The first day of the ICAST 2023 trade show kicked off with huge crowds of media, buyers and manufacturers filling the immense Orange County Convention Center with excitement and anticipation. After years of pandemic-related challenges, 2023 had the back-to-business feeling with new products and new companies ready to hit the water. We spent the day visiting old friends and discovering upstarts to bring you the gear, tackle and boats you’ll be using in the year ahead. Here are our picks for the best new tackle and gear from the first day of ICAST 2023.
Best New Boats, Tackle and Gear from ICAST 2023, Part I
Hobie Eyewear hit ICAST 2023 with a splash–the splash of a pair of premium sunglasses hitting the water. Usually, when your sunglasses fall into the water, you’re looking at dropping big money on a new pair of shades. But Hobie’s Float series sunglasses save you from the sinking feeling. Using low-density materials and integrated air pockets in the frame, the sunglasses in the Float series stay on the surface until you can grab them.
Marketing Manager Dylan Coates demonstrated the feature by taking off his Monarch Floats and dropping them in the water. As advertised, the glasses stayed on the surface where he could fish them out, wipe them off and return the glasses to protecting his eyes. The Monarch Float model is outfitted with removable sunshields and neoprene retainer.
New for this year, Hobie Eyewear’s Everglades Float takes their most popular model and adds the floating feature. Dylan also showed us the innovative Duo Collection of clear prescription lenses with magnetic clip-on shades. To change lens colors and match the fishing conditions, simply switch frames without changing glasses or prescription strength. Best of all, Hobie Eyewear’s advanced lenses and unique features are available for around $100.
After catching glimpses and hearing rumors of BOTE’s new collaboration with Bixpy motors, I was excited to check out the new system. Not only will the new motor seamlessly install in any BOTE Aero with Apex drive, but they’ve also released an Apex-compatible Gatorshell Rackham board.
The Bixpy motor drops into the Apex drive well and connects to the battery behind the seat. The result is a quick and efficient motor system to power the standup paddleboard or inflatable kayak at up to five miles per hour.
They’ve also added a new Rac Rail gear track system that is compatible with inflatable boards to customize with accessories and rod holders. The coolest new features is the smallest. I was impressed with the Magna Pod cup holders. A small magnetic disk on the deck holds a metal cup in place through any conditions.
Costa Del Mar
Like fine wine and gourmet cheese, time has been kind to Costa Del Mar. As they celebrate their 40th anniversary, the iconic sunglasses are only getting better with age.
Costa Del Mar celebrated their birthday with their most innovative new model yet. Five years in the making, the King Tide 6 and King Tide 8 are the culmination of the company’s experience and technology. Working with their pro staff and engineers, the new models enhanced existing technology and introduce new features.
Starting with the best-on-the-water 580 glass lenses available in five colors, Costa added removable side shields, sweat channels, side vents, anti-slide hooding and adjustable, vented nose pads. The King Tide 6 has less curvature in the frame for a more casual look while the King Tide 8 has more curvature for better performance in full sun.
In addition to introducing two new highly technical frames, Costa Del Mar continues to support and discover great causes like fighting plastic pollution, encouraging Indigenous peoples to embrace fishing tourism and even funding satellite tags for marlin caught on fly fishing tackle. In the incredibly fast-moving and competitive sunglass game, Costa Del Mar is like the veteran athlete who continues to kick ass.
After attending ICAST for more than a decade, we have seen trends come and go and return. This year’s big trend is in lithium-powered batteries for boats and kayaks. Last year there were a handful of high-quality lithium batteries, this year it seemed every where we turned a new and more innovative lithium battery popped out of the ground.
One of the most exciting options comes from Norsk Lithium, a battery company powered by anglers. Designed, tested and promoted by hard-core anglers, Norsk batteries can stand anything rough water and long days can dish out. Their larger batteries are designed to fit in a kayak hatch and provide all-day power for trolling motors and electric outboards along with electronics and lights. The smaller batteries power a fish finder and accessories with integrated USB outlets to charge a smartphone.
Norsk really stand out with its data-rich and user-friendly app that monitors charging and discharging so you never run out of power. Not only can you see how much charge is left in the battery, the battery calculates average discharge rate for an accurate estimate of range. You can even set the app to send notifications when the battery reaches a pre-set charge level.
Daiwa kicked off the first day of ICAST 2023 with a press event to show off highlights of 195 products, including 30 brand new offerings. The legendary tackle manufacturer is able to conceive, design, test and release cutting edge products that follow and set trends by covering all steps in the process in house. Two of our favorite new items are the Tatula 100 casting reel and the Free Swimmer EX spinning reel.
Chris Martin, field marketing specialist showed off the new reels starting with the Free Swimmer. Many fishing tactics, such as free-lining a live bait, require the angler to set the drag light so the fish can take the bait before turning up the heat. The Free Swimmer EX allows the angler to set the free-spool tension from loose to heavier depending on the size of the bait and the fishing conditions. To engage the 33 pounds of drag, simply turn the handle and the reel goes in to strike drag.
The Free Swimmer EX has a comfortable and powerful round handle knob. Daiwa included their light weight and reliable Air Bail and Air Rotor that reduce rotating weight. They added the advanced Digigear drive and pinion gears for reliable and durable cranking power.
On the baitcasting side, we were excited about the compact but tough 23 Tatula 100. Daiwa is awesome at trickling down advanced technology to their lower-priced models. The 23 Tatula 100 includes Hyper Drive Design bearing supported pinion providing three points of contact to put less pressure on the gears and makes the teeth more durable. They shaved the spool to lower rotating weight by 15%. The new Tatula 100 uses an advanced magnetic casting brake and Zero Adjust spool tension knob to keep the spool in contact with the brake system. One of our favorite Daiwa innovations is the T-wing line guide that opens during the cast for less friction on the outgoing line while narrowing on the retrieve to tightly guide the line onto the spool.
