After one day on the water and two days on the show floor, the Kayak Angler team still had a lot to see on the final day of ICAST 2023. This year, innovation and invention are back to normal with hundreds of new exhibitors and thousands of new products. It seemed every company was out with fresh and redesigned products. We hit the show floor in search of the best boats and gear for kayak anglers, it looks like fishing will be even more fun in the year ahead.
Best New Boats, Tackle and Gear from ICAST 2023, Part III
St. Croix Rods
On the last day of the show, St. Croix was showing off their Best Fresh Water Rod trophy for the the new Mojo Bass Trigon rods. The big news is the Trigon rod grip that is unlike anything we’ve seen.
Ryan Teach, brand manager, explained the rod handle and butt are carved into a triangle shape to better fit your hand. “Close your hand and it forms a triangle not a circle,” Teach points out. St. Croix combined a battery of anthropometric tests and slow motion video with pages of pro staff feed back to dial in the fit. Not only is the triangle shape gripper and more comfortable, but the pinnacle of the triangle indexes your hand to direct the cast.
The Trigon handle is cool, but Teach says the challenge was transitioning into a round reel seat. “None of the existing rod component manufacturers wanted to touch the project, so we designed our own reel seat,” he says. Teach showed off the three key ways in the threads that lock the reel in place. With the advanced rod handle, St. Croix builds the Mojo Bass Trigon on a SCII carbon fiber blank and stainless steel guides with aluminum oxide inserts.
There are 25 casting and nine spinning tactic-specific models including linear glass blanks in their reaction bait models.
St. Croix celebrated its seventy-fifth birthday by releasing Seviin Reels to complement the company’s immense and diverse line of premium fishing rods.
Dan Johnston, national sales manager, showed us some highlights of the baitcasting, spinning and saltwater reel series. He started with the GF baitcasting reels with left and right hand models in three gear ratios. The reels feature 4+1 stainless steel bearings backed up with multi-stack stainless steel and carbon drag. A graphite body houses a light aluminum spool. My favorite feature is the small dial on the bottom of the reel to indicate the line strength. Johnston explains, “When I grab a rod, I don’t have to remember what line is on it.”
The GS and GX spinning reels also pack a carbon fiber and stainless steel drag for super smooth start-up when a fish hits the lure and surges forward. I had to test out the a cool triangular knob on top of the spool for easy micro adjustments of the drag. The best thing about Seviin’s reel offerings is they pack a lot of technology and design into a reasonably-priced package.
G. Loomis Fly Rod
Over by the fly casting pond, G. Loomis was letting anglers test out their new IMX-Pro V2S guide-quality fly rods. Key West guide Jared Cyr took us on a tour of the latest generation of the favorite IMX fly rods. The rods use two of G. Loomis’ favorite technologies: Conduit Core and Multi Taper.
To save weight and maintain performance, Conduit Core replaces wraps of excess graphite in the lower sections of the rod with an equally strong but lighter material. This puts graphite where you need it and removes it where performance qualities aren’t as important. This design complements the Multi-Taper blank that carefully places material to affect casting and fighting qualities. The whole thing is held together with quality G7 Resin for a blank with unmatched performance and durability.
What’s the point of a premium blank without the best components? That’s why G. Loomis blinged out the IMX-Pro V2S with premium cork grips and a striking aluminum reel seat. The best feature is G. Loomis rods are built under the high quality control of their Woodland, Washington shop.
Power-Pole teased kayak anglers with their new Move trolling motors by winning the award for Best Motorized Boating Accessory. As I watched Power-Pole’s newest creation churn up giant tanks of water while demonstrating their new saltwater and freshwater trolling motors, I couldn’t help but expect the technology to soon be available for kayak anglers. Remember, Power-Pole shared their boat control technology with kayak anglers when they released the Micro stakeout pole. So, I’m hopeful they will add a short-shaft model of new trolling motors.
The Move motors focus on durability and connecting with automatic anchoring systems. To increase the durability, they used titanium components, compound failsafes and layers of corrosion resistance. Working in conjunction with the Power-Pro anchoring options the new Move uses a brushless motor for silent power and efficiency along with advanced GPS to control the motors direction and speed. Watching the motors turn and churn in the huge display tanks, I was confident kayak anglers will soon have this tech, too.
I’m a big fan of Oru folding kayaks, but I’ve never seen their limited edition designs and colors. The Black Edition and tribal versions of the folding kayaks were even more impressive in person. Oru’s unique double layer extruded polypropylene material usually comes in a brilliant white, but the jet black and tribal pattern boats add another level of cool.
