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It’s that time of year again. Every major fishing manufacturer gathered in Orlando to unveil their new products at the ICAST sportfishing trade show. And we were there walking the booths and testing equipment at the on-the-water portions of the event. As you might expect, we saw a bevy of new fishing rods and reels being revealed for the first time. We sifted through each one to find the best of the best. Here are all of the new rods and reels you need to keep an eye out for this year.
New Freshwater Rods
St. Croix Mojo Bass Trigon
St. Croix is expanding its already popular Mojo line of bass rods with the new Trigon series that will consist of nine spinning and 25 casting models. The ergonomics of these rods are impressive, and they just feel right in the hands. The rod also has a surprisingly good backbone, and I am confident that it can handle big fish. The Mojo series is going to be a solid middle-of-the-road option with an MSRP of $175.
Fenwick World Class Bass Rod
Fenwick launched their brand new World Class series of rods at ICAST. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one prior to ICAST, and I quickly fell in love with it. The handle is comfortable and smooth without any hard edges. I only fought a few fish with this rod, but it was enough to leave me wanting more. It also has great sensitivity thanks to a graphite and proprietary reinforcing resin blank. These rods will be available to the public this fall.
Shimano Poison Ultima
You’re looking at Shimano’s new flagship rod—the Poison Ultima. Notable here is the full carbon Monocoque grip, which felt great in the hand. These rods utilize what Shimano calls Spiral X Core carbon tape construction that adds rigidity and strength to the setup. These one-piece rods are being offered in lengths from 5’ 11” to 7’ 4”, so there’s something for every angler and their preferred techniques. The Poison Ultima also features Shimano’s lightweight C14+ carbon fiber reinforced reel seats for more durability and less weight.
New Freshwater Reels
Daiwa Tatula 100 and Tatula MQ LT
The Tatula 100 includes Daiwa’s new Hyperdrive gearing with a two-bearing support system meant to eliminate side-to-side flex. It also features a redesigned clutch, metal frame, and housing. This new design led to an extremely lightweight reel, weighing just 6.9 ounces. Daiwa is making six variants that feature gear ratios from 6:3:1 to 8:1:1. I suspect the price point will make this a popular middle-of-the-road option for anglers who are just starting to get serious.
Continuing in the Tatula series, the new MQ LT reel features a one-piece frame made from a carbon-based resin that Daiwa calls Zaion V. The smallest model comes in at just six ounces, while the largest is 8.1 ounces. Daiwa gave these reels eight stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing. The company also made weight reductions to the bail, spool, shaft, and rotor. I also just love the looks of this reel. Daiwa listed the expected MSRP for the six different sizes at $199.99.
Okuma ITX CB
Okuma is trying to bring more Japanese domestic market (JDM) standards over to the U.S., and the ITX CB is one way they’re doing that. These reels were designed with weight savings in mind, and the smallest one only weighs 6.6 ounces. The carbon fiber handle is very stiff and easily reversible. Okuma is offering the reels in 5.8:1 and 6.0:1 gear ratios. They feature a 7+1 bearing system, and the ones I handled felt very smooth on the retrieve. Anglers can pick one up for $159.99.
Lew’s HyperMag Baitcaster
Out of all the reels I handled at ICAST, this second generation of the HyperMag was the lightest of the bunch. Lew’s lists the weight at just 5.2 ounces, thanks to a one-piece magnesium frame. It’s actually shocking how light it feels in the hand. Some of that weight reduction comes from the aluminum spool and carbon side plates. This reel has 11 stainless steel ball bearings and feels incredibly smooth. Lew’s is offering two right-handed models in 7.5:1 and 8.3:1 gear ratios. There is also a left-handed model with an 8.3:1 gear ratio. These reels are a little on the pricey side, starting with an MSRP of $349.99.
Abu Garcia Zenon X Spinning Reel
I’m a fan of darker rods and reels, so the Zenon X caught my eye right away. It features a one-piece aluminum frame and will be available in sizes ranging from 2000 to 4000. These reels have a 7+1 stainless steel HPCR bearing system that felt silky smooth. Thanks to a V-Rotor and V-Spool design, it’s also surprisingly lightweight at around six ounces. Abu Garcia also included a handy drop shot hook keeper on the cap. Although this can be swapped out if you’re using some other finesse technique.
Shimano Bantum A
I did a little casting with the updated Bantum during the on-the-water event and found it to be rather smooth. Shimano is offering it in 6.2, 7.1, and 8.1 gear ratios. It’s a little beefier than some of the other new reels unveiled during the event, but it is designed to have enough power to pull fish out of thick vegetation and out from under docks. The MSRP is expected to be around $350.
Shimano Stradic FM
These new Stradics will be available in gear ratios between 6 and 6.2., and feature 6/1 ball bearings. The big addition this year is “InfinityXross” technology. To be specific, the tech is supposed to improve the meshing between the gears. It’s hard to tell without line on it, but it felt very smooth and silky. Exactly what we’ve come to expect from the Stradic series. Shimano also spent a lot of time reducing noise and vibration, which is obvious the second you turn the handle.