Even though the new Free Swimmer EX and Tatula 100 aren’t the most expensive reels on the market, they are the most technologically packed offerings at their price making them a great value for a great reel.
Nowhere was there more action than the Pure Fishing booths hosting some of the most iconic brands on the water. From Plano tackle storage to Ugly Stik fishing rods to Hogeman waders and Savage lures, Plano has their hands in every aspect of the sport. We were drawn to new offerings from PENN and Berkley.
Old friend Captain Jot Owens of Wilmington, North Carolina was excited about PENN’s redesigned Spinfisher VII reels. For years the Spinfisher reels have been the go-to for professional guides and weekend warriors as a no-nonsense and reliable spinning reel ranging from tiny 2500 to full-size 10500 models. But PENN didn’t rest on its laurels. To stay ahead of the competition, PENN released the seventh generation of the Spinfisher with CNC brass gears for smoother power and reliable performance. The coolest update is a innovative line holder that secures thin braided line or thicker fluorocarbon leader. The Spinfisher is available in traditional spinning models along with live line, long cast and even bail-less models.
At the Berkley booth, we caught up with Adam Ott who was showing off the new Saltwater PowerBaits. After extensive research and development, the new PowerBaits use specific saltwater flavors and colors to match the prey briny predators love to eat. The PowerBaits are more durable while still maintaining the subtle action that perfectly mimics real shrimp, shad, minnows, and anchovies.
This year’s biggest innovation from Humminbird is their new One-Boat app. While most of the features are geared towards motor boaters, the app allows kayak anglers to update, view and manipulate charts between fishing trips. The most exciting news isn’t news yet as we pressed company representatives about new and improved Helix models and advanced Minn Kota trolling motors in sizes and designs to fit a kayak.
Our good friends at Suspenz debuted their first year at ICAST with two exciting products entered in the New Product Showcase. Every staff member at Kayak Angler uses durable, simple, smart and functional Suspenz products in our own paddling and fishing, so we were excited to see the company entering the competition at full speed.
The Catch-All Beach and Catch-All Airless kayak carts will carry any size kayak over any type of terrain. The robust and sturdy carts have bunks that can be adjusted to cradle a v-bottom kayak or support a cat-style hull. Remove a D-pin to switch from the airless wheels with 300-pound capacity to the balloon wheels capable of carrying 240 pounds over soft sand. The Catch-All features a sturdy retractable kick stand to steady the cart while loading and unloading the boat.
Our favorite feature is threading the straps through the hollow bunks to keep the kayak from shifting on the cart. For any size, weight and style kayak, the Catch-All carts are a perfect fit.
Every family has a cousin or uncle who does things a little differently. In the fishing tackle world Okuma tackle is that family member—they always come at problem with a unique, intelligent and simple solution. Best of all, you can get Okuma’s great rods and reels at a reasonable price. Three new examples for 2023 are the X Series bass rods, ITX CB Carbon and third-generation Inspira reels.
The X Series bass rods are based on a high-quality 46-ton carbon fiber with moderate fast and fast action that weighs in at only 3.1 ounces for all-day fishing comfort. While a similar rod would cost five or six hundred bucks, Okuma offers the super sensitive and powerful rod at $300 to $329.
Combine the lightweight rod with the super light and powerful ITX CB reel at $149. The ITX CB reels come in sizes from 1000 to 4000 to cover light tackle and inshore fishing. The ITX CB uses a carbon fiber handle, body, rotor and drag to further reduce weight while maintaining power and stiffness. To keep the retrieve smooth, the ITX CB uses a free-floating pinion gear and Hydro Lock moisture barrier to extend the reel’s life.
For a more robust and sturdy option, the redesigned Inspira reels feature an aluminum frame, graphite body and aluminum spool putting strength where it is needed and saving weight where they can. The Torsion Control Armor frame reduces the reel’s size while preventing the body from twisting under pressure. The Inspira’s advanced tech and design is available for $99 to $104.
Just like an eccentric family member everyone loves, Okuma manages to step away from the pack with great tackle and products at an unbelievable price.
After a few years away from the show it was great to see the cool kids at Pelican back in the game with recently acquired Confluence Outdoors and Advanced Elements. Working together, they can harness their coolective experience and technology to share ideas across brands.
We checked out Wilderness Systems’ first inflatable kayak, the ATAK 100, at the on the water demo and on the show floor we got our first chance to see the Pelican Catch PWR 100 and Catch Mode 110. Both kayaks use Pelican’s industry-leading thermoformed construction. Pelican produces its plastic sheets in-house allowing them to cook up unique color combinations and maintain the highest quality in materials and construction.
The Catch PWR 100 is a 10-foot-long sit-on-top kayak that is pre-wired to install a transom mount trolling motor and full-size battery in the bow. In the cockpit, the swivel seat allows the angler to reach the motor’s tiller and fish in any direction. At just 75 pounds pre-rigged, the Catch PWR 100 is one of the lightest and most compact motorized kayak on the water.
The Catch Mode 110 is a super-stable tunnel hull kayak that comes in a paddle model or pedal version using Pelican’s HyDryve fin drive. The Mode comes standard with a list of fishing features highlighted with the comfortable frame seat that folds down to provide a stable standing platform. Now that Pelican, Confluence and Advanced Elements have joined forces, we look forward to more ground-breaking innovative designs.