One of the highlights each year at the International Convention of Sportfishing Trades is the New Product Showcase. As the name implies, it is the place where show attendees can get a close look at many of the new products bound for the outdoor marketplace, but it is much more than a convention-size version of show and tell.
Products on display in this part of the show are closely scrutinized by credentialed buyers and media representatives who cast their votes for the top product in each of 30 categories, such as Boating Accessories, Kid’s Tackle, Rod Reel Combo, Freshwater Soft Lure and Boats and Watercraft.
Since the 2020 edition of ICAST was held virtually due to COVID-19, voters had the challenge of making their selections without being able to see the products in person or get a feel for them. Making a tough job even more difficult was the large number of products — 434 — on display in the New Product Showcase.
Then, after the 30 Best of Category Winners were announced, one of those products was selected to receive top honors as Best of Show. This year that award went to a product that reflects the continued growth in the sport of kayak fishing. It’s growth that comes with an increasing demand for technology and alternative propulsion options designed to replace the traditional paddle.
Enter the Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot by the folks at Old Town. This kayak raises the technology bar to a new level by using a front-mounted Minn Kota trolling motor that is salt-water ready, provides 45 pounds of thrust, is compatible with lead acid or lithium ion batteries and is GPS enabled. To top things off, this setup uses Minn Kota’s Spot-Lock technology to give anglers the ability to lock onto a spot and anchor there, without using a traditional anchor. The motor and GPS system holds you in place.
What’s more, the folks at Old Town claim this anchor will work “no matter what the conditions.”
This technology also allows the angler to pick a direction and start fishing. The kayak will hold the heading and speed. All of these high-tech functions are controlled using a handheld remote or an app that can be downloaded to a smartphone. This kayak also comes with through hull wiring channels so a fish finder or other electronic device can be easily added, and it can be easily adapted for paddle use when needed or desired. Expect to pay about $4,000 for this fishing machine.
Technology also has made its way to fishing rods. Pure Fishing took the Best of Category — Rod Reel Combo Award with its Abu Garcia Virtual Casting Combo, which gives anglers the ability to create a digital log of catches with the push of a button located at the butt end of the rod. The system is designed for use with the ANGLR app in a smartphone and provides the ability to log data such as the time and location where fishermen caught their trophy bass. It also allows an angler to store a photo, include data about its size and length as well as weather conditions at the time.
The idea is that by storing this data, anglers can periodically review their log and by so doing discover trends that might help them find success in future fishing endeavors. This combination rod and reel comes in both spinning and baitcasting options.
In recent years, I have learned to appreciate the benefits of fishing with a baitcasting reel, but it was not always that way. That’s probably because my early endeavors were fraught with failures that manifested themselves in the form of large bird nests, knots even a determined Boy Scout could not reproduce let alone untie.
Such concerns may now be a thing of the past with the Gen Ike EZ Cast Baitcast Combo, winner of the Best of Category Award for Kid’s Tackle. The creative minds at Pure Fishing developed this rod and reel combination specifically for introducing new anglers to the baitcasting reel. Designed to prevent a typical bird’s nest, the reel includes a built-in Anti-Backlash System that can be turned on and off depending on an angler’s comfort level.
This rod and reel combination will also be marketed under the Abu Garcia brand. It, along with the other Best of Category winners can be seen online at icastfishing.org.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at email@example.com