ICAST 2021 preview: Check out some of the fishing lures, gear making debut in Orlando this year

Josh Rouse
Topeka Capital-Journal
The Z-Man Football NedZ Jighead is a football-style jighead built for a finesse presentation that works well with many of Z-Man's finesse plastics, including the TRD and TRD CrawZ.

The largest fishing trade show of the year is set to return to Orlando, Fla., this month after going completely virtual last year because of COVID-19.

The International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades — more commonly known as ICAST among anglers — showcases all of the new gadgets, gizmos and gear set to come out for 2021-22. This year’s ICAST is slated for July 20-23 at the Orange County Convention Center and is easy to follow along at home with online at https://icastfishing.org/.

While some of the upcoming products have yet to be unveiled to the public, several companies have given a heads up on what new products will be up for consideration in the New Product Showcase.

Here’s a list of what some of them will be featuring:

Z-Man Fishing Products

Z-Man is one of those companies that is pretty open about what they are working on ahead of time, and this year the full lineup of new products has been made public prior to the show.

Each year, Z-Man has one or two new lures that stand out as big game-changer type products, and this year is no exception.

The company, which specializes in finesse fishing — particularly the Ned rig — is following a pattern we have seen in recent years of taking products that work well at a larger size and shrinking them down for use as a finesse lure. This year’s redesign is the Football NedZ Jighead, which uses the familiar football-head design of larger jigs but at a compact size that works well with finesse trailer favorites such as the TRD, TRD CrawZ, TRD BugZ and TRD TicklerZ. The shape of the head is meant to help anglers work around big rocks without getting snagged as easily, though there is some debate within the finesse fishing community as to whether it really counts as a finesse lure given the weight of the jig — which ranges from 1/8 ounce to 3/16 ounce and 1/4 ounce.

Personally, if you’re fishing in deeper water or rivers with a heavy current, I think it still qualifies as the added weight is justifiable in those situations. If you’re fishing in the shallows, it’s not quite as finesse as a 1/16th-ounce lure, certainly, but I’d bet good money you’ll still attract more fish on the smaller presentation than you would on a larger version of the same setup. It’s just going to require a different retrieve than what you’re used to with a traditional Ned rig — likely more dragging — and you won’t get as many bites on the fall.

It’s an interesting concept that I look forward to trying in person when the lure hits the retail stores this month.

Z-Man Fishing Products' new Hella CrawZ lure is ideal for kicking up a cloud of silt and dirt when moving across the bottom of the lake thanks to its flanged claw design.

The company also is introducing a new crawfish offering that strays from the tradition of finesse baits, invoking a design that is meant to kick up sediment and move lots of water as it crawls across the bottom. The 3.75-inch Hella CrawZ lure is built for attracting large, hungry bass, with a familiar flanged-claw design that causes a flapping action on a retrieve. 

The major advantage of this lure over other similar craws on the market is it’s made out of Z-Man’s ElaZtech material, which means the claws will float up into a defensive stance when you stop your retrieve and they aren’t likely to be torn off. This lure will hit stores in September.

Z-Man’s popular ChatterBait lineup will get a few new additions this summer, as well, with the big one being the Big Blade ChatterBait that boasts a 70 percent larger blade than the original ChatterBait, as well as a 6/0 Mustad UltraPoint hook on jigheads ranging from 1/2 to 3/4 ounces. On the other side of the spectrum, the ChatterBait MiniMax is a tournament-quality ChatterBait in a smaller package, with a 2/0 black nickel hook. It ranges from 1/4- to 1/2-ounce weights.

The company also has a new soft-body swimbait coming out that will be made with ElaZtech that is worth checking out — the HerculeZ. This lure comes in both 4-inch and 5-inch varieties and is rigged with 5/0 and 7/0 Mustad UltraPoint hooks, respectively, with the option to add a second belly hook. The $10 price point isn’t bad, either.

Other new products from Z-Man include the 6-inch Turbo FattyZ worm, 5-inch DoormatadorZ grub, Texas Eye Finesse and Texas Eye TeXL jigheads and the Bait BlockZ tackle bag.

