UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Dale Hollow Lake

ICAST: Proof is in the pudding

The pomp and circumstance of ICAST 2011 has come and gone. After 1,270 booths and 400,000 square feet of product, we are left with a list of 22 Best of Show winners. These 22 products are considered the stars of the world's largest sportfishing trade show. But I will argue the success or failure of these products has yet to be determined.

My eight years of covering professional tournaments tells me products aren't made or broken on a trade-room floor, but rather on lakes like Sam Rayburn, Champlain and Okeechobee. When you see an entire wave of pros using them, then they've really passed the test.

But don't just look to the heavily sponsored pros. Their opinion (or usage), may be tainted by the simple fact that these companies are paying the bills. Look at the fringe guys - the successful, yet everyday pros who are fishing check to check. If they have no incentive to use certain products they will simply use the best, because that's what feeds their families.

Let's look back at some Best of Show winners from years past to see where they are now. We'll start in 2004. That year the Bikini Lures Solaris Fatshad claimed the Best Hard Lure category and the Pace Products LA Slider won Best Soft Lure. In the end, both were busts and to my knowledge are currently out of production. The Fatshad sold for $34.95 and makes a proven swimbait like Basstix seem downright affordable.

But it's not just the little guys who come up empty after ICAST. In 2003, Lucky Craft came out with the Live Pointer 95SP, which also won Best Hard Lure. The life-like flexibility of the back of this jerkbait was supposed to be a game changer, but I have yet to hear the product mentioned in the 100 or so tournaments I've covered. While I can't find the 95SP anywhere on the Lucky Craft website, the entire Live Pointer series has been redesigned.

On the other end of the spectrum, the SPRO Dean Rojas Signature Series Frog won Best Soft Lure in 2005 and continues to be one of the most productive topwaters on the market. In fact, the original frog spawned the entire Bronzeye Series, which now consists of four models. Two years later, Berkley's Gulp Alive won Best of Show in the Soft Lure category. It came out of the gate strong and still continues to catch tournament-winning fish, especially smallmouths. In fact, one could argue the liquid Berkley invented was more impressive than the baits themselves. I see tournament anglers dip all kinds of soft plastics in that smelly stuff. Why? Because it works.

I'm not slamming ICAST or the awards process, but there's no truer test of products than tournaments. If you're interested in new tackle yourself, my advice is to look at what the second tier pros are throwing. If you insist on following the top guns, double check what they say they are throwing is what they actually are throwing by watching the television coverage. The beauty of fishing on TV is that it's the ultimate lie detector test. I find it amazing how that "Sinking Minnow" turns into a Senko and that prototype creature bait is really just a Zoom Brush Hog.

In due time, we'll truly find out if the ICAST Best of Show winners are studs or duds.

Tags: brett-carlson  blog 

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