The buzz on the show floor was over the explosion of lithium batteries now available to kayak anglers. With lithium technology, batteries are lighter, more powerful, reliable and more expensive. To stand apart from the pack and appeal to kayak anglers, engineers design powerful apps to monitor battery functions. One of the best apps is available from Epoch.
Using Bluetooth connection, anglers can monitor range, charge, temperature and charge cycles. You can even contact customer service through the app. To improve cold weather performance, the Epoch has an internal heater. The batteries have a 15-year life expectancy and 11-year warranty.
Winning the award for the smallest new product that is making the biggest impact, DuBro Fishing Twister Track Knob will soon be on every kayak. The knob is designed to replace T-bolts on gear track systems.
Marketing director Brian Schiller demonstrated how the raised tabs on the dial are curved to fit his fingertips. This allows the knob to remain low profile without sacrificing torquing strength. To back up the power, the Twister Track Knob uses a stainless steel insert so I can crank it tight.
Brian also showed us the Hangman tool holder he attaches to the side of his kayak seat. The anodized aluminum bracket has two holes to bolt to any surface, but Brian says many anglers are using double-sided tape. The holder has space for pliers, scissors and and eye buster with holes to attach tool tethers. The coolest feature is the line cutter that uses a standard single-edge razor blade.
Since DuBro is in the plastic business, they released an advanced line of soft plastics called Dewey Baits. The freshwater-focused, hand-dipped soft plastics come in eight shapes and 14 colors. DuBro worked with their plastisol providers to develop a proprietary formula that balances durability with action.
With more and more kayak motor options hitting the water, Torqeedo, the original electric outboard, was still the mark to beat. We stopped by the Torqeedo booth to inspect their 403 model on tournament angler Richard Penny’s Jackson Knarr. This is my first look at the Knarr in the flesh, so I was anxious to see how Jackson’s biggest boat comes together.
The Knarr is Jackson’s entry in the full-size, full-feature, open rigging platform with the new FlexDrive that kicks up in shallow water and space in the stern for an electric outboard and in the bow to host a trolling motor. Chuck Earls of Lake Erie Kayak Fishing took us on a tour of Jackson Kayak’s dream rig.
At almost 14 feet long and 37-inches wide the 425 pound capacity, the Knarr has the capacity to support motors, electronics and batteries. Penny’s boat was also blinged out with LED lights in the cockpit and cool lights in the horizontal rod holders. To support rigging the Torqeedo, the Knarr is pre-plumbed for the motor’s steering system in addition to the hand controls for the pedal system rudder.
My favorite feature is the huge bow and stern hatches with a stern well large enough for a 16×16 YakAttack BlackPak gear crate. Coupled with the Torqeedo 403’s unmatched range and power, the Jackson Knarr has the capacity to satisfy any anglers wildest rigging dreams.
One piece of technology I can never figure out is a wireless smartphone charger. How does it work? Place the cellphone on the charging plate and the battery is magically restored. So, I was mezmerized when I spotted the new Tough Charge smartphone holders. RAM Mounts events manager, Alex Reavis let me play with the new waterproof, fast charging models.
In my truck, I use an X-Grip smartphone holder, so I like the new metal ears on the X-Grip bars that make it easier to open the holder. There is also a Quick-Grip model that has 15 watts of charging power. Both models have a small LED light on the side to indicate charging status; the charger cuts off when the phone reaches full charge. Best of all, the aluminum, stainless steel and composite components make the chargers water and corrosion resistant.
What started as a pet project making T-bar kayak racks for pick up trucks is now a source of indestructible kayak rigging gadgets that are standard across the sport. Sales director Matt Rollins showed off a list of new products made in their North Carolina shop.
The biggest news is the BM Motor Mount for Hobie Pro Angler. Using the same type of backing plates as their famous Landing Gear full-size kayak cart, the motor mount can accommodate high-power trolling motors without flexing. The mount includes navigation lights with open space to reach the bow handle and hatch.
Opening the hatch, he showed us the Hobie Firewall which stores full-size batteries and gear with room for the insert bin inside the hatch. Another option for storing a large battery is the full-metal Mast Mount Battery Tray that connects to the kayak stern well with heavy pins to keep the battery secure and out of water.
I was impressed with the new Groovy Console with gear track on the top and configured to host two large electronics displays and LED lights. Matt also showed us an updated and stronger Groovy T Bone and a new Scupper Cart. The most popular new item, Matt says, is their re-issued wall mounts for pedal drives. Instead of the pedal drive taking up space in the garage floor, these mounts secure the drive to the wall and still allow it to operate.
