Realistic new swimbaits raise the bar to attract anglers and fish
The latest and greatest in fishing gear, apparel, outdoor accessories, boat accessories and much more was on display at the annual International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST), a virtual “candy store” for outdoor gear.
Jon Miller was there, and he brought back a report of top items that caught his eye at ICAST, both freshwater and saltwater. Check out his top finds:
At ICAST 2023 the Z-Man Mulletron LT won the Best Soft Saltwater Lure award. It has a realistic striped mullet appearance and fits into the ever growing category of large swimbaits for saltwater fishing. It will attract any predator fish that feeds on mullet, including large speckled trout and redfish.
The Mulletron LT looks realistic due to its hand-painted and photo-printed color schemes and it moves in a realistic manner when retrieved. The tail is wide and cupped so that it moves from side to side when retrieved, which also imparts a subtle motion into the body of the lure. It is a suspending lure with a moderate sink rate but has enough buoyancy to keep the lure upright when retrieved, floating, or sitting on the bottom.
The Mulletron LT is made from Z-Man’s 10X Tough Elaztech plastic which is known for maintaining its integrity even after repeated attacks by toothy predators. The custom heavy-duty sickle-shaped black nickel hook is pre-mounted into the lure with a reinforced line-through harness. The harness allows the lure body to slide up the line when a fish is hooked so that the body does not interfere with the hook set. There is even a hole in the top of the tail that can be used to inject scent into body of the lure.
The lure comes in two sizes of 4.5 inches and 6 inches long with internal weights of ¼-ounce and ½-ounce respectively. The casting weights are ¾-ounce for the smaller size and 1 ¾-ounce for the large size. Available in the fall of 2023, it will retail by size for $9.99 and $12.99.
The Vertrex Swim is an interesting new hybrid design of a soft plastic swimbait and a lipless crankbait. The three-inch lure’s body is soft and made from ultra tough TPE material. There is an internal rigid metal plate to which the front and rear treble hooks and the tow point are attached. The tow point is located on top of the body and further back than a typical lipless crankbait. This tow point position makes the lure vibrate or “thump” more than a typical lipless crankbait when pulled. The lure will take a strong nose down position when pulled but then released, it will flatten out slightly and swim in random directions to the bottom.
The lure is fished with a simple technique of sharply lifting the rod tip to 11:00 and then lowering the rod tip quickly to allow the lure to swim to the bottom. This method of fishing is called vibing and I have effectively used vibing with various lures to catch speckled trout. It retails for $11.99.
New for 2023 is the Matrix Shad spinning rod from Fitzgerald Fishing. This rod was designed by Chas Champagne, owner of Matrix Shad, specifically for the action needed to effectively present soft plastic jigs in deep water. Since Chas is well known for his ability to pull speckled trout, redfish and flounder off the bridges in Lake Pontchartrain in southeast Louisiana, a rod designed to his specifications is sure to help other anglers achieve their goals.
The Matrix Shad spinning rod is 7’-0” in length with medium power and fast action and made with a quality Fitzgerald blank. It is rated for line weights of 8-20 pounds and ¼-ounce to 5/8-ounce lure weights. The new spinning rod joins the Matrix Shad casting rod from Fitzgerald Fishing, which has the same ratings and power but is 6’4” in length. Both rods retail for $169.99.
Penn is well known for producing reels of exceptional robustness and extended service life for use in saltwater environments. At ICAST, they introduced the seventh generation with features like further protection from saltwater intrusion by adding IPX5 rated seals to keep water out of the gearbox and drag system, a seal that can keep water out against a low pressure spray from any angle. The seventh generation reels maintain full metal body and brass gears.
Spinfisher VII reels are moderately priced ranging in size from 2500 to 10500. The 2500, a common size for inshore fishing, retails for $179.99.
I came upon the Berkley Cutter 90 hard bait in 2022 and it proved to be one of the best jerkbaits I have used for speckled trout fishing. So I was excited to learn at ICAST 2023 that Berkley is coming out with two new sizes in the Cutter Saltwater series, which are 70 mm and 110 mm.
The Cutter lure was originally a freshwater bait that Berkley modified to make it applicable for saltwater fishing, including saltwater colors. My top colors on the Cutter 90 have been HD Pilchard and Mullet.
New sizes will expand its effectiveness seasonally and across habitats. I am particularly excited to use the Cutter 70 in the spring when the inshore speckled trout are feeding on smaller sized fin fish. They should be available in September of 2023.
St. Croix has come out with an update to the Avid Inshore rod series that is now 30% lighter in weight than the previous version, which was already exceptionally light. Consequently the new Avid Inshore rods feel like a feather to me. This rods are offered in casting and spinning configurations with lengths from 6’’6” to 8’0. They carry the St. Croix’s 15 year transferable warranty. They range in price from $260 to $320.
MirrOlure introduced a new topwater hard bait called the Duke Dog, which won the ICAST 2023 Best Saltwater Hard Lure award. The Duke Dog is a walk-the-dog style stick bait with a bit more asymmetry than the typical torpedo shaped stick baits. It has a larger head and mid section, which tapers to a thin profile at the tail. The samples on display were equipped with the realistic C-Eye feature and came in seven colors including the popular trout spot colors. The 3.5-inch lure weighs ¾-ounce and retails for $11.99.
A Yeti cooler is one of my most useful possessions and Boonedox has found a way to make it even more useful by giving it wheels that help alleviate the significant weight of a Yeti cooler full of ice, water, or gear. With the wheel kit, the cooler takes on an off-road appearance sure to make transporting the cooler easy along the beach, at the game, down a fishing pier or through the woods.
Boonedox manufactures accessories for handling, storing and transporting kayaks and used their expertise to create the Yeti Cooler Tug kit which includes two axels, four 6-inch diameter wheels, and straps to tightly lash the kit to the cooler. The kit does not interfere with the use of the cooler’s handles. The 65 quart cooler size kit will retail for $199.
Check out some of Jon Miller’s top freshwater finds at ICAST 2023 here.