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ICAST 2023

Lake Link's Top Fishing Gear Picks

by Lake-Link Staff

Lake-Link staff spent four exhausting days combing the packed aisles and booths of ICAST 2023 in Orlando, Florida. What we experienced was definitely the latest and greatest in the fishing industry.

ICAST 2023 Lake Link's Top Fishing Gear Picks

DAY 1: ICAST On-The-Water

The show started with ICAST's "On the Water" event on Tuesday, July 11th, where buyers and media were able to test the latest rods, reels, lures, kayaks, and even demo lithium batteries and new electronics on a largemouth-stocked convention center pond. ICAST 2023: Lake Link's Top Fishing Gear Picks

Numerous manufacturers had new gear for attendees to demo. St. Croix Rod's booth showcased new fishing and bass rod models, including demos of their affordably-priced, high-performance fishing reel brand called SEVIIN.

Daiwa's booth provided elbow-rubbing with top-name tournament bass pros, and Pure Fishing brands Abu Garcia, Berkley, Fenwick, and Pflueger showed off lots of redesigned products along with free tap beer.

Old Town Canoes & Kayaks showcased a fleet of pedal-drive and trolling motor-enabled kayaks that attendees could try out on the water, including their new lithium-powered ePDL Bigwater kayak designed for big, rough waters with its pedal drive, motorized pedal assist, and full-on motorized cruise control.

2022 MLF Redcrest Champion, Bobby Lane, talked with attendees at the NORSK Lithium booth where the company showcased a new, Mercury-approved 180AH starting/house battery that eliminates the need for a separate battery to run multiple big-screen graphs and live or forward-facing imaging on your boat.

SHOW FLOOR DAZE

Show attendance appeared on the upswing, almost up to pre-COVID levels. Media (like us) had the chance to walk the show and review the "Best of ICAST" entries in 37 categories, voting later in the day for their "best of" choice in each category.

Following the close of day one in the convention center, "Best of ICAST" awards were presented. You can view the winners here.

While we voted in all 37 product categories, we also took note of other fishing products we thought you should know about. Here's our list of more than a dozen cool, new products-a few which won awards, but many that didn't.

(1) Arctic Ice
If there's one expense we wish we didn't have, it's filling up the cooler (or coolers) with ice every time we go fishing. The solution? Arctic Ice, which is made in the U.S.A., and brings anglers/hunters many choices of temperature-graded cooling products to keep beverages, food, bait, and fish cold. We plan on ordering some of their purple "Tundra Series" that cools at 5-degrees Fahrenheit, perfect for more than just one day on the water-or long-hauling caught or shot table fare.
(2) Daiwa Tatula 100
Redesigned for 2024, this compact and lightweight reel is the latest revamp in Daiwa's popular Tatula baitcaster family, bringing cutting-edge design, high-end performance, and longevity to anglers of all levels. And, at under, $200, you've gotta like the price tag.
(3) ESQUIF Mallard Canoe
A smaller version of their Mallard XL canoe, the standard Mallard is light, stable, and will accommodate a host of motor options on its square stern, like an electric Torqueedo (as shown). Perfect for fishing, hunting, or trapping, their boats are manufactured of proprietary T-Formex that will stand-up to dragging if need be or paddling through rocks. The 12' 6" two-person boat comes in at right around 55 pounds. Check out a show video here.
(4) GRAPH-POWER
Made in the U.S.A. by anglers who "designed the products they would want to buy", Minnesota-based Connect-Ease brings boat-owners a way to quickly and reliably rig their own fishing electronics. Called GRAPH POWER, Connect-Ease offers kits for rigging everything from smaller, 14- to 18-foot boats, 19- to 22-foot console boats, to big walleye tillers. Winning tournament angler Brett King is just one satisfied customer. Check out this informative video for more details.
(5) Korkers Ice Fishing Boots
Looking for a better ice fishing boot that will not only handle sub-zero conditions but keep snow, slush, and water out? Looks like Korkers may have the solution. Compared to the tall, insulated rubber boots we've been wearing the past couple of winters, the Korkers are significantly lighter, definitely a big deal when run & gunning.
(6) Minn Kota QUEST Series Trolling Motors
Minn Kota has completely redesigned their Terrova, Ulterra, and Ultrex product lines for 2024 in brushed and new brushless "QUEST" versions for more torque and power. iPilot and iPilot Link have been replaced with "Advanced GPS Trolling System" which brings anglers new features like "Spot-Lock with Jog", "Dodge", and "Drift Mode" - the latter which adjusts to wind and current speed like an electronic drift sock.
(7) NORSK Lithium 180AH starting/house battery
NORSK Lithium launched a Mercury-approved starting/house battery so you can eliminate one battery in the back of your boat, powering your outboard and multiple graphs/live imaging/forward-facing sonar off of one.

