Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Gamechangers & my own ICAST Best of Show

Gamechanger. It's a word so overused today that even Matthew McConaughey no longer speaks it. Really, what makes a product a "gamechanger"? 

It has to be something that everyone will want to own (at least someday), and that it's competitors will be anxious to copy.  Within the fishing universe, it has to make a difference in the way we fish, the flies we tie, the success of our fishing, or which adds functionality.

With that in mind, I think "gamechanger" should be rare indeed. I can think of a few examples: the Orvis Helios fly rod, breathable jackets and waders, competition jig hooks, the Hobie Mirage Drive, the Yeti cooler. And there's more. But not many more.

The world's largest fishing trade show - ICAST - was held two weeks ago. Not at it's usual location in Orlando, Florida, but online. The virtual show had far fewer exhibitors and far fewer featured products than the floor show normally has. Still it was worth spending several hours on my computer, gathering what info I could.

When it comes to fly fishing and kayak fishing, ICAST isn't near the showcase that Fly Tackle Dealer or Outdoor Retailer are. Still, there was no gamechanger this year by my definition. Maybe with the pandemic, some companies decided to hold back. Or maybe 2020 is one of those years where there really isn't one.

As for the ICAST New Product Showcase and "Best of Show" awards. They've always been popularity contests. Even moreso this year with the virtual showcase. For that reason, I've always done my own. As a flycaster and a kayak angler, my focus is on products of appeal to me - and maybe some others.  So if you disagree with my choices, you're free to email me at

With that in mind, here's Cormier's ICAST Best of Show.

Frabill Floating Trout nets

Whether wading, kayaking or fly-fishing Frabill's new Floating Trout Nets put success in the hands of anglers who always stay close to their targets. Safely catch and release with the net frame directly on the water surface. Comfortable rubber handle includes lanyard with carabiner, Fish-friendly dipped micromesh netting and five classic hoop shapes with flat bottom netting.  Price TBA.

Plano Z-Series Waterproof Backpack

Waterproof backpacks are all the rage, and for good reason.  Whether kayaking, wading, or hiking thru rain, it keeps gear dry and frees your hands for more important tasks.  The Z-Series Backpack has a new look and multiple upgrades to keep anglers hands-free and agile. Most notably, the Z-Series backpack is now completely waterproof thanks to a roll-top design and 500D PVC casing with welded seams protecting two 3700 size Stowaways. MSRP is $89.

Hardy Zane Pro

According to Hardy, the new Zane Pro performance saltwater fly rod sets the standard for premium, fast action. Made in England, the Zane Pro features a reduced blank diameter for better wind penetration and reduced weight. Redesigned mandrels and pattern layups boost performance of the aerospace grade carbon fiber and advanced SINTRIX 440 resin system. Titanium recoil guides with a ceramic insert and a scratch-resistant, hard-anodized double up-lock reel seat round out the offering. Offered in 1pc & 4pc designs. MSRP $850.

Douglas Sky G

The newest Saltwater addition to the Douglas lineup. According to Douglas, the SKY G offers superb dampening and recovery, near-effortless casting, accuracy, and outstanding durability. Innovative top-of-the-line components include: REC Titanium Cerecoil stripper guides with zirconia inserts, REC Titanium recoil guides, AAAA flor grade cork, and more. Includes a wicking rod sock, aluminum tube and a lifetime warranty.  The freshwater Sky has been winning "rod shootouts" since it came out last year, and now expands to the saltwater version. At $695, it's priced about $200 less than it's main competitors.

Sawatch Fly Rods

Eagle Claw is excited to launch a new line of high performance fly rods. The Sawatch Fly Rods are manufactured with a 30 ton light weight graphite blank. The moderate fast action offers forgiving casts for beginners, but is very responsive for those experience anglers. The Sawatch rods fits in Eagle Claw's commitment to offering performance fishing gear that will not break the bank. Offered in 8'6" 4wt, 9' 5wt, 9' 6wt, and 9' 8wt.

Old Town Sportsman Salty PDL 120

At 12 feet long, 34.5 inches wide and weighing 85 pounds, this is one of the lighter pedal drive kayaks on the market. It's also one of the least expensive, with a price point of $1899. The PDL features an easy-docking system for launch and landing, and a superior mesh frame seat with lumbar support and adjustable track. What really stands out about this kayak is the hull... it appears that Old Town incorporated the Ocean Kayak tri-hull (at least to some degree). One of the best hulls ever, period! Can't wait to test this out.

Carlisle Magic Angler

A longtime fan of the Magic Angler, it's a lightweight, efficient and powerful paddle - with the emphasis on power.  I've used mine as pushpoles and for everything else they weren't intended for.  The asymmetrical, slightly curved blade shape, combined with a lightweight, flexible fiberglass shaft produces smooth yet powerful strokes. This new version features a cutout in the blade to free snagged hooks and a ruler on the shaft that can be used to measure your catch.  MSRP $110.

Flying Fisherman Carico Sunglasses

These are new for 2020, but for some odd reason weren't featured in the New Product Showcase, but similiar to their Drop Back series which was. The AcuTint polarized lenses give excellent contrast and clarity for a budget-priced sunglasses, while the wide side panels block out ambient light and glare. Best of all, they come in a tortoise/amber color that provides good contrast under all weather conditions. And remain cool to the touch on those hot sunny days. MSRP is $25.

Flying Fisherman Sunbandit Pro Series Gloves

I have a pair of Simms gloves that work pretty good, but don't really grip as well as I'd like. The new Pro Series from SunBandit come with silicone printed padding on palms and fingers. Again, this is one of those products where hands-on would yield whether it's worthy of a "best buy". But having experience with the Flying Fisherman brand quality, I'll take a chance here. A must have for keeping your hands protected from UV solar radiation. They're certainly stylish! MSRP $25.

Snook and Everglades Hobie® Polarized Sunglasses

With a streamlined full-wrap fit, the new mid-priced Snook and Everglades series feature Hobie® Hydro 360° dually coated polarized lenses, and provides all-day comfort through co-molded rubber temple tips and nose pads. The Snook is slightly narrower, the Everglades slightly wider. Best of all, they come in my two favorite lens colors: copper and yellow. A sure winner! MSRP $89.

Flyweight Stockingfoot Wader

I love lightweight waders but they come with a compromise in quality and durability. Simms has met the challenge with their new Flyweight wader with a 4-layer fabric in the legs and a 3-layer fabric in the uppers. Yet maintaining light weight and breathability thanks to the Gore-Tex material. In the crotch and under arms is a stretchable Gore-Tex material to enhance mobility. For the fly angler who hikes aways to their spot, this wader deserves strong consideration. MSRP $549.

Finally.... my overall "Best of Show"... and it might surprise readers.

Line Cutterz Dual Hybrid Micro Scissor

Line Cutterz brand was featured on TV's Shark Tank and grew from there. Their new Micro Scissor is advertised as the world's smallest dual line cutter - for braid, mono and fluorocarbon lines. Up to now, braid cutters have come in small sizes... if you consider able to fit in a large pocket "small". But the Line Cutterz is REALLY small. The length of your middle finger. It weighs almost nothing. It features a corrosion resistant ceramic blade and a stainless steel scissor. It's compact and won't catch line when using it with a zinger on a PFD or fly vest.