Christmas in July!

It’s been many years since I peeked around a corner to see what Santa Claus brought me, but last week I had that same feeling when I walked into the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. That was the site of ICAST – the annual tradeshow where all the new fishing and boating equipment is introduced.

I, for one, was very eager to see all the new tools and equipment, but I also noticed a very encouraging atmosphere of enthusiasm. There was a lot of excitement at this year’s show and it seems like that energy is starting to gain momentum in our industry.

Some of my sponsors currently have several interesting developments slated for release in 2015. Like I pointed out in my previous blog, new product development can be a long process that you don’t want to rush. I’m looking forward to talking about some of these developments this time next year, but for now, I’m really proud of the new products that other sponsors released last week.

For example, reel technology had a great showing at ICAST and my sponsor Lew’s brought out something really impressive. About five years ago, reels were getting into the neighborhood of 6 ounces and we thought there’s no way that we can make a reel that’ll be durable and dependable, but make it lighter. Well, ICAST saw Lew’s debut its new Team Lite Speed Spool casting reel that weighs 5.6 ounces.

It’s the same way with rods. At Falcon, we’re changing resins, changing guides and doing every little thing to get an ounce or two and make it more sensitive. Every year I think there’s not much more that can come out next year because the equipment can’t get a whole lot better, but it does. And I’m sure next year will be exactly the same.

That applies to baits, too, but I don’t want to let the notion of looking ahead overshadow a couple of really impressive introductions by Yum. When we were looking at what we could design for the 2014 release, we decided that we wanted some new drop shot baits – something that would offer anglers a different look for their finesse rig.

We accomplished that with the Warning Shot and the Kill Shot baits. The first one features a flat bottom, a ribbed body and a bladelike tail that delivers lots of motion with only the slightest movement. The Kill Shot also has that flat bottom and ribbed body, but its tail has a vertical ridge that produces side-to-side, as well as up-and-down motion.

We wanted something modern and interesting, specifically for drop shotting, so we designed these baits with lots of body detail and features that will appeal to largemouth and smallmouth bass. I can see myself out there catching them on one of these baits and then making a change and catching a few more fish on the other. It just gives me more options and I think that’s the overall appeal of ICAST – it introduces us to all the new options we have for catching fish.

Having all this new stuff certainly helps build confidence but every year I face the challenge of staying up-to-date on the new stuff. For example, I have to get out there and throw the new baits and work them into my fishing strategies so I understand how they perform.

The same goes for rods and reels; I want to be using the latest and the greatest, so I have to get used to a new set of equipment. It’s not like you just grab a bunch of new baits, new rods and new reels, throw them in your boat and you’re ready to go. You have to familiarize yourself with all these new products so that you can use them to the best of their abilities.

It’s a never-ending learning process. But that’s what keeps me excited as a pro angler. As the technology improves, so does my ability to get better at my job. Looking at it that way, I welcome the challenge. I think it’s important to point out that, in addition to all the new items, improvements on products that have been around for a while can be just as exciting. In the case of Falcon Rods, this company took a rod that they’ve had in their lineup for 20 years (the LowRider), totally revamped it with a new flat paint coat, changed up the guides and offered it in 19 actions at ICAST.

Lew’s did something similar by taking its tenured Super Duty reel and expanding the line with a new 8.0:1 gear ratio. Another example is the pair of signature baits I helped design for Yum. The Christie Critter and the Christie Craw actually came out at the beginning of the year, but Yum only offered them in three colors because we wanted to gauge the response. Well, anglers really liked these baits, so Yum expanded them with a full line of colors that they introduced at ICAST.

What’s fun about this annual show, is that we pro anglers really are like a bunch of kids at Christmas. We’re all running downstairs to see what Santa Claus left for us. The good news is, we’re going to share these presents with the entire fishing industry.

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