BooneDox’s popularity is built on a reputation for beefy, no-sacrifices design. These new products bring the same over-built quality to custom kayak rigging. As a kayak angler, I was impressed with the kayak rigging products, but the rest of the show was talking about new Cooler Tug. This ingenious device allows you to add all terrain wheels to a 60 quart Yeti Cooler.
With surf fishing season at hand, I am already making plans for the new beach rod holder. Matt and the BooneDox crew are also surf fishermen, so they designed a rod holder to go into and stay in the soft sand. The rod holder has a fish ruler and it reflects light in the dark.
With all the new faces in the lithium battery game, Dakota Lithium is an original that continues to set the standard. We stopped at the booth for a tour of the new kayak batteries. Lithium batteries are great at powering electronics and trolling motors, but they won’t start an outboard motor. The latest line of Dakota batteries have 300 cold cranking amps to do both jobs. We look forward to new kayak batteries from Dakota.
As soon as I mentioned kayak fishing in the Gill booth, Allen Taylor took me to the Verso drysuit. “All the kayak anglers are using this suit,” he told us. Allen pointed out the large hood as the big draw. The vented hood has two points of adjustment and a low-profile stash pocket.
I like the S-shaped zipper that opens the front of the drysuit for more ventilation. And of course the essential relief zipper. Neoprene gaskets at the neck and wrists along with Gill’s best waterproof and water repellent material. Anglers really respond to the $850-dollar price tag, a great bargain for a drysuit of this caliber.
From anywhere in the massive Orange County Convention Center, you could hear the music booming out of the Yak-Power booth. Electronics madman, Gene Hitchcock was demonstrating the sharing features of the newest generation of Bazooka speakers. Using a remote control, he switched speakers from a master to satellite speakers to share music with other speakers. You can pull up on the sandbar and everyone will be jamming to your tunes. Gene gave us a peek at the waterproof model that will be a perfect fit for a party kayak.
Gene also drew our attention to the MPWC Magnetic Phone Charger. The charging platform is connected to a gear track with an adjustable goose neck post. The 15 watt fast charger is IP66 waterproof and I can attach the phone and lock it in place with one hand. We saw Yak-Power phone chargers on rigged out kayaks in several other booths.
Most of my coolers and cargo bags are made by Yeti. Once I bought my first Yeti cooler, adding to the collection was a no brainer. I use a Yeti Carryall Tote Bag to carry my lunch and water bottles to the kayak and a Hopper Flip Cooler and Yeti Ice to keep my bait cold all day with the best weight to performance ratio.
After visiting the Yeti booth, I started thinking I would look cool if I had matching colored coolers and bags. This year, Yet added a cool woodsy Camp color and a Cosmic light purple inspired by the night sky. Looks like I’ll be adding a few more Yeti products to my collection.
Most of my fishing clothes are from Columbia’s PFG line. Their mix of technology and comfort is my choice for year-round fishing. New for next year, Columbia is adding two complex technical lines to the fishing and lifestyle collection. Connor Allison told us the Solar Stream is the pinnacle of performance sun wear.
The Elite Hoodie is a hooded sun shirt with Omni Broad Spectrum sun protection capable of blocking all damaging sun rays. To keep the shirt cool, the sleeves and sides are vented and moisture wicking to improve airflow and dry quickly without sacrificing sun protection. There is a low-profile front pocket and internal thumb loops. I wear a sun hood when the heat gets so hot I take off my hat. The Elite Hoodie uses a higher cross-over color and snug fit to improve coverage without catching the wind.
On the lifestyle side, the PFG Uncharted line could easily fit in the performance category. You can wear this gear to the sand bar, out with friends or on a fishing trip. I was impressed with the light touch of the recycled Broad Spectrum fabric reminding me of my favorite cotton shirt. Connor promised they continue to work on the line and look forward to introducing more items soon.
All the way from Australia, BerleyPro brought a cool new kayak cart certified for kayak fishing Down Under. The Kimmi Cart is built on an all-aluminum frame with a stainless steel axle. The bunkers adjust for height and width and the cart breaks down in a minute to fit in your kayak.
One cool feature is the kickstand. After loading the kayak and before you roll away, pull a strap to fold up the kickstand. The Kimmi Cart’s axle is compatible with Wheeleez or C-Tug wheels, so you can match the wheels to the terrain. The aluminum frame keeps the cart compact and light with the strength to carry a full-size, loaded kayak without flexing or bending.
The Australian secret is out, Tasline braid is softer and more abrasion resistant for longer casts and deeper drops. That’s because Tasline braid is uncoated and free of additives. To improve abrasion resistance, braided line is fortified with coatings, but treating the line also makes it stiff and adds diameter. Tasline uses a super tight, packed weaving process to build abrasion resistance into their line so it is just as strong but casts farther. The narrow line is also better for deep dropping in heavy current.