For anglers who fish early- and late-season and mid-winter open-water thaws, the battery is also available in a heated core version to ensure reliable charging in cold temps.

All Norsk batteries can be monitored in real-time via the company's Guardian app, where batteries can be set-up in groups (i.e. trolling motor and starting/electronics battery) to tell you exactly how much run-time you have, amp draw, total cycles, and all kinds of other angler-friendly information.

(8) Okuma Inspira ISX
Offering lots of bang for your buck, Okuma introduced a new spinning reel at ICAST 2023 called the Inspira ISX, which features diecast aluminum Torsion Control Armor (TCA) technology for up to 40% greater torsion and flex resistance-and a double arm body design for perfect internal alignment. Available in 2000 through 5000 sizes and a friendly pricetag between $99.99 and $104.99.
(9) Old Town Canoes & Kayaks BigWater 132 ePDL
Winner of "Best Boats & Watercraft" at ICAST 2023, Old Town's lithium-powered BigWater 132 ePDL is designed for big, rough waters with pedal drive, motorized pedal assist, and full-on motorized cruise control. Now you don't have to choose between a pedal-drive or trolling motor - they've combined both into one new drive that's switchable between human or electric power.
(10) Rapala Freeloader
Like other fishing industry media, we received a box of new Rapala baits a few weeks before the show. Well, we tried 'em and they catch fish. The Freeloader is part of Rapala's pro-designed "CRUSH CITY" line of soft plastics-and isn't like any paddletail or fluke-style bait you've seen before. While minnow-shaped, it's got a thin, narrow, ribbed tail that tantalizes pressured fish, whether fished on a jig head, Texas rigged, or used as a trailer on a spinnerbait or bladed jig. Also impregnated with salt and scent for added appeal.
(11) Redfin polarized sunglasses
Company head, Hunter Johnson, told us Redfin's goal was to design and build better fishing sunglasses for your average, blue collar fisherman. To start, their glasses aren't polycarbonate or glass, but fall in a middle category with nylon construction, which is scratch-resistant like glass but are much lighter in terms of weight. Redfin's frames are made in Italy and the lenses are manufactured by ZEISS - yes, the same company top scope and optics companies use. Definitely fishing shades to check out.
(12) St. Croix Mojo Bass Trigon
Voted the "Best Freshwater Rod" of ICAST 2023, St. Croix Rod completely redesigned their Mojo Bass family with an extensively-researched ergonomic, almost triangular-shaped TRIGON handle and Dynamix reel seat to fit more bass anglers' hands. Features SCIII carbon or 100% linear glass. Choose from 25 casting or 9 spinning models. All Mojo Bass TRIGON rods feature a 5-Year Warranty. We're sold on the design and the price.
(13) StrikeMaster Pro Ice Fishing Suit
The Pro jacket and bibs that protected officer Madson and the Hometown Heroes crew on an Alaska King Eider hunt has a new updated design. StrikeMaster's Pro Suit will keep you warm, comfortable, and safe on the ice or open water with SOS flotation technology. Rip Stop material has proven itself on hardwater and this suit's new design also offers a great, new look.
StrikeMaster Pro Ice Fishing Suit
(14) Z-Man ChatterBait Elite EVO
Named "Best Freshwater Lure" of ICAST 2023, Z-Man brings another ChatterBait to their ever-expanding family of bladed jig options. So what's the difference between this new bait, a "plain Jane" ChatterBait, and a JackHammer? According to Z-Man, the new ChatterBait Elite EVO "hunts amazingly" and "no two casts are ever the same."

Marketing Manager, Cory Schmidt elaborates: "It's unpredictable, which appeals to big bass. The blade also collides with the jig-head making a little clacking sound that triggers fish. It has premium components and we built a new, longer-shanked hook for the Elite EVO with bass pro, Stephen Browning, that rotates and pulls out of wood easier. We also moved the hook barb back a little bit for better hooksets. Lastly, there's a three-way trailer keeper that punches a hole in Z-Man ElaZtech baits so you don't have to scrunch our plastics to thread them on the hook."

Watch the video here.

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