No trend, no problem

There is a popular saying regarding economists and weather forecasters: Always wrong, but never in doubt. I'm neither an economic prognosticator nor a weatherman, but heading into the 2010 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) show, I'm feeling a little befuddled.

The trade show, the largest of its kind and the place where just about all of the new products for the upcoming year are introduced, generates a ton of excitement while bringing together hundreds of media folks, manufacturers and reps, in addition to more than a dozen Bassmaster Elite Series anglers, who are there to hawk their sponsors' wares.

So, yeah, it is a big deal for the sportfishing industry.

Though the event is not open to the general public, anyone who is anyone in the sportfishing industry will be on hand for the show, which will be held July 14-16 at the Las Vegas Convention in Las Vegas, Nev.

But this year's affair has a different feel than those in the past. Sure, there will be tons of products, many of them exciting. And certainly there will be plenty of pomp and circumstance including everything from elaborate video displays and snazzy demos to tanks filled with live fish. What's different, in my opinion, is the overall theme of the new products that will be introduced.

In most years, there are definite trends that are hard to miss going into the show. In 2009, it was featherlight rods; in 2008, it was swimbaits; in 2007, it was lures having lifelike shapes and color schemes. Thanks to many of the companies giving us a look at the products they'll debut next week, we've been able to see hundreds of new products before anyone else had a chance to do so.

And I cannot discern any prevalent trend.

I can say for sure, however, that ICAST 2010 will highlight bass rods that are lighter than they have ever been, and a handful of the soft baits displayed will look more lifelike than just about anyone could have imagined.

They are certain to impress anyone who lays eyes on them.

Most companies use this event to judge the reception of their new product ideas — a place to get feedback from media and retailers for a new product before they invest tens of thousands of dollars in production.

The highlight of any ICAST is the New Product Showcase, which is sponsored by Fishing Tackle Retailer, part of the BASS family of publications and the trade publication of record for the sportfishing industry.

In the Showcase, you'll find new products to be judged by media members in 17 categories, including reels, rods, accessories, electronics, soft baits, hard baits and apparel. The goal is to win the overall "Best of Show" award, which is a distinction singling out a product as the best of the overall event.

As evidenced in previous years, a win here does not mean anglers will ultimately buy the product. But most manufacturers will agree, a win does get things started on a good note for the rest of the year.

One thing that makes the New Product Showcase so exciting is that oftentimes categories are won by smaller, lesser known companies, especially in the areas of terminal tackle and tackle storage. I think this year will be no different.

From what I have seen, G.Loomis, Kistler and Shimano will have everyone's ears perked with the new rods they will display. And in soft baits, Koppers Live Target will debut a frog that will have everyone buzzing. In terminal tackle, I expect Owner, Gamakatsu and Bullet Weights to get many strong looks, but I'm hearing the folks at VMC have a surprise up their sleeves.

Although no dominant trend appears to be emerging for 2010, I don't think that is a bad thing. It likely indicates that companies are choosing to innovate in a large number of areas instead of playing follow the leader as has been the case in recent years.

Stay tuned to for updates from the show floor in Las Vegas, and you'll judge for yourself how accurate my "forecasts" have been.

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