By Chad LaChance

ICAST is the fishing industry trade show where manufactures from around the globe bring their new products to introduce them to the market. Having just returned from my 10th pilgrimage to the annual show, here are a few new products that caught my eye. Some are available now, others in the near future.

OtterBox Venture Cooler
The brand OtterBox is synonymous with well designed, bomb-proof dry boxes for a wide range of outdoor uses, so it’s no surprise that when the company decided to bring a product into the premium cooler market, it would be extremely well thought out and built. The cooler is called the Venture and in a recent long-term cooler test conducted by this very magazine, it held ice longer than any other premium cooler sold at Sportsman’s Warehouse. Besides being very efficient, the 45 and 65 quart Ventures are ruggedly built to the point of earning bear-resistant certification and feature a simple mounting system for useful accessories that maximize utility, including a dry storage tray, cutting board, and dividers as well as external bottle opener, cup holders, and dry box clips. The lid latches are very solid yet one hand accessible, built in handles are strong and comfy and double as tie down points, rubber feet keep the Venture where you put it, and a slanted bottom makes for easy draining. This all adds up to the most well thought out and executed cooler on the market, and it’s backed by OtterBox’s Limited Lifetime Warranty. Also keep your eye out for a soft version known as the Trooper and the innovative Yampa Dry Duffle that doubles as a backpack. Safe to say OtterBox is living up to its stellar reputation.

Line Cutterz
Sometimes it’s the simple things that perform the best and Line Cutterz is a prime example, so much so that it was featured on TV’s Shark Tank! Everyone knows how tough it can be to cut braided line cleanly and we’ve all lost track of our pliers or scissors at some point. Well, Line Cutterz addresses both of those in a very effective product. The basic concept is a stainless steel curved and shrouded blade, originally built into a ring style tool that could be Velcro’d on your finger or fishing rod handle. The idea immediately expanded to attaching to anything the strap would reach around, and even further when the strap is replaced with a zip tie of appropriate length. Then came a flat base version with double-sided tape that can be stuck wherever you may need to cut line; I have one at my shop spooling station and my boat’s tackle rigging area, and they’re perfect for a kayak. The latest addition to the line-up has the same cutter built into a zipper pull tab to be attached to soft tackle bags, fly tippet spool holders, backpacks, etc. Besides the simplicity, it’s the cutting performance that is surprising. I tested 100# braid and it literally cuts with no effort and no fray, instantly. The blade is coated for durability even in salt water and in a couple of weeks of continuous use in my shop, still cuts like new. At around $10-$12, Line Cutterz is a no-brainer for anyone that fishes.

RidgeMonkey Vault Powerpack
Brand new to the US market, RidgeMonkey caters to those needing portable power to keep electronic devices like smartphones and action cameras charged in the field. In my line of work, this is critical and I tested their Vault C-Smart Powerpack in real world use. Available in two sizes, 42Ah and 77Ah at 3.7V, the later of which will charge an iPhone 30 times from completely dead! It has four output ports; USB-C, two USB-A, and a 12V DC cigarette lighter style port, all of which can be used at once. The USB-C port is enhanced with their proprietary Power Deliver technology allowing you to charge compatible devices up to nine times faster than a normal 5V charger. The battery pack is dense enough to provide many charges to a smartphone yet powerful enough to charge a large laptop battery in only two hours and is designed for outdoor use. RidgeMonkey also produces a range of multi-connect solidly built charging cords, 16W pocket size solar panels, and compatible LED headlamps and camp lights.

St Croix Legend Glass Spinning Rod
St Croix Rods has long recognized that high quality fiberglass rods are the creme de la creme for presenting crankbaits effectively. They are very forgiving to cast and allow the fish to get a clean bite on a continuously moving lure, all the while protecting the smallish hooks from pulling out. To that end, the company launched the most high tech fiberglass rods ever last year and called it Legend Glass. Featuring a linear S-glass design built on a continuously tapering mandrel know as IPC technology, they are incredibly lightweight by any standard and pure joy to fish. Problem was, they were only available in casting rod models and many of you prefer spinning rods. Even those that do use casting gear typically use spinning rods to present very lightweight crankbaits like a Flicker Shad. So, St Croix stepped up this year and introduced a 7’2” medium power spinning rod model to the line up. Like the rest of the Legend Glass series the rod is moderate action and fitted with Fuji K-series tangle-free guides and a premium cork split grip design, all on a beautifully colored blank finished with two coats of Flex Cure. Spin-polers and wee crankers rejoice. You now have a fantastic rod made just for you, and it won Best New Freshwater Rod at ICAST 2018.

