ICAST 2017 was held July 11-14 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fl. This is the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades and companies from the Carolinas represented more than 10 percent of those displaying their wares. There were 582 companies displaying a variety of fishing tackle and associated products and more than 60 were from North and South Carolina. Of those 60 some companies approximately half manufacture fishing rods and reels or line and tackle.
Pure Fishing, headquartered in Columbia, S.C., is the largest conglomerate of tackle manufacturers in the world today. Pure Fishing company Berkley won the Best in Show award for Fishing Line with their Fireline Ultra 8 thermally fused 8 carrier braided line. This is the toughest Fireline available with four times the abrasion resistance of similar lines. Ultra 8 is an 8 carrier Dyneema line that uses the Fireline process to fuse the Dyneema fibers together for a higher PIC count that gives the extra strength and also improves casting distance. Ultra 8 is available from 4 to 30 pound strengths in smoke and crystal colors.
The Pflueger Supreme QRS Fly Reel, another Pure Fishing product, was selected as the Best in Show for Fly Reels. The QRS in this reel's name stands for quick release spool and the reel comes with two large arbor and two medium arbor spools for versatility. The spools are polycarbonate while the reels are 6061 alloy and use stainless steel hardware to securely lock in the spools. The QRS reels come in three sizes and each spool has a line identification marker to avoid confusion.
The Penn International VI-50VISW was selected as the runner-up in the Saltwater Fishing Reel category. Other Pure fishing companies include; Abu Garcia, All Star, Chub, Fenwick, Grays, Hardy, Hodgman, Johnson Lures, JRC, Mitchell, Sebile, Shakespeare, Spiderwire, Stren and Ugly Stik.
Shimano is another S.C. company, headquartered in Ladson. The Shimano corporate umbrella isn't as large as Pure Fishing’s, but they are all considered premiere Brands. Shimano topped both the ICAST freshwater and saltwater reel categories.
The Curado K Baitcasting Reel was selected the Best Freshwater Reel. There will be six new Curado K models in right and left-handed versions. They feature MicroModule gears, SVS Infinity braking system, and they come in a smaller package and more ergonomic shape. The new reels will also be lighter and have longer handles for comfort, leverage and power. All six sizes have shielded anti-rust ball bearings for use in brackish water and by coastal saltwater fishermen.
The Sustain C4000 and 5000 reels were selected as the Best Saltwater Reel. These reels were seriously updated and now have the Shimano Hagane gear technology and body design, plus X-Protect. The Hagane Gear is cold forged aluminum that is 165-percent stronger than casted zinc gears, plus it has exceptional durability, smoothness and a long-life expectancy. X-protect uses a "labyrinth design" three-lipped rubber seal system that provides exceptional water resistance and keeps the light rotation feel on all sizes, even when used in wet fishing conditions.
The G. Loomis IMX-Pro Fly Rod was chosen as the Best Fly Rod. This rod series is built to the specifications of top caliber fishing guides to offer top performance in fresh water fishing. The rods are attractive, but durable and will be workhorses for serious anglers. IMX-Pro rods are available in 4 to 8 weight modes in lengths from 8 feet, 6 inches to 10 feet.
G. Loomis Conquest Bass Rods received a runner-up mention in the fresh water rods category. The other products under the Shimano product umbrella are Shimano Saltwater Lures, Power Pro Line and Jackall Lures.
Several other interesting items made by North or South Carolina companies either weren't in the New Products Showcase or weren't selected in the top two. Star Rods, Sea Striker and Calcutta operate under the Big Rock Sports corporate umbrella. Big Rock Sports is now nationwide, but began in N.C. and still has its offices in Morehead City and Graham, with a huge warehouse in Hamlet. Sea Striker and Calcutta make a variety of products that include tackle and accessories, while Star Rods makes rods and a few reels.
Star Rods had their New VPR rods and S7000/S8000 spinning reels at ICAST, but not in the New Products Showcase. The VPR rods use specially formulated high modulus, multi-directional graphite with a new specialized formula Nano resin to add strength and reduce weight. Add the best components, like Fuji K Tangle-free guides and reel seats, and these rods are light and powerful. There are Inshore spinning, surf spinning, boat spinning and boat conventional rod models in the VPR line.
The S7000 and S8000 Star reels have a bit of a throwback look, but use modern parts and materials for a lifetime of use. They look a little like a cross between the old Penn Z Series and a Van Staal. With the capability to make 25 and 28 pounds of drag and spools that will hold 400 yards of 40 or 500 yards of 50 pound braid, they've got the makings to tangle with just about anything.
Cashion Rods of Sanford, N.C. always has nice rods and was showing a new shorter butt model that still used a split grip for kayak fishermen. They have kayak casting rods in several actions from 6 feet to 7 feet, 3 inches and spinning rods in two actions in 6 feet, 6 inch and 7 feet lengths.
ALX Rods of Aiken, S.C. was also on hand displaying some of their rods, including their Expert Series, a rod that ALX’s Alex Dziengielewski teamed up with pro angler Ben Parker to build specifically for fishing oversized spoons. ALX was also showing off their ZOLO, IKOS, and BOKU rods.
Fishermen that are on the water after dark will appreciate the LED lighted balloons from Balloon Fisher King of Wilmington, N.C. A previous model used miniature glow sticks to light the balloons and be visible at night. The new version has a one-time LED and battery molded into the balloon. It's really bright and should be visible in just about any conditions. The balloon can be inflated a little or a lot, depending on the size of the bait.
Z-Man Lures of Ladson, S.C. had several new offerings on the fresh water side. Their Cross Eye Flippin Jig was designed by Bass Pro David Walker. There is a full size version and a smaller Power Finesse Jig. Both use 100 percent silicone skirts and really pulse in the water.
There were also several new soft baits from Z Man. Their Trick ShotZ and TRD HogZ attracted a lot of attention, but their 2.75 inch Finesse FrogZ created a lot of bubbling action in the display tanks and should get lots of attention crossing weed pockets or open water.
Other Tar Heel or Palmetto State companies that were displaying rods, reels, and lures included: Angle Sports - Columbia, S.C. - Cinnetic Reels; Arrowhead Industries - Hickory, N.C. - Caraballo Skirts and Baits; Betts Tackle - Fuquay-Varina, N.C. - Billy Bay Baits; Cedar Rock Manufacturing - Burlington, N.C. - Stingsilvers, bubble gum worms and soft plastics; Clutch Fly Rods - Huger, S.C. - fly rods; Fathom Offshore - Wilmington, N.C. - offshore lures and teasers; Fish Razr - Charleston, S.C. - teasers and dredges and Hanta Rods and Lures - Raleigh, N.C. - jigging and popping rods and custom painted lures.
There are many excellent products introduced at ICAST each year and even though they might not get the love in the New Products Showcase, North and South Carolina companies represent their fishermen well and bring a high percentage of innovative ideas to the table. While ICAST was in July 2017, it was a introduction for 2018 products. Some of these ideas will be available this fall, but for some it might be after the first of the year. Visit your favorite local tackle dealer frequently and you can be catching fish with them shortly after they arrive.