For the past three years, most of the innovation in fishing tackle and gear has been in sourcing materials, redesigning existing products to meet the challenges of the times and scrambling to manufacture and fill orders. The chaos of COVID and a volatile economy have distracted from creating new stuff to make fishing easier and more fun. As we enter a new normal, hot, new start-ups and the biggest companies in the business are back in the game and ready to cook up new and better ways to catch fish. Here is the first installment in our list of favorite new fishing products from ICAST 2022.
[This article is part of our Best New Tackle And Gear At ICAST 2022 series. Read Part II, Part III and Part IV for more of our top picks from the world’s largest fishing tackle tradeshow, or browse all of our ICAST coverage.]
Best New Tackle And Gear At ICAST 2022
Walking through the ICAST tackle tradeshow is like being a kid in a candy shop. One of the top items on my wish list is a Garmin Quatix 7 Marine Smartwatch. The seventh generation of the industry-leading marine smartwatch has extended battery life and an easy-to-read touchscreen.
Connecting the watch with my Garmin electronics, I can control and access data such as depth and water temperature. The watch provides navigation and charts, I can even mark waypoints. I like the touchscreen with button backup when my fingers are covered in fish slime and salt water. In addition to marine data, the watch offers a full range of fitness tracking. Unlike other smartwatches, the Garmin Quatix 7 battery runs up to an amazing 16 days without charging.
For the electronics geeks out there, Garmin’s top-of-the-line Livescope XR now has extended range of up to 350 feet in salt water and 500 feet in freshwater. That means you can see what is in front, behind and to the sides of the boat hundreds of feet farther than before.
PENN Authority Spinning Reel
PENN, one of the oldest and most respected brands in saltwater tackle, has stepped up their already impressive game with the brand new PENN Authority spinning reel. Ben Joyce, brand manager at PENN described the Authority as a “totally new category of premium reels.”
Featuring full stainless steel gearing, improved pinion bearings and carbon fiber drag washers the Authority produces 60-pounds of drag. The internal workings are protected by a body with IPX8 waterproofing. That means the reel is certified to stay watertight at one-meter depth for thirty minutes.
To customize the feel, the reel comes with two handles, one with an aluminum knob and another with a softer plastic knob. Best of all, the reel is available in sizes from 2500 for speckled trout and redfish to the largest sizes for tuna, wahoo and sailfish.
Ugly Stik Carbon
Ugly Stik rods are famous for being unbreakable and affordable. But the classic rods are not known for lightweight sensitivity. That reputation ends with the new Ugly Stik Carbon series rods. Designed specifically for saltwater fishing, the rods are made of 24-ton carbon fiber blank that is light and sensitive but still Ugly Stik tough.
Premium features include a cork foregrip, rubber shrink tubing butt and Fuji reel seat. I’m a big fan of the single-piece Ugly Tuff line guides that are more durable and produce less friction. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the Ugly Stik Carbon’s cool teal color scheme is pretty in my eyes.
Even with these advancements, the new Carbon series maintains the nearly indestructible Ugly Tec construction and affordable price point under $100.
St. Croix Avid Series
St. Croix is coming into 2022 with a full-court press of 12 new rod series. We were stoked about the new Avid series technique-specific rods. Technique-specific rods are the calling card of St. Croix’s premium lines and now their extensive pro staff feedback and research has trickled down to their $200 to $220 price-point rods. The series includes rods designed specifically for finesse and topwater, jerkbaits and slashbaits, but I was stoked they included models made for popular species like panfish and walleye.
St. Croix didn’t slack on the components either. Their super tough and sensitive SCIII+ carbon hybrid combines super light and sensitive carbon with more durable and flexible carbon to balance strength and touch. Their best line guides are single piece to reduce friction for longer casts with light line. The reel seat and handles are ergonomic and comfortable. Now you can get a rod specifically designed for how you fish without spending big money.
It’s hard to believe that 13 Fishing has risen to the top of the tackle business in less than a decade. According to lead designer Matt Baldwin, their success is rooted in innovation and out-of-the-box solutions to common challenges. For 2022, the best examples of this strategy is the new Concept TX2 casting reels and matching Omen Green saltwater rod.
To tackle the harsh environment and brutal abuse of saltwater fishing, Baldwin designed the reels to be completely corrosion resistant. First, he pointed to the full carbon frame and side plates. Inside, the saltwater-proof bearings keep the reel running smoothly. “This reel is 100-percent corrosion proof,” Baldwin says.
To stop big saltwater fish, the Concept TX2 produces an amazing 25-pounds of drag in a 200-size reel. My favorite feature is the cool reel cover that snaps onto the reel without removing the lure. After conquering the freshwater reel market, 13 Fishing is set to take on saltwater with problem-solving solutions that seem to evade other reels.
Aquaglide Blackfoot Angler
For years, Aquaglide has produced some of the smartest and coolest inflatable fishing kayaks and standup paddleboards. But, 2022 was the first year the Washington state company attended the ICAST tradeshow. While the boats are popular with serious adventurers and West Coast anglers, Aquaglide is taking their name to the next level as their boats and boards are carried in stores around the country.
The flagship of the fishing line are the Blackfoot Angler kayak and SUP. The kayak comes in 13-foot and 16-foot models that can be rigged solo or tandem. The boats feature low-pressure side chambers and a lightweight drop stitch floor. To rig the boat with rod holders and accessories, they included base mounts at convenient points on the gunnels.
A frame seat with mesh upholstery is comfortable; add the extended legs to lift the seat higher off the deck for a better view and more comfortable ride. There’s room in the stern for a gear crate and plenty of space in the cockpit for fishing. Best of all, the boat, seat, paddle and accessories fit in a carry bag and weigh 41 pounds for the 13-footer and 51 pounds for the 16-foot model.
The Blackfoot SUP is even more portable and almost as fishable. The board also includes accessory mounts, gear bungees and an optional frame seat. The SUP only weighs 28 pounds. Lately, a lot of companies have jumped on the inflatable fishing kayak and SUP train, but Aquaglide has a been leading the way for years.
Railblaza’s C-Tug has been my go-to kayak cart for years. The corrosion-proof, low-profile and smooth running cart is perfect for moving my kayak from the truck to the water. However, the C-Tug saddles are best for a traditional V-hull kayak. So, Railblaza introduced new adjustable rails to accommodate larger, heavier and irregular hulls. Many boats today are built on a modified tunnel hull and the new rails are adjustable to fit in any size and shape hull. I have a dozen kayaks in my fleet, and the new C-Tug rails will fit any of them.
Yeti Rolling Cooler
Hot out of the factory, we got a first look at Yeti’s new rolling cooler. Everyone has a rolling cooler with an extendable handle to take to the game or a picnic. Everyone has also been halfway to the stadium or park when the wheels fell off and the handle breaks. No more! Yeti, the toughest, coldest coolers on earth, have taken their technology to the classic rolling cooler.
Coming in 48 and 60 quarts, Yeti put three years of testing and redesign into their version of the family classic. The new cooler offers the same durability and ice retention in a lighter package. The plastic wheels are mounted on a solid axle. To tackle the rolling coolers’ weakest point, Yeti developed a telescoping handle capable of supporting a full load without bending or breaking. Next time your wheeled cooler breaks down at the worst time, replace it with the Yeti Rolling Cooler and keep on rolling.