It's easy to call ICAST work. After all, sponsors, retailers, media and other industry professionals are all gathered in one place to see the latest and (hopefully) greatest items the fishing community has to offer. There are meetings, interviews, filming and announcements that carry a lot of weight and that impact the success or failure of a lot of people over the coming year.
But if you're a tackle junkie — like me — ICAST is also a lot of fun. I get to see all the stuff that everyone has been working on for the past year and see how it stacks up against what my sponsors and I have been doing. Sometimes I leave shaking my head and wondering why I didn't think of something. Other times, I wonder what the other guys were thinking. Usually it's a mix of the two.
Another reason I really enjoy ICAST is that it's like a fishing family reunion. I get to see some people I really enjoy, but whose paths only cross mine at this event every year. I see them at the show, catch up for a few minutes, and then they're off to their next stop. You wouldn't think you could build industry relationships that way, but it happens.
Of course, this was my first ICAST after winning the Bassmaster Classic, so it was different for me in some ways. Generally, I was a lot busier than in years past. I posed for a lot of pictures, signed a few autographs, met a lot of new people and received many congratulations. It was rewarding and humbling at the same time.
On the purely professional side of things, being the Classic champ at ICAST has a lot of advantages. Retail buyers showed more interest in my designs and in the companies that sponsor me. They spent more time talking with me and looked a little more closely at the products I've had a hand in designing. A lot of that is because of the publicity I've received after the championship, but a lot was also due to the quality of the products that I've designed and am promoting.
Like I said last week, being the Classic champ doesn't take the pressure off for me — it adds to it, but in a good way. My efforts are in the spotlight more than ever before, and that means my sponsors and designs are getting more attention, including more critical attention. I'm serious when I tell you I welcome it!
One of the baits I'm most proud of this year is my signature jig series with V&M. We call it the Pacemaker Series, and it comes in three versions — one each for swimming (Pulse), flipping (Adrenaline) and a football head (Flat Line). Each head is unique, but the hook is the same for all three jigs. It's a custom-made 5/0 heavy wire flat eye with the eye at 30 degrees instead of 60. That subtle difference makes the hook stand up a lot better and gives me a better hook-up ratio.
The Adrenaline has an extra-heavy fiber weedguard to make it more snag-resistant than anything else on the market. If you're fishing sparse cover, just trim off a few strands to customize it for your conditions.
The Pulse features a head design with a keel that helps to rotate the hook point away from potential snags. Like the other jigs, it will be offered in 12 colors.
The Flat Line works great in brush and heavy cover. It has an upsized fiber guard and a wide head that creates a broad platform for the bait to sit on and stay upright. It's also tapered to cause more disturbance as you drag it across the bottom.
We shot this video in which I talk about the new jigs and how they're designed. I think you might find it useful.
All in all, there were a lot of great new items at ICAST, and it was a very productive show for me and my sponsors. I was especially glad to see so many new companies displaying their wares at this year's show. It's often the new guys — the smaller manufacturers — that lead the way when it comes to innovation, and it's a great sign when so many of them are out there trying to find their niche in the industry.
When we put our very best efforts on the table, the sport gets stronger and we all benefit as anglers.
Don't be afraid of what you want.