The Berkley Stunna jerkbait helped Hank Cherry win his second straight Bassmaster Classic championship this year.

Berkley

This company can boast that its jerkbait won Hank Cherry his second straight Bassmaster Classic. 

What else is there to say?

The Berkley Stunna jerkbait is a gorgeous lure that features an onboard tungsten inertial transfer system to help with long casts and a unique darting action that makes it stand out as a possible Best of Show contender.

It comes in two diving depths, with the Stunna 112 ranging from 3 to 6 feet deep and the Stunna 112+1 ranging from 6 to 10 feet. It will be available in store this month in 14 different colors for $14.99. 

Berkley’s Choppo topwater bait also is getting a bunch of new high-definition color patterns for fall 2021, including HD Baby Bass, HD Blueback Herring, HD Bluegill, HD Golden Shiner, HD Rainbow Trout and HD Threadfish Shad.

The ultra-realistic color patterns are bound to make the prop bait even more appealing to hungry bass.

Berkley's Choppo topwater prop bait will be available in a wide variety of new ultra-realistic color patterns.

Missile Baits

This popular bait company known for its D-Bomb creature baits is adding a smaller crawler for finesse or compact jigs.

The Mini D Chunks have two flappers on a flat chunk body that works well with a skirt to help it flair out, and is ideal for skipping.

The lures will come in 10 colors and cost $3.99 a pack.

Megabass

Megabass’ new Sleeper Craw is an interesting-looking take on the crawdad bait.

The 3-inch Japanese-based lure is ultra-realistic and rigged with a hidden hook. It will be available in the spring for $8.99.

Megabass also has a couple interesting crankbaits in the IxI SHAD TX and the Super-Z Z3 that both target depths of 13 feet and a gorgeous new rod in the Megabass Triza that are worth keeping an eye on when it comes time to decide the Best in Show.

Rapala

The granddaddy of all crankbait manufacturers is good at taking what works well and refining it slowly over time.

So it’s no surprise that the company’s lineup of new products looks remarkably similar to years past.

Rapala is adding a mid-depth BX Brat square-billed crankbait that dives to 5 feet, joining the original that dives to 3 and the Big Brat, which dives to 6.

Other lures got a nice paint job, while the DT (Dives-to) series got a new member with the DT8.

The Rapala OG Tiny 4 isn’t exactly the exception, as it is basically a cousin to the OG Slim, but it is more than just a new coat of paint or a slight size adjustment.

The flat-sided balsa wood crankbait has a tight wobble and a more sensitive feel thanks to its lightweight circuit board lip. It’s a simple, clean design, but when you’ve been in the business as long as Rapala, you pretty well know what works by now.

VMC 

VMC is releasing a new Ned Rig Jig with a conical keeper that comes in four weights ranging from 1/16 to 1/4 ounces. The hook is made of chemically sharpened vanadium steel and features a hybrid bend. 

As a finesse enthusiast, it certainly catches my eye.

VMC is one of my favorite companies when it comes to good, sharp jigs for bass and panfish, and I think this new addition looks like it’ll increase your hook-up ratio over more traditional Ned heads.

Gamakatsu

Another bit of terminal tackle that grabbed my attention was the Gamakatsu Tungsten Wobble Head, which is a weight that is designed to be used in a similar fashion to a bladed bait, with the weight acting as a sort of hybrid between a cobra head and a football head to help drag lures through all sorts of cover and create a slithering action.

The hybrid design works well in both grass and rocks and the action it imparts can make whatever plastic trailer you’re using dance around quite a bit, making your bait that much more enticing for more active fish.

I’ll be interested to get my hands on all of these products at some point to see how well they actually produce and which ones are truly worth the hype they are about the receive in Orlando.

Regardless, Christmas is about to come early for fishing enthusiasts.

Gamakatsu's new Tungsten Wobble Head provides a hybrid action to baits that is a cross between a cobra head and a football head.