You may have never heard of ICAST, but as an angler you should be glad it exists. Your credit card company is surely glad, but your significant other might not be. Why? Because ICAST is where tackle manufacturers worldwide all come together to introduce their newest offerings to the angling public. And because we’re tackle junkies at heart and are always looking for the latest, greatest fish catcher, the angling media covers every square inch of the expo hall, all looking for the headline product to convey to their audience. In short, basically the entire sportfishing industry is in one huge room.

The International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, aka ICAST, is where I get a pulse on tackle trends. Having just returned to my home in Colorado from my 10th convention, my head is spinning with new stuff and the theme that comes to mind after this year’s show is evolution; tackle is evolving rather than making revolutionary steps. Let’s look at some of the trends that may help your angling.

Fishing rods have been getting longer and longer on average for years, but this year there was some serious rod length talk. Professional bass fishing leads the industry in tackle development and bass fishing is far and away the most popular form of angling nationwide, so when the major sanctioning body of pro bass fishing removed an antiquated rule limiting rods to eight feet in length last year, rod builders like St Croix responded with gusto. The competitive aspect of bassin’ means that folks are looking for a winning edge and the pro’s have spoken – longer rods offer advantages. Longer rods cast farther, hookset easier in most cases and control both line and fish better. My first bass rod was a 5’6” baitcaster; now you can’t even buy one that short, but nearly 10 footers are coming to market! Evolution.

Lines have also evolved this year, particularly braided line. Dyneema fibers have been used for a long time (beginning with original Fused Fireline if memory serves me correctly) but companies keep finding new ways to braid it and coat it for smoothness and durability. This year Berkley launched Fireline Ultra 8 and the industry rewarded them with a win in the Best of Show, line category. I’ve been testing Ultra 8 for almost a year ahead of product launch and it is truly great stuff. It’s extremely thin and smooth, holds knots great and the durability has been remarkable, even for braid. It’s a true eight carrier braided line that is a more than worthy successor to previous Berkley superlines. Use it in place of any braid or superline you have; I promise you’ll enjoy the upgrade.

Many manufacturers chose to expand established successful product lines, figuring that the angling public already has confidence in the products so covering more fishing scenarios with related products is low hanging fruit. For instance, my beloved Cutter series of jerkbaits now includes a very shallow version, allowing me to now fish the lure in more places. I brought one – exactly one – of the Shallow Cutters home from the show and have already caught five species on it in three outings. To say it’s winning my confidence over is an understatement. Other hardbait companies expanded sizes of squarebills and deep divers as a trend towards large crankbaits continues.

Rain gear too is evolving, mostly towards specialized uses. I saw rain gear specific to kayak anglers, waders and high-speed boat rides. There were super thin packable rain jackets that fit in an average pocket, rain parkas with removable insulated liners and even rain gear with built-in flotation in case you end up in the drink.

Ever fish Gulp? I do – a lot! The stuff works great, but has a reputation for being messy and drying out if left out of its package. Regular PVC baits are far more user friendly, but fish just flat won’t hold onto it as long as they will the water based resin that Gulp is made of. Well, I don’t know if I’d call it evolution or cross-breeding, but they figured out how to mold PVC-based Powerbait to be porous enough to hold Gulp liquid in the same way that a kitchen sponge holds water. Viola – now you have the durability and ease of use of Powerbait soft plastics along with the fish holding power of Gulp. Won’t dry out or leak Gulp juice from the packaging, comes in a wide variety of proven shapes and colors and features a matte finish that looks more organic than regular soft plastics. Here again, my testing is quickly proving that this new dog will hunt.

So, great. Fishing tackle is evolving more than being revolutionized this year. I see it as an easy opportunity for our angling to evolve alongside it. Manufacturers didn’t try to completely change the way we fish anything, rather they refine stuff in ways that should help us catch more fish or be more comfortable in our angling adventures. To be honest, I’m always trying to refine my own angling, but rarely make wholesale changes; I think this keeps me consistent. “Game changers” are always headline grabbers, but rarely do they become staples in my angling, while evolutionary refinements are almost universally a good thing. Seems that the tackle industry is on that plan for the next 12 months and I’m all for it!