as ICAST, was held July 11 through 14 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando and drew a record number of displays and industry buyers and media who came to see them. ICAST hosted 582 exhibitors in 1982 booths that filled the 200,000 square foot show floor. The Carolinas were well represented as 64 of the exhibitors were companies based in North and South Carolina. There were also seminars each day presenting a variety of ideas to assist tackle shops compete in the outdoor marketplace.  

Several years ago the American Sportfishing Association, who produces ICAST, began a partnership with the International Fly Tackle Dealers Show to run the two events concurrently and in 2015 added the Marine Accessories Pavilion sponsored by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. These additions have proven hugely beneficial for all. With almost 15,000 representatives, buyers and media registered, the large show floor stayed full and at times appeared crowded. Those attending were from around the world and included 1,156 people from 73 countries other than the U.S.  

For the first time, there were displays open on Tuesday. Several years back ICAST began the ICAST Cup, a bass fishing tournament that pairs professional anglers with media representatives and other industry professionals and the Florida Sportsman Bass and Birdies golf and fishing tournament. For 2017, there were three hours of on the water product demonstrations held outside on the Orange County Convention Center grounds on Tuesday, before the show floor opened on Wednesday. Holding this outside allowed buyers and media not just to check out, but also demo exhibitors’ gear, tackle and accessories. It was a very popular addition and there is talk it will be expanded when ICAST returns to Orlando in 2018. 

One of the highlights of ICAST is the New Products Showcase. Manufacturers place new or significantly improved products in the showcase and buyers and media from around the world vote on the outstanding products in 26 categories and a best of show. There has been a growing kayak fishing presence at ICAST for the past 10 years and numerous people remarked about how strong and large it was this year with 15 kayaks, canoes or SUPs in the boating category of the New Product Showcase and several other new kayaks and SUPs on the show floor.  

The Best of Show award has gone to a kayak or kayak accessory for most of the past decade and that trend continued this year with the Rover from Bote claiming the title. The Rover is a hybrid design that incorporates some kayak, SUP and small skiff features into a rather unique package. It can be paddled or powered, fished standing or sitting, and should allow accessing really skinny water. The other category winners include:

* Best of Category – Boating Accessories – Yeti Coolers - LoadOut Bucket;

* Best of Category – Boats and Watercraft – Bote - Rover;

* Best of Category – Eyewear – Costa - The Sunrise Mirror Lens;

* Best of Category – Footwear – Huk Performance Fishing - Attack;

* Best of Category – Giftware – The Catch and Release Print Shop - Fish Prints – Actual Size;

* Best of Category – Lifestyle Apparel – Frogg Toggs - Prym1 Series Pilot II Jacket & Bibs;

* Best of Category – Technical Apparel – Frogg Toggs - Sierran Transition Wader;

* Best of Category – Electronics – Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc. - SOLIX 15 CHIRP MEGA SI GPS;

* Best of Category – Fishing Accessory – YETI Coolers - Panga Duffel;

* Best of Category – Fly Fishing Accessory – Simms Fishing Products - G3 Guide™ Stockingfoot Wader;

* Best of Category – Fishing Line – Pure Fishing Inc. - Berkley Fireline Ultra 8;

* Best of Category – FishSmart – Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle - 2017 Flounder Sample Pack;

* Best of Category – Kids’ Tackle – 13 Fishing - Ambition Combo;

* Best of Category – Tackle Management – Daiwa Corporation - Tactical Backpack;

* Best of Category – Terminal Tackle – Trapper Tackle - Trapper Round Bend Treble;

* Best of Category – Freshwater Hard Lure – Okuma Fishing Tackle Corp. - Savage Gear 3D Topwater Bat;

* Best of Category – Saltwater Hard Lure – Rapala - X-Rap Magnum 40;

* Best of Category – Freshwater Soft Lure – Lunkerhunt LP - Prop Series;

* Best of Category – Saltwater Soft Lure – LIVETARGET - Hollow Body Mullet;

* Best of Category – Fly Reel – Pure Fishing, Inc. - Pflueger Supreme QRS Fly Reel;

* Best of Category – Freshwater Reel – Shimano American Corp. - Curado K Baitcasting Reels;

* Best of Category – Saltwater Reel – Shimano American Corp. - Sustain Reels C4000/5000;

* Best of Category – Rod & Reel Combo – Lew’s Fishing Tackle - Mach Crush Speed Spool Combo;

* Best of Category – Fly Fishing Rod – G. Loomis, Inc. - IMX-Pro Fly Rod;

* Best of Category – Freshwater Rod – 13 Fishing - Fate Black;

* Best of Category – Saltwater Rod – St. Croix Rods - Legend Tournament Inshore;

One of the unique tackle products were the rounded square treble hooks from Trapper Tackle. Trapper first showed their unique trapping hook design at the 2016 ICAST and won Best of Show in Terminal Tackle. This year they returned with a similar design in treble hooks and won the Terminal Tackle category again. Fishermen who had used their single hooks spoke highly of them and said they are looking forward to switching to the new treble hooks on some of their favorite lures.  

Several interesting things either weren't entered in the New Product Showcase or the voters didn't find interesting. One of these was the trolling motor control system from Pro Nav Marine. The Pro Nav module can easily update many older electric trolling motors to the new features of holding a boat on location without anchoring, setting a route and automatically following it and more. There is a receiver that clamps on the motor's shaft, a module that fits into the foot pedal or remote wiring using the existing connections, and it runs from a smart phone app. Fishermen with an older wireless or electric foot control trolling motor in good condition that would like the new features, can update for significantly less than purchasing a new trolling motor with these features.

FireDisc Cookers debuted their new cooker. Many want to call this a grill, but it isn't really a grill, even though it does most of the things we usually do on a grill, but it can also do more. Their slogan is "Built to haul, cooks it all," and it appears fully capable from the patio to hunting or fishing camp, and tailgating too. 

The FireDisc Cooker is designed to go anywhere and be ready to cook within a minute or two of arriving. It includes a heavy duty collapsible stand, hookups for small propane bottles (an adapter is available to connect to larger propane bottles) and a super heavy duty cooking pan that has a concave bottom somewhat like a plow disc, hence the name. The concave bottom makes for varying degrees of heat from the middle to the edge and allows anything from frying fish to toasting buns or keeping things warm.  

There were numerous clothing manufacturers in attendance and all have good products for sun and casual wear. However, the new Cool Core fabric being incorporated into their line by Gillz Performance Apparel is especially impressive. It is lightweight and soft, and it uses the wearer’s perspiration to cool.  

Gillz did two demonstrations in their booth using a temperature gun to verify the temperature of a piece of Cool Core. One was a bottle of water at room temperature, and the other was a pot of boiling water. When they poured either of the waters on the Cool Core fabric, its temperature immediately began to drop. In only a couple of minutes, the temperature of the Cool Core with the bottled water had dropped to 60 degrees and the boiling water took only slightly longer to cool into the 60s. This was impressive! You can see demonstration videos on their FaceBook page at Gillz Performance Apparel.    

Of course there were numerous new and/or improved rods, reels, fishing lines, lures, accessories, clothing and more from many manufacturers. These are 2018 products, but some are already available in limited supply with more becoming available during the fall and winter. Check with your favorite tackle shop or outfitter and you may be able to use some of the products when fishing gets good this fall. The others will be good things to ask for as stocking stuffers at Christmas. 

A special report on the Carolina exhibitors at ICAST 2017 will follow.