ICAST ranks as an annual watershed moment for new recreational fishing products. This Orlando, Florida, trade show that takes place in July gives buyers, retailers and members of the media a chance to view a multitude of new items, as well as existing products. The four-day show can prove to be overwhelming. In addition to trying to check out each new rod, reel, lure, hook, line, apparel and boating product, I look for mega trends. Here are three related to saltwater fishing that I observed at ICAST 2023.
Saltwater Trolling Motors
No less than four brands displayed innovative new developments in saltwater bow-mount electric trolling motors for fishing, which definitely sets an ICAST record in this category. Power-Pole brought its recently introduced Move brushless saltwater trolling motors to the show and won an ICAST Innovation Award with the line. Garmin unveiled its impressive new Force Kraken brushless saltwater trolling motors, and Minn Kota debuted new brushless Quest technology in its Riptide Terrova and new Riptide Instinct saltwater trolling motors. All of these pivot-mount units feature some of the most advanced and easy-to-use features we’ve ever seen in saltwater trolling motors. (Read more about them in this article I wrote for the August/September issue of Salt Water Sportsman.)
In another trolling-motor development at ICAST, Rhodan Marine announced a new partnership with Raymarine. Now Raymarine’s Axiom multifunction displays can integrate with Rhodan’s bow-mount saltwater trolling motors. Anglers can control their trolling motor from an Axiom just as they would from the Rhodan key fob. Axiom can also automatically steer the trolling motor when it is active, and then control a Raymarine Evolution autopilot when the Rhodan motor is stowed.
I stood amazed at the sheer number of companies displaying lines of lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePO) batteries at ICAST 2023—more than 14, far more than I ever seen in the past. There was a time when lithium batteries for boating anglers seemed like an impossible dream—too expensive, too unfamiliar and (at one time) too unsafe to consider, despite the lighter weight and improved run times over lead-acid batteries. But now, thanks to safe LiFePO battery chemistry and more affording prices, the lithium boom is upon us with brands such as Battle Born, Dakota, Newport, Relion, X2Power and others exhibiting in force at ICAST 2023.
Ankle Deck Boots
This ICAST 2023 mega trend reflects the desire of saltwater anglers to keep their feet dry without having to pull on a calf-high rubber boot. I saw more brands competing in the ankle-high deck boot than I have ever witnessed at ICAST before, including AFTCO, Grundens, Huk, Pelagic and Xtratuf. One of the OGs in the deck boot market, Xtratuf not only pioneered ankle deck boots, but also has created an amazing array of choices for both men and women. These are no longer your grandfather’s brown legacy boots; they now come cool colors and patterns, and are lighter and more comfortable than the boots of yore. Yet they still provide professional-grade non-slip outsoles and waterproof outers. The same applies to ankle boots from the other brands mentioned above—many models so good-looking that I can wear them out and about… maybe even to next year’s ICAST Show.