To guarantee reliable performance, Tasline tests small batches of the line and labels the spool with the batch number. Leave it to the Aussies to bring the freshest development in braided line.
I used to consider Zebco a great rod and reel combo for new anglers looking for a reliable setup at a reasonable price. Then Colton Parrot, associate brand manager, showed me photos on his smartphone of the new Zebco Salt Fisher Bite Alert combo bent double with a huge tarpon jumping in the background. Colton told us the story of fighting a 120-pound tarpon with the new spinning rod and reel. “The fiberglass rod blank and all-metal gears in the reel performed perfectly,” he reported.
Of course, the cool thing about the Bite Alert reel is the LED light and loud beep the reel emits when a fish takes line off the drag. “The alert runs off the reel gears not the spool, so it detects the slightest bite,” Parrot explained.
Every inshore angler has his favorite popping cork. Cupped popper or round, two beads or three, pink, green or white, anglers have an opinion on the best combination for the most attractive sound and action. Captain Mike Frenette, a tournament redfish angler and owner of Redfish Lodge of Louisiana, has designed his favorite popping corks for Strike King.
The new Poppin Cork uses holes in the cork to create a bubble trail for a unique sound. The Poppin Cork has internal rattles and spinning wings on the cork to emit an erratic sound pattern.
To complement the popping cork the new Tidal Shrimp is made of a tougher soft plastic with a mesh tail to improve durability. For a choice of presentations, the shrimp can be rigged with the jig head at the head of the body or the tail.
If you’re looking at motorizing a tandem kayak or stepping down from a skiff to a more manageable platform, Esquif has redesigned the Mallard for a more versatile square-stern canoe that still fits in the back of a pick-up truck.
At 12.5 feet long and 40 inches wide, the Mallard has more capacity than a similar sized kayak and you can pack gear, people, pets and tackle for big adventures with the convenience for quick trips after work. The boat is made of indestructible T-Formex and only weighs 59 pounds.
You can rig the canoe with an electric or gas outboard and still paddle or pole. With all the options for motorized kayaks, Esquif offers more versatility in a lighter and more manageable boat.
Large profile glide baits are trending for anglers looking to target trophy largemouth and Berkley’s Power Bait Nessie makes it easy to get in the game. Nessie comes in three sizes from five inches to nine inches in length, and custom color patterns to match the lure to the size of the local bait.
Taking advantage of a glide bait’s versatility, anglers can skip, slide and cast Nessie for the most effective presentation. A stabilizing fin keeps Nessie running true and the treble hook can be tucked into the bait’s belly for fishing the lure in heavy cover. Best of all, Nessie mesh-reinforced soft plastic is infused with Berkley’s Power Bait flavor for a lure that tastes as good as it looks.
Anglers were just as impressed with the Nessie as the bass; the new lure was voted Best Freshwater Soft Bait in ICAST’s New Product Showcase.
Winning the award for Best Rod and Reel Combo at ICAST New Product Showcase, Abu Garcia’s Zata Combo brings advanced features to an affordable rod and reel pairing. Available in casting and spinning models, the combo pairs the updated Zata reels with a 24-ton carbon rod with stainless steel line guides to put together a great all-around combo for lure and bait fishing.
The Zata Low Profile casting reel runs on 10 stainless steel ball bearing and hardened gears for smooth, reliable performance. The Infini Brake system allow micro adjustments of the cast control on the fly. A carbon fiber drag system backs up the power with smooth pressure.
On the spinning side, the Zata Spinning Reel is built around a stiff aluminum frame with 10 smooth-rolling, corrosion resistant stainless steel ball bearings. To make long accurate casts, the spool and lip are optimized for braided, fluorocarbon or monofilament line.
The combos cost $229 so I can buy one of each and get consistent action and performance for a great value.
Saltwater fly fishing is one of the toughest pursuits in the sport. Not only do fly anglers face unpredictable wind and sea conditions, but they are making a tough cast from a moving boat. Then, saltwater anglers are not afraid to use a long, soft rod to tangle with the biggest fish in the sea. To even the playing field, Hardy poured all its technology, experience and craftsmanship into the Hardy Marksman Z Fly Rod.
Winning the Best Fly Rod category at the ICAST New Product Showcase, the newest saltwater fly rod is the result of exhaustive research and development with professional guides and discerning anglers. The Marksman’s backbone is the quick yet powerful Sintrix FLT blank that places lifting power in the butt section with a smooth and fast recovery in the tip to balance power with a light feel. With the technology and design in the new Marksman Z Fly Rod, saltwater fish don’t stand a chance.