The first day of ICAST 2023 started with a bang as a record number of exhibitors gathered at the sport fishing industry’s biggest on-the-water demonstration. Like kids at the kiddie pool, anglers lined the banks of the Orange County Convention Center’s pond playing with the newest and coolest toys you can’t wait to get your hands on. Here are some of our favorite standouts on the playground.
Highlights from ICAST 2023 Demo Day
1 Garmin Kraken
“Garmin is in the trolling motor business,” Dave Dunn, Garmin’s senior director of marine sales emphatically states. What that means is Garmin is dedicated to designing electric trolling motors to the same level of industry leading and market defining level as the rest of their line of electronic gadgets. To prove his point, we were invited onboard Captain Eric Davis’s 25 foot bay boat from Vero Backcountry Fishing for an exclusive demonstration of the new Force Kraken trolling motor. Why were a couple kayak anglers zooming around in a motor boat testing a trolling motor? You’ll have to read to the end of the story for the answer.
Incorporating the most advanced and popular features in trolling motors, the new Garmin Force Kraken trolling motor puts an emphasis on accuracy, user interface and reliability. Starting with a brushless motor producing 100 pounds of thrust on a 36-volt system or 80 pounds with a 24-volt battery set up, the Kraken Force’s propellor is optimized for speed and performance. All components are designed for durability with a composite shaft and advanced corrosion resistant coatings. Garmin went with a pivot style deployment system to reduce the risk of failure when dropping and retracting the trolling motor.
The Kraken is designed with an integrated CHIRP, side view and down view sonar. Add the live sonar transducer and route the cable through the trolling motor shaft for a clean, protected installation. The Kraken’s brain is controlled by the most accurate GPS coupled with precision motor control capable of keeping the boat on course or locked in place. Accessing and harnessing the Kraken’s features is easy through the wireless remote, wireless foot pedal, Garmin chartplotter display or Garmin watch.
Currently the Kraken is available in 63, 75 and 90 inch shaft lengths. When we asked about a Kraken for kayaks, David Dunn smiled slyly and whispered, “We’re not done, yet.”
2 G. Loomis NRX+ Inshore
After the incredible popularity of the G. Loomis NRX+ freshwater fishing rod series, inshore anglers can now get their hands on 10 purpose-built saltwater models. NRX+ represents the pinnacle of G. Loomis’s 40 years of design and technology experience, starting with the industry-leading Multi-Tapered blank to precisely distribute material for precise performance requirements. Then, Spiral X construction contributes to quicker recovery for a longer, more accurate cast. Of course, high-end rods are outfitted with light and tough titanium line-guides.
Our favorite feature is the custom C14 reel seat that puts the angler’s hand in direct contact with the blank to detect the lightest bite. Not only do the NRX+ rods outperform other rods, they outlast lesser fishing rods for years of reliable fishing.
When Deeper showed up on the scene with a castable fish finder transducer and smartphone integration it immediately got our attention. Now, Deeper models include CHIRP and GPS while still offering an easy-to-use fish finder you can take anywhere.
The sonar transducer is about the size of a small apple and designed to tie to your fishing line and cast away from the boat or shore. Then retrieve the transducer and it displays sonar images of the bottom, structure and fish. The most advanced models offer high-resolution CHIRP sonar or super accurate GPS. Couple with a powerful smartphone app that allows you to create charts, view and interpret data. The app even saves data to review after the fishing trip.
This year, Deeper is reaching out to kayak anglers with a new Deeper Sonar Flexible Arm Mount bracket to mount the transducer to a gear track or clamped to the side of the kayak. Or, use the Deeper Smartphone Mount to attach your phone to your fishing rod.
Kokopelli, famous for super light and packable inflatable rafts for wilderness expeditions, now offers the new Kaster perfectly suited for off-the-grid or backyard fishing.
Based on the Platte Plus model, the Kaster’s double layered material is more robust to survive sharp fish spines and fishing hooks. A drop-stitch floor contributes to stability and rigidity for improved paddling and fishing performance. To attach rod holders and accessories, the Kaster includes five universal mounting bases and over a dozen D-rings. Long days on the water are no problem with a comfortable padded seat on a six inch riser that takes pressure off the back and legs.
Even with all the features and reinforcement, the Kaster still weighs less than 30 pounds. And, the Kaster is ready to fish with paddle, seat, pump all fitting in a carry case.
5 Wilderness Systems ATAK 110
After a couple of quiet years, we were excited to see Wilderness Systems back on the scene with a new inflatable ATAK 110.
The drop-stitch floor and sides allow the 10-foot pocket kayak to perform bigger than its size. Many inflatables use a drop-stitch floor with higher air pressure to improve performance and stability while low-pressure sides keep the boat afloat. Adding drop stitch sides, a stern fin and rigid keel puts the ATAK 110 on the performance level with similar-size rigid kayaks. The sturdy construction also allows anglers to add accessories with conveniently-placed mounting bases.
A fishing kayak is only as good as its seat and the ATAK 110 has a full-size, elevated frame seat for all-day comfort. With their first inflatable kayak, Wilderness Systems accomplishes the highest challenge, creating an easy-to-transport-and-store kayak that performs and feels like a hard-body boat.
6 Newport Vessels Bluetooth Battery
The weakest link in a kayak motor system is the battery. Even the most powerful electric motor is dead in the water when it runs out of juice. To improve performance and power management, Newport Vessels Bluetooth Lithium Battery allows you to monitor the battery level from your smartphone. With a bluetooth connection and the Newport app, you can keep an eye on remaining range and power.
The Bluetooth Battery is available in 24V50Ah, 36V30Ah, and 36V40Ah models to complement any motor system. The battery boasts IP65 water resistant rating, so it is ready for the hard knocks and wet environment in a fishing kayak. Light and reliable lithium technology has been the go-to for kayak batteries and the Newport weighs in at around 24 pounds with integrated charging circuitry and power balance. With Newport’s bluetooth lithium batteries, kayak motors are no longer limited by power source.