July 19, 2014

Gadgets, gear and lots of frogs

Fishing kayaks with motors; lures that change color with different water temperatures; sonar fish-finders you cast like a bobber; and multiple variations of the popular bass frog.

Fishing kayaks with motors; lures that change color with different water temperatures; sonar fish-finders you cast like a bobber; and multiple variations of the popular bass frog.

These were among the new products on display at the 2014 ICAST Show in Orlando last week — the world’s largest recreational fishing tackle trade expo. Expect to see these lures, paddlecraft, rods, reels and other gear soon in a retail shop near you.

The latest trend observed in paddlecraft at ICAST was kayaks striving to be boats and stand-up paddleboards striving to be kayaks.

Old Town, the venerable canoe and kayak company, displayed its Predator XL — a fishing kayak equipped with tackle storage, rod holders, cooler space, etc., but also an optional center console to house electronics and even a MinnKota power system for about $2,700. Not to be outdone, Hobie rolled out the new 17-foot, tandem Mirage Pro Angler ($5,300) with two swiveling seats, propelled by a patented twin pedal system and configured for marine electronics.

Nearby in the new products showcase sat the Cruiser Board ($2,600) billed as a hybrid of a kayak and stand-up paddleboard. It features a seat that can be folded into a leaning post with built-in rod holders and a paddle that can be used double- or single-handed.

The assortment of soft and hard plastic artificial lures for both fresh and saltwater at ICAST was staggering. Among the new offerings: Smartbaits, a series of jerkbaits, crankbaits and worms that change color at different water temperatures with the aim of drawing a reaction strike. Priced from about $7 to $14 apiece, these lures can be custom-made for particular water temperature ranges, such as 80 to 83 degrees, where they might switch from chartreuse to blood-red in seconds. The company also produces a line of glow-in-the-dark baits.

If, like BASS Elite Series Pro Dean Rojas, you are a frog enthusiast, the array of baits made to look like this versatile amphibian on display at ICAST would make your head explode.

Among dozens of new frog designs: the Combat Frog decked out in cammo; the Funka Frog with a PVC-ABS body, a holographic patch on the underbelly and a “rib-bit rattle sound chamber”; and the Sebile Action Pivot Frog with a single, wide pivoting hook in its butt designed to increase your hook-up ratio.

And if you prefer rats to frogs, check out the BBZ-1 Rat by Spro — 10 inches long, 2½ ounces, dangling two treble hooks and priced at about $30.

As if fish already weren’t besieged enough trying to escape the pings of sonar fish finders mounted on boats both small and large around the world, now come several new wireless fish finders that you can cast out on your fishing line like a bobber.

Weighing next to nothing and with a depth range of about 130 feet, they float along on the surface working off your smartphone using wireless Bluetooth technology (Deeper Smart Fishfinder) or WiFi (Vexilar Sonar Phone) to display fish swimming around in the water column. No need for a box or transducer. Prices range from about $130 to $200.

Other cool ICAST offerings: a stout offshore trolling travel rod in five pieces that packs to 20 inches for $230; tackle bags with LED lights; a freshwater fly collection by J:Son so realistic you want to swat it; and a trolling dredge with a built-in housing for a GoPro camera enabling you to capture close-up video of that white marlin attacking the teaser.

Just when you think the recreational fishing industry has maxed out on new innovations for catching your favorite quarry, you just have to visit ICAST to understand that a fisherman/inventor’s imagination knows no bounds. The show returns to Orlando next year.

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