Last week I participated in an outdoor writers' junket on Mille Lacs Lake in northern Minnesota. The event was hosted by Rapala USA and it attracted some very noteworthy personalities — like B.A.S.S. senior editor Ken Duke, In-Fishermen's Steve Quinn, Terry Brown of Wired2Fish and freelancer Mark Hicks. Also along was my favorite photographer, Seigo Saito, a freelancer who does a lot of work with B.A.S.S. and the biggest Japanese fishing magazines.
Rapala planned the event around the Mississippi River Rumble Elite Series tournament in La Crosse, Wis., and by doing so, they were able to secure most of their top pros, which included Mike Iaconelli, Davy Hite, Brandon Palaniuk and Ott DeFoe. Also along were a number of Rapala personnel, including pro-staff coordinator Dan Quinn and head of R&D, Mark Fisher.
Basically, the format paired each angler with a member of the media for part of each day. Then, every few hours or so, we would rotate. Everything went smoothly and the fishing was spectacular. And to everyone's surprise, it all happened near our lodge, which helped maximize our time on the water.
Mille Lacs is an awesome fishery, full of smallmouth and largemouth bass. They're eager to bite, too. Over the course of three days, we caught countless smallies up to 6 pounds, and largemouth to 5 1/2 pounds. Those are chunks by anyone's standards.
To Rapala's delight, loads of fish were caught using their products — everything from Rapala topwaters to Trigger-X soft-plastics. Rapala USA is actually the parent company of numerous other brands, including Trigger-X, Storm, VMC, Sufix and Terminator. And all of these brands were represented by various members of the pro staff, whose objective was to showcase their products one-on-one with the media.
A special focus was put on Rapala's new Scatter Rap series. And unless you've been hiding under a rock somewhere, I'm sure you've heard of this new family of lures. They were introduced at the Bassmasters Classic this past February and have since gained considerable exposure. Rapala is heavily invested in this new product line, largely because they know it's something special, and they are fully committed to getting the message out. That's part of the reason why they scheduled this media event ahead of ICAST, our industry's largest trade show.
Along with the Scatter Rap series, they're introducing the new "Arashi" line of crankbaits under the Storm label. Brandon Palaniuk actually provided a sneak preview of this new product's potential during the Mississippi River Rumble, where he blew away the field by catching two back-to-back stringers exceeding 18 pounds on Days 1 and 2. Even more impressive was his six-pound lead over second place. If not for an unforeseen rules infraction, he could have easily run away with the event using this new lure.
The secret to the Arashi concept lies in the uniquely designed line-tie and hook-hangers. Coined "Auto-Tune," the line-tie is connected to an internal lateral rod, which helps the lure maintain a perfect swimming motion at all times. According to Palaniuk, they run true at any rate of speed … even in hyper-drive. And that's remarkable when you consider the lure's full, wide body profile.
The hook hanger configuration is also different. Instead of an inline loop, the hanger is set perpendicular to the centerline of the lure body. This allows the forward treble to ride more snugly against the body during the retrieve, which helps to prevent snagging when fished around thick cover.
Like custom-built crankbaits, the Arashi features a circuit board lip for durability and to help the lure achieve its max running depth more quickly.
To be honest, I was jealous. Brandon was the only pro staff member given prototypes of the Arashi lures prior to the Mississippi River event. Since I was fishing in the same area on the same type cover, it made me wonder what could have been had I, too, been able to use this new lure.
With ICAST only a week away, all heads are turned to Las Vegas and the prospects of making things happen. That includes manufacturers, sales reps, buyers, media, and the pros attending for their sponsors. It's a busy time with lots of anticipation, and all eyes will be focused on what's new.
Will the Scatter Rap series take the industry's Best Hard Lure award or will the Arashi line win? Who knows? There are no safe bets in Vegas. One thing is certain, however — with products like those, the odds are in Rapala's favor.
As for working ICAST and other trade shows, it's part of what we're expected to do when representing our sponsors. It's essential — just like working with the media. If you want to succeed in this business, you'd better make both part of your routine.