• Now, which rod would you like to look at? Image: Peter Zeroni
    Now, which rod would you like to look at? Image: Peter Zeroni
  • Image: Pete Zeroni
    Image: Pete Zeroni

MOST fishos I know love messing around with fishing gear at home almost as much as using it out on the water. Deep down we are all tackle rats to varying degrees, and for me the first section of a fishing mag I read is the one covering new rods, reels, lures etc.

Given my addiction to fishing gear and/or reading about it, attending the 2012 international ICAST sport fishing tackle expo in Orlando Florida was not too dissimilar to a chronic gambler arriving in Vegas with a wad full of loaned cash and 10 open casinos to choose from! The good news for my credit card was that the gear on show was not for sale so I couldn't get into trouble with the missus.

For those not aware, ICAST is an institution in North American fishing circles and provides a golden opportunity for both domestic and overseas manufacturers and importers to showcase new tackle and products to the single biggest fishing market in the world – continental USA. Last week's ICAST event (the 55th) was held at the Orange County Convention Centre with exhibitors spread across a massive 35,000 square-metre showroom floor. The event attracted a staggering 9000 participants comprising of manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, buyers and media personnel with 63 different countries represented, including Australia.

Perth-based manufacturer Halco Tackle has been attending the ICAST show since the 1990s and was once again back in Orlando (which last hosted the big event back in 2009). As Aussies abroad have a tendency to congregate, I spent a fair bit of time with the Halco boys which gave me an opportunity to chat about the importance of this event with Tim Carter the company's Marketing Manager & co-product designer.

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Halco Tackle's Ben Patrick (left) and Tim Carter are regular attendees at ICAST which provides this Aussie company an annual opportunity to showcase their products to the massive US market as well as overseas buyers.

According to Tim, if you want to be a serious contender on the world tackle stage then you need to be at ICAST to showcase your wares and to network with buyers, importers and distributors from around the globe. While there are no plans for Halco to take over the world just yet, it would surprise many to know that this iconic Aussie tackle manufacturer is a major exporter to the US, as well as to South America, South-East Asia, South Africa, Europe and the Middle East – all up 73 countries and counting. Given how well Halco lures work here in Oz then this all makes sense that fishos elsewhere would want to swim them as well.

Each year at ICAST, awards are handed out for the best new products released at the show and categories range from fishing tackle to sunglasses and plenty in between with 21 separate categories, as well as an overall Best of Show award being handed out. This year the big gong went to Hobie Cat's Mirage Pro Angler 12 which was voted by both buyers and the media as the most innovative product, as well as taking out the best boat category.

While not a kayaker myself (too many crocs up here in the north), I checked it out and it sure is an impressively designed and decked-out craft, and one no doubt many of our 'yak fishing readership would love to take out for a fish. At the Hobie stand the rep pointed out the impressive features of this craft which include a retractable rudder, fully adjustable seating, livewell, the famous Hobie MirageDrive propulsion system, a myriad of storage compartments, horizontal storage for 4 rods as well as many other features. Other impressive attributes of the new model is its lighter weight (approx 55kg fully rigged), and the ability to fish standing up when conditions permit. The rep said that the Pro Angler 12 was the most versatile kayak the company has made to date and allows the angler to use it in both protected waters (lakes and rivers) and out on the open ocean. For more info about the new model check out the Hobie website.

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Hobie's new Mirage Pro Angler 12 took out the Best of Show award at ICAST 2012.

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The girls at the BigFin clothing stand attracted plenty of attention modelling some of the briefer garments in the company's range.

With regards to awards handed out for the best new rods and reels released at the show, as expected, the big tackle manufacturers such as G. Loomis, St. Croix, Penn and Abu Garcia were represented. Following are some of the winners in selected categories:

Best freshwater reel: Revo baitcasting reel by Abu Garcia
Best freshwater rod: Legend Xtreme by St. Croix
Best saltwater reel: Spinfisher V by Penn
Best saltwater rod: Legend Inshore by St. Croix
Best fly fishing reel: Sabalos Saltwater Fly Reel by Wright and McGill
Best fly fishing rod: NRX by G. Loomis


For a full list of the new product showcase category award winners visit the ICAST website at: http://www.icastfishing.org/icast-press-room/icast-2012-press-releases/sportfishing-industry-awards-2012-best-of-show-honors/

For me one of the best things about being at ICAST was the opportunity to actually talk face-to-face with the designers of some of the best tackle on the planet. Later this week in Part 2 of my ICAST report I'll go into more detail on these discussions as well as on what new gear caught my eye.

While ICAST is first and foremost a tackle show, it also plays an important role in fostering the US tackle industry's Keep America Fishing advocacy campaign launched at the 2010 event. Like here in Australia, recreational fishing in the US continues to be in the cross-hairs of radical Green groups who won't settle for anything less than a total lock-out of all forms of fishing over vast areas - without putting forward any credible scientific evidence to justify such actions.

At ICAST 2012 a seminar entitled Keeping Our Waters Open and Your Customers Fishing was held which served to update industry participants on where things were currently at. It was reported that since 2010 there has been significant growth in angler membership and the number of high profile professional rec anglers joining the campaign was also on the rise. Like what we are now trying to do here in Australia, hopefully Keep America Fishing continues to grow in numbers and influence to advocate on behalf of all rec anglers our rights to keep on fishing in an environmentally sustainable and responsible manner – which is what all thinking anglers both here and in the US want.

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While ICAST is first and foremost an industry tackle show, in recent years it is working more proactively to try and ensure that recreational fishing rights are not steam-rolled by radical green groups who are anti-fishing in all its forms.

Attending ICAST 2012 was both captivating and overwhelming at the same time. The sheer number of stands and products on show was such that in a day and a half I did not even get to walk past every display on the massive showroom floor. In order to have taken a decent look around I would have probably needed at least full five days there. None-the-less it was a great opportunity to see first-hand the magnitude of commitment the tackle industry has to designing, producing and delivering both state-of-the-art as well as affordable tackle and accessories to everyday buyers. It also strongly reinforced to me that rec fishing is big business on a global scale ... and the sooner our politicians and decision-makers understand this fact, and that we rec anglers are environmentalists too, the better for all of us.

Next year's ICAST will be held in Las Vegas from 10-12 July 2013. For more information about the event visit their website.

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The impressive Orange County Convention Centre in Orlando was the location for this year's ICAST event – the 55th held to date. Image: Peter Zeroni

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Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has an active fish stock enhancement program and brought along a tank show-casing three of their important recreational fishing species: snook, red drum and spotted seatrout. 

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Some of the product stalls were so big they looked like they had decided to just build a tackle shop on the showroom floor! 

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US reel manufacturer Accurate's sexy new TwinSpin model the SR6 was on show at ICAST. Believe me it feels as good as it looks, and it comes with a twin drag system on the spool which delivers silky smooth performance under all conditions.

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There was no shortage of colourful lures of all varieties and sizes on show at ICAST.

Stay tuned for more from Peter Zeroni on ICAST this Thursday.

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