After a brief absence in 2020, the convention center in Orlando was once again filled with new, exciting, and innovative rods, reels, baits, and gadgets at the world’s largest fishing trade show. I had the chance to roam the aisles at ICAST 2021 and check out some of the new fishing gear to hit the market this fall and next year. Here are my top picks for the best new rods and reels from ICAST.
Best Fishing Reels of 2021
Shimano Curado MGL 150
Shimano’s newest addition to their baitcasting lineup is the Curado MGL 150. This reel adds to the tournament-tested Curado series and will come in as the lightest Curado to date at 6.5 ounces. It has an external braking adjustment to allow anglers to reach optimal performance and a metal frame for increased durability. The MGL spool lets you cast farther with less effort and the light, low profile reel helps lessen fatigue throughout the day. The Curado MGL 150 comes in at $199.99.
Penn Slammer IV
The Penn Slammer IV is going to be popular with inshore anglers. It is the newest model in the Slammer series, and the most exciting aspect of this reel is the variety of sizes. The Penn Slammer IV comes in eight different sizes, including a 2500 all the way up to 10500. The startup on this reel will be a little faster than the Slammer III with a high-speed model in select sizes. The price point for the Slammer IV ranges from $259 to $349.
TFO NTR Fly Reel
A clean-looking, reliable fly reel at an affordable price is what anglers get with the new TFO NTR. The NTR comes in four sizes: a 3/4 weight to a 9/10 weight and two colors: clear-gold and black-gold. This high-quality aluminum reel features a smooth cork disc drag system with an O-ring seal to keep out moisture. It’s an excellent choice for anglers looking for a bang for their buck. The NTR retails from $140 to $170.
13 Fishing Orgin F1
This seven-bearing reel from 13 Fishing comes in as one of the best affordable reels at ICAST. It’s perfect for anglers who don’t want to break the bank while still providing solid construction and performance on the water. It has a 20 plus pound drag system and an external brake adjustment so you can dial in your cast without taking off the side plate. This versatile reel can cover various fishing techniques and is a great option for new anglers or someone looking to add an affordable reel to their arsenal. The Origin F1 comes in at $69.99.
Daiwa Steez CT SV 70
This is one of Daiwa’s new flagship reels, and the price alone will tell you that. It is a compact, low-profile baitcasting reel with 12 ball bearings to make for an extremely smooth system. It is built from Magnesium and weighs only 5.3 ounces. The air brake system helps diminish backlashes, and the reel comes in 6.3:1 and 8.1:1 gear ratios. The comfortable soft handle will make throwing and retrieving baits all day enjoyable. Plus, all new Steez reels have an executive service warranty of 5 years with proof of purchase. Send it in for maintenance and service as many times as you want. The Steez CT SV comes in at $729.
Hardy 150 Anniversary Fly Reel
This was one of my favorite products from all of ICAST. A celebration of Hardy’s 150-year-old brand, this new anniversary reel, modeled after the 1970 edition, has a nostalgic feel. It has a nickel silver double screw line guide, raised spindle casing, and comes with a collectible leather reel case. The commemorative engraving is also a fine touch, and this reel is quite the looker. Combined with a classic clicking drag, this reel will bring back memories of forgotten rivers and lost fish. An aesthetically pleasing reel that drew me right in. MSRP: $500.
Best Fishing Rods of 2021
Abu Garcia Zenon Rod
Abu Garcia set out to create a light rod, and the result was the new Zenon series. The Zenon took home the best new freshwater rod in the new product showcase and will be extremely effective for finesse fishing with ultra sensitivity. It has a comfortable handle and feels like a feather in your hand. The Zenon has titanium alloy guides with ultra-light nitride silicon inserts that round out this lightweight, balanced rod. Anglers who spend time throwing finesse style baits will want to look for the Zenon. It comes in 6-foot, 10-inch and 7-foot models with a price point of $399.
Bull Bay Tackle Company Banshee Rod
The winner of the best saltwater rod at the ICAST new product showcase was the Bull Bay Banshee. This rod was designed with an extra fast tip action to throw soft plastics, live baits, and light artificials. This versatile rod has a comfortable grip and pairs best with a 2500 to 4000 size reel. You can throw small swimbaits in tidal marshes or finesse fish for bass. MSRP: $165.
Shimano Talavera Type SlowJ
The Shimano Talavera Type SlowJ is another rod saltwater anglers should be excited about. Designed to fish a slower presentation, this rod feels great in your hand. Anglers that jig and target bottom fish will have success with Talavera Type SlowJ. It has great balance and excellent control of the jig for maximum feel. The rods come in light to medium-heavy and retails for $119.
G. Loomis NRX+ T2S Fly Rod
Designed for hardcore saltwater fly anglers, the two-piece NRX+ T2S from G. Loomis is built to perform under the most challenging conditions. The two-piece design breaks down near the rod’s handle to make for easier transportation while still holding the strength needed to fight aggressive saltwater fish. I had the chance to cast this rod at ICAST, and I was super impressed with the feel and control. The NRX+ T2S is equipped with recoil snake guides and titanium SiC stripper guides. Built for saltwater fly anglers, this rod sells for $895.