Berkley Topwaters
Fishing tackle leader Berkley came to ICAST 2018 loaded with hundreds of new products but it seemed like the buzz really surrounded the complete new line of topwater hardbaits. The new baits come as a compliment to the other subsurface hardbaits launched last year, including jerkbaits, crankbaits, and lipless cranks. Like those baits, the new topwaters feature fantastic color schemes and very high quality Fusion19 hooks, and the line covers 10+ models including the Bullet Pop and Cane Walker poppers, the J-Walker and Drift Walker walking baits, the Spin Rocket and Choppo prop baits, and the Wake Bull and Surge Shad wakebaits. Cover all your topwater bases no problem!

Berkley Powerbait MaxScent
What do you do when your company is famous for producing scented soft baits and you already lead the market? You up the game of course! That’s basically what Berkley has done with Powerbait MaxScent. Take the best of Powerbait and Gulp!, roll them into one and you get MaxScent. Like Powerbait, MaxScent is made of rubber but is porous in its moulding process allowing it to soak up scent like a sponge! Unlike Gulp! which is water based resin, it won’t dry out, and is softer than either Powerbait or Gulp!. I started testing MaxScent last year with great results, but for 2018 the line has been expanded to include more shapes and colors. At the most recent B.A.S.S. Elite Series tournament, the brand new MaxScent Flat Worm debuted and occupied several of the top 10 spots. The bait is designed for drop-shotting and is off to a fast start. MaxScent is now available in a very wide range of shapes and super natural, matte finish colors. The whole series is inspired by bass fishing, but in my experience walleye and trout love it as well. Get you some!

Gerber LineDriver
Gerber is known for their great knives, but they also make multi-tools, The Magniplier fishing plier with reversible line cutter blades, and even fillet knives with sharpeners built into the sheath. In short, they tend to think products all the way through. Well, the new LineDriver line management tool is another example. This writing pen sized, dual ended tool cuts line via light serrated scissor that can also be locked ever so slightly open to allow safe access to the blades while the tool is clipped in your pocket. The LineDriver also has a hook threader, a clearing spike to remove paint or head cement from hook eyes, a split shot crimper, and a super cool rotating hook vise to hold hooks while tying knots, which is perfect for small flies or knots requiring lots of twists. There is a bunch of utility built in this tool, and the construction is typical Gerber quality.

Abu Garcia Revo Rocket
Ahhh, my beloved Revo Rocket. I’ve been in love with the Rocket concept since Abu Garcia first debuted it several years ago. What’s not to like about a super fast reel that is smooth as butter and very solid? Well, for 2018 the Revo Rocket casting reel got a full re-design bringing it into the same frame size as the rest of the gen 4 Revo line-up. The latest version takes in 41 inches of line per turn of the oversized carbon fiber handle. Yes, 41 inches! That’s achieved through a 10.1:1 gear ratio and Infini II vented spool which is housed in an alloy frame. The drag is Abu Garcia’s proven Carbon Matrix Drag System and the reel is kept smooth with 10 stainless steel HPCR bearings, plus a roller bearing. Like all the Revo Rockets, this reel is finished in a beautiful red color with touches of carbon to highlight the technical side. I’ve been personally fishing the new model for about six months; rocket fast and silky smooth and very powerful; perfect for the ol’ flippin’ stick!

Cobra Storage
Another product that jumped out at me for its simplicity and functional utility is the Cobra Storage system. We all have a stack of rods in the corner of the garage, right? Well, how about utilizing the garage door itself to store those rods horizontally, thereby freeing up that dusty corner in your garage for less important stuff? The Cobra system is designed to mount on any standard 18” or 21” garage door, and can be mounted to panel trim or directly to the panel itself, even insulated doors, without affecting the door operation. Each bracket has six holes and rods can be laid tip to butt, easily accommodating two per hole even with reels attached. They are free to rotate as the door rises/lowers, and multiple brackets can be used on a single door. The system is limited to 10 pounds per bracket set but not only rods; try brooms, landing nets and other long handled tools. I got several for my garage door.