ICAST 2011 - Day 1

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The International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades - or ICAST - is the largest sportfishing trade show in the world. The New Product Showcase at ICAST gives manufacturers the opportunity to show off their latest and greatest tackle, gear and apparel to buyers and the media. Although the show is closed to the public, our editors are here to provide daily updates from the show floor and give you a taste of what you can look forward to seeing in the upcoming year.
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Show attendees check out some of the offerings during the New Products Showcase preview party on Tuesday night
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Veteran journalist Frank Sargeant is awarded the 2011 Homer Circle Fishing Communicator Award during Tuesday night's reception.
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Everyone eagerly waits in the Las Vegas Convention Center for the show to open at 9:00 a.m.
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Shimano announced a number of new product releases at the show this year. Here, Ted Sakai introduces a new PowerPro line.
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The all-new PowerPro Super 8 Slick Spectra line is available in 10- to 80-pound test and comes in four colors: Hi-Vis Yellow, Marine Blue, Timber Brown and Aqua Green.
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I stumbled across legendary fly caster and G. Loomis rod designer Steve Rajeff during the first day at ICAST. Steve showed me Loomis' new Pro 4X line of fly rods. While only available through 10-weight, they should serve saltwater anglers targeting small to mid-size species very well. The four-piece rods were designed based on the blank-flex actions of Loomis' premium NRX series, and they will sell in the $350 range (which is quite reasonable). Steve and I casted one of the demo rods -- silky smooth. The Pro 4X will be delivering to retailers on September 1. Be sure to check them out. - Mike Mazur
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For 2011, Engel has redesigned its DeepBlue coolers to make them stronger, colder and more versatile. Starting with enhancements to the lid design -- integrating structural I-beams -- Engel increased overall strength while eliminating warping. The rubber gasket around the lid has been replaced with a heavy-duty silicon seal. Engel added an optional divider panel inside and added two new sizes to the line: 25- and 240-quart models. Visit www.engel-USA.com. - Chris Woodward
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Hobie calls the new Revo II "fast and nimble." As a long-time user of Hobie pedal-powered kayaks, I can only imagine that this will be all of that. Big guys might find it a bit tight, but otherwise, this should be a fantastic kayak for going the distance and for maneuvering in tight and quick once on the spots. - Doug Olander
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"Best of Show" winner Berkley Nanofil is touted as being the "Next Generation in Fishing Line." Made of an all-new material that boasts zero memory, zero stretch and extra sensitivity, it also is the thinnest Berkley line.
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I first encountered Savage Gear soft lures while fishing for Atlantic halibut in sub-Arctic Norway. The Swedish designer/manufacturer, Mads Grosell, seems to have a real knack for making lures that catch fish as we discovered over there and subsequently, when I brought some large tails back to the U.S. to fish. But these smaller sand eels slugs ought to be tremendous in many uses and I'm anxious try them for everything from big Chinook salmon this summer (since these mimic almost perfectly the small sand eels -- aka "candlefish" -- on which they feed) to largemouth bass in lakes near my home. Their very soft, pliable air-filled bodies float and should have tremendous action. - Doug Olander
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Here, we are treated to an in-water demonstration of the sand eel. The on-site casting tank at ICAST gives lure makers a sweet opportunity to demonstrate their goods. Cooler yet - notice the underwater camera that gives everyone a chance to check out a bait's action.
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I can’t wait to try this thing over grass beds for reds and trout. Yo-Zuri has fine-tuned the action and look to truly resemble a shrimp. I’ll be surprised if inshore fish don’t jump all over the 3-D Shrimp._ - Doug Olander_
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New to the fishing world, Sundog Eyewear brought its Mela-Lens technology to ICAST this year. The company says Mela-Lens eliminates UV and significantly reduces high-energy visible light - blue light- without color distortion. The lenses contain (synthetic) melanin, the body's own defense mechanism from blue light, which reduces veiled glare and provides long-term protection. Visit www.sundogeyewear.com. - Chris Woodward
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Shimano beefed up its line of Talica two-speed offshore reels. The company unveiled a terrific-looking, new 50-wide at ICAST, the TAC50II The reel, which has a suggested manufacturers retail price of $1,199, offers gear ratios of 3.8:1 or 1.7:1, and is built with six bearings. Weighing 56 ounces, it can hold 340 yards of 80-pound mono or 825 yards of 150-pound braid. Offered in a gorgeous silver finish, it is the largest model in the Talica family. - Mike Mazur
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Lightweight yet capable, the Penn Squall Lever Drag employs a graphite frame and sideplates, forged aluminum spool and silent instant anti-reverse and is available in four sizes.
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Made some new friends on the first day at ICAST - Dosh McClendon and Jack Young of Qualia Reels. For five years now, Qualia has been producing some excellent offshore conventional and spinning reels. But what I didn't know was that this is nothing new to them. Since 1970, Dosh and Jack have been quietly manufacturing rods and reels for some of the biggest brands in fishing equipment under their company Pacific Products. They only recently decided to start branding their own products. As for me, I was particularly fond of their line of NLF spinning reels - built extremely solid and at a very affordable price point. Check them out at qualiafishing.com - Mike Mazur
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At $1,200, this isn't an everyman's reel. But for an angler who's going to max out his gear (which these days, with heavy braids on spinning tackle is hardly unheard of), this new Saltiga is worth considering. I know that because while fishing Western Australia very recently, I had the chance to use one (Daiwa has been selling them Down Under for some time) and it was like a piece of precision jewelry. Very impressive! - Doug Olander
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Simple but effective, a favorite invention of many today was the Shark Tooth spool management system. Consisting of a band with a cuttter attached that wraps around your filler spool, it allows you to pull off the lengths of line you need but keeps the line under wraps and the snarl out of your tackle box or boat. It also comes in handy when you go to refill your reel!
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We took a break from the show floor to attend the Zebco luncheon, where we learned about Quantum's new EXO line of super-lightweight freshwater rods and reels. After a bit of good-natured ribbing, Bill Dance got up to praise the revolutionary design that Zebco thinks will be a "game changer."
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Seaguar celebrated their 40th anniversary at the show with one of the most impressive cakes I've ever seen. People shook their heads when the servers began to fillet it, but it didn't stop anyone from grabbing a slice. It was, of course, sashimi-red velvet inside...
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What else did Seaguar have to celebrate? The release of two new lines - Senshi, a thin-diameter monofilament; and Kanzen, a high-performance microfiber braid that is available is a full range of tests.
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Power-Pole turning heads this year with a new high-performance shallow-water anchor, the Signature Series Blade edition. After seeing it in action, I'll tell you it's fast to deploy, and comes in a new 10-foot model. The anchor is solidly built yet lightweight, and tucks into itself (and out of the way) when not deployed.
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FLIR has added two new handheld units to its line of First Mate thermal night-vision cameras. The First Mate MS224 and MS324 -- priced at $1,999 and $2,999 retail -- are considered scopes versus cameras; they're for viewing only rather than viewing and recording images. The compact MS models weigh only 12 ounces and come with a built-in LED flashlight and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The 224 features a 240-by-180-pixel detector, and the 324 offers 320-by-240-pixel resolution. Visit www.flir.com. - Chris Woodward
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American Sportfishing Association President and CEO Mike Nussman announces the New Product Showcase "Best of Show" award winners at the Chairman's Industry Awards Reception Wednesday night. You can see the winners here.
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Doug Olander of Sport Fishing magazine announces the Making a Difference award recipients at the Industry Awards Reception. You can watch the entire presentation here.
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It wouldn't be a trip to Vegas without a visit from the King.... Check back tomorrow for Day 2 coverage from ICAST 2011....