New Freshwater Combos
Abu Garcia Zato
I wasn’t surprised when the Zata took home the trophy for the best rod and reel combo. The 7-foot medium heavy setup is built on a 24-ton graphite blank with stainless steel guides. It’s hard to tell without getting a line in the water, but it felt like it should be rather sensitive. The reel has a 10+1 bearing system that felt very smooth when I tested it in the new product showcase. Abu Garcia used graphite side plates which helps make it relatively lightweight too. Both left and right-handed variants will be offered. The expected MSRP is $219.95, and these combos will be available in October.
Mach Jacked Baitcast Combo
Sporting a sharp red and black color scheme, the Mach Jacked’s reel features a carbon frame construction and an extremely ergonomic handle. The reel also has a 10-bearing system that felt rather smooth on the retrieve in the showcase. Lew’s used stainless steel guides with titanium inserts to increase the durability of the rod. The combo will be offered in three right handed models and two left handed models in lengths varying from 6’ 10” to 7’ 3” in length. The MSRP is expected to be $259.95
New Saltwater Rods
Daiwa SOL AGS
The signature feature of these new inshore rods is the carbon fiber frame air guide system (AGS) which helps reduce the overall weight of the rod. Utilizing what Daiwa calls their Braiding X carbon construction technology, these rods should have a great backbone without sacrificing too much in terms of sensitivity. Daiwa is offering these one-piece rods in lengths of 7’ and 7’ 6” and medium, medium light, medium heavy, and heavy powers. The MSRP is $350 across the line.
G. Loomis NRX+ Inshore Spinning
The NRX+ wowed crowds at ICAST and ended up taking home the best of category for saltwater rods. These one-piece rods feature a spiral X graphite construction and a multi-taper design. G. Loomis gave the NRX+ Inshore a high-quality Fuji Titanium frame guide train and C14+ reel seat. They have a great feel in the hand. G. Loomis is offering lengths between 7’ and 7’ 6” with light, medium, medium light, and medium light powers available. The $600 to $650 price point may seem a little high, but some of that price reflects the fact these are hand-made here in the States.
Star Rods Sequence Slow Pitch
A new addition to the Star Sequence line, this graphite slow pitch rod has excellent sensitivity. Star Rods utilized high-quality Fuji K-Guides for increased durability. And the guides spiral around the rod to face downwards like a spinning rod at the tip. It looks rather unusual, but this is one of the new trends for the slow pitch technique because it works. Slow pitch is somewhat of a physically demanding way to fish, but the Sequence has a nice reel seat and EVA split grips that should prove extremely ergonomic for long days fishing extremely deep water.
New Saltwater Reels
Penn Spinfisher VII
In truth, Penn didn’t need to change a whole lot with their popular and affordable Spinfisher line. And the Spinfisher VII has the same IPX5 sealing that keeps corrosive saltwater and other elements out of the reel. It also has the same HT-100 drag washers. It reels and feels just like the old Spinfishers. The difference is an entirely new gearing system for the smaller sizes, which previously had an aluminum main gear. That and the pinion gear are now upgraded to a more rugged brass across the entire line. Penn also gave these reels a new line clip design that allows them to handle a variety of line types and weights. It’s only a small difference in price point, too, as the reels start at $179.95 and will be available in October.
Daiwa Sea Power 1200
Targeting deep sea species like swordfish requires some rather specialized and expensive gear, so it’s nice to see companies trying to reduce the costs and make it more accessible. Daiwa’s new sub-$1,000 Dendoh reel does just that. It features five ball bearings and a 2.1:1 gear ratio. Daiwa went with an aluminum body for this reel for several reasons. Mainly for weight, corrosion resistance, and strength, but also to help bring down the cost. It also features a rather ergonomic metal ball knob and a one-finger JOG power lever.
We tested the SaltX last year and found it to be a rather versatile reel. Tsunami just announced the follow-up in the SaltXII. They upgraded it by adding five more internal seals for greater durability. It can transition from the surf to offshore rather seamlessly. It also has a braid-ready spool. Tsunami is offering 5.2:1, 5.6:1, and 4.7:1 gear ratios. The 3000 size comes in at $399.99, and the 8000 series has a suggested retail of $459.99.
New Saltwater Combos
Zebco Salt Fisher Spinning and 33 Spincast Combos
While much of ICAST is dedicated to the latest and greatest of high-end fishing gear, I appreciate how companies like Zebco are still making affordable saltwater gear. These fiberglass rods seemed to have a decent backbone when I handled them. The Zebco rep said they tested the Salt Fisher on tarpon the day before ICAST and did very well. The Salt Fisher is built on the brand’s popular “Bite Alert” platform that gives an LED indication that something has taken the bait. Zebco has also introduced a 33 Salt Fisher spincast combo that should be perfect for newer anglers. These two combos are expected to be available in early 2024.