Ralph and I were very fortunate to be invited by Z-Man Fishing to attend ICAST 2015 in Orlando for the first time. It was an eye-opening experience and if you are every given a chance to go, it’s worth it! The best way to describe it is: the entire fishing industry of the whole world – in one room. Z-Man has included our TroutEye jigs as part of a trout “system”, paired with their TroutTrick product. Our jigs were prominently displayed in the Z-Man booth as one of their new products for the year. They were even included in the New Product Showcase.
The New Product Showcase is a must-see, because it includes only the latest-greatest new products and from these the Best of Show products are chosen by a team of industry folks. There were some really cool new products and some that make you scratch you head and think “huh???”.
Going to a show like this is very inspiring, because you can see some real inventive and creative ideas come to life. It really got our gears cranking while dreaming up new product ideas.
I thought I’d compile a list of impressions of the show.
- The show is not open to the public. It is only for industry people such as vendors, shop owners, “pro-staff” guides, etc. For that reason there was not much “swag” that you would expect to see at a trade show. It has more to do with large purchasers and distributors inking deals with vendors.
- There are a staggering number of people manufacturing hard baits. Hard baits in every conceivable shape, size, color, pattern, jointed, etc etc etc. Some of you may have seen the 13+” fish pattern that looks so realistic swimming that it’s hard to tell it’s not real. Crazy. I’m not really sure what it’s supposed to catch, and for the cost I’m pretty sure I’d start to cry when I broke it off on something. It must be a hard nut to crack to get into that product space. I think we will stay out of that one!
- We were most impressed with the lowcountry businesses at the show. I’m not just saying that because we are biased to homegrown businesses, but truly some of the best products and businesses are coming straight from the lowcountry.
- EZ Waves – This company is owned and started by Vickie Waller (Capt. Mike Waller’s better half). She has a concept that I predict will revolutionize the guiding industry. EZ Waves makes it easy for customers to book a guide and easier for a guide to do what they do – guide. To be fair, it’s not a unique idea, however, EZ Waves has really got their act together, and Miss Vickie really knows how to start and run a business. The devil is in the details, and she is really doing it right. I know a few guides that have already signed up and they are raving about this company. I think it’s a sure-win. www.ezwaves.com
- Jig Skinz – This product, invented by Courtland Babcock, is a great idea for reconditioning old plugs and jigs. I had known about this product for a while, but got to see it demonstrated for the first time and really, you have to see it to believe it. It’s amazing! He has new bait fish patterns for this year and they look like the real thing. Very, very cool product. www.jigskinz.com
- Flood Tide Co – We stopped and spoke to Paul Puckett of Flood Tide Co. They have a line of apparel for fly fishing that is just cool. They are powered by the creative mind and artistry of Paul and Doug Roland (who won a videography award). In the apparel industry, you need to rise above the noise with some really cool designs and Flood Tide is the real deal. www.floodtideco.com
- Z-Man Fishing – Well, it’s hardly a surprise that we are lucky to have one of the premier fishing vendors in the world right here in our back yard. Z-Man has a ton of new stuff including the TT/TE combo, but also some 10″ long jerk shads for striper, cobia and tarpon that are sure to work really well. www.zmanfishing.com
- Neither Ralph nor I are too impressed by “celebrities” but they were everywhere. The only two that I got a little star-struck by was Flip Pallot and Lefty Kreh. Those guys are the real deal and so down to earth. We spoke to Z-Man pro David Walker and he was so laid back and cool. He gave us some insight into jig hooks for pro bass fishermen.
No doubt, much of the products there are meant to catch fishermen, and I don’t know if I will change my favorite hard plugs for something new but you never know. But if you have a keen eye, you can find the few truly promising new products.
We hope to go back in the future – maybe we can win “Best in Show” for a future product…