The annual show of the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades—better known as ICAST—is the highlight of the year for the fishing industry. Manufacturers, from huge household names to tiny mom-and-pop shops, spend tens of thousands of dollars to showcase their new wares. Among the most anticipated items each year are the lures.
Most of us still enjoy marveling at and using classic lures. But, modern designs, materials, and raw creativity have resulted in some impressive new creations that get fish to bite. Each year, we see unique twists and tweaks to some tried-and-true standards, as well as the occasional eye-catching innovation. This year, the tackle companies at ICAST brought some of both.
The Best New Bass Fishing Lures
Some baits will prove that they catch fish and will achieve staying power in your tackle box—while some are quickly forgotten. It would be impossible to cover all the new lures on display, but I narrowed the field to promising new models, based on their innovation, application, and strike potential. Start cleaning out your tackle box to make room.
Apex freshwater predators, such as pike and muskie, are known for being difficult, inactive, and tough to motivate. To get them to strike, an angler’s only weapon may be a fast bait that moves erratically. Enter the Headbanger Shad. Originally modeled to dupe giant European pike, the Swedish-born bait made its way across the Atlantic. The new Headbanger Shad is a variation of the original Headbanger. It has an interchangeable paddle tail and a panicked, erratic action. The Headbanger Shad is thru-wired for durability and comes in floating, suspending, and sinking models, weighing 2.2 ounces, 2.6 ounces, and 2.9 ounces, respectively. All models are 9 inches long, and are available in eight patterns.
2. Livetarget BaitBall Spinner Rig
$14–$16 BaitBall Lures
It’s become an annual event at ICAST to see what’s new from Livetarget. The company’s “match the hatch” philosophy has spawned a number of exciting creations—and this year it’s the BaitBall Spinner Rig. Part Alabama rig, part spinnerbait, it’s unlike any other lure out there. The three top swimbait bodies are a strong visual target and pump out vibrations underwater. The single blade adds additional vibration and throws out flashing light. The larger swimbait—the only one with a hook—is set slightly behind the others, in order to draw the strike and increase hook-up ratios. The BaitBall Spinner Rig will be available in three sizes (small, medium, and large), each with two weight options.
3. Biwaa Raffal
The patterns on Biwaa’s Raffal were among the most lifelike of all lures at ICAST. The solid resin bait has an action similar to a wooden jerkbait that can be fished in a subsurface, walk-the-dog action. These types of “gliders” have made their mark in the muskie world, and now catch every species of game fish in both fresh and saltwater. With a limited number of small gliders on the market, Biwaa’s Raffal makes for a solid choice, with its durable construction and reasonable price tag. It has wire-thru construction for added longevity, which enhances its ability to handle larger fish. The Raffal will be available in a 4-inch, 2-ounce model and a 6-inch, 2.8-ounce model.
4. Molix Jointed Sandeel
Molix is another company that doesn’t shy away from experimentation. Their new Jointed Sandeel was one of the more interesting baits at the show this year, and it has wide applications in not only saltwater but also in freshwater. In brackish or tidal water, largemouth bass and pike feed heavily on juvenile eels, for which the Jointed Sandeel is the perfect imitation. It’s a sinking bait and will dive anywhere from half a foot to 5 feet deep. It’s 5¼ inches long and weighs half an ounce.
5. Savage Gear 3D Bat
Once again, Savage Gear had the most talked-about bait at ICAST. Taking last year’s 3D Suicide Duck a step further, the 3D Bat is another truly unique topwater. The thinking behind this bait is that large predatory fish dine on birds and small mammals that end up on top of the water. Fortunately, the 3D Bat has a hard ABS plastic body and stainless steel wings so it can endure the punishment. Its action is a combination of a crawling topwater motion coupled with a high-pitched built-in rattle. The overall package is a frantic, noisy presentation that is sure to get the attention of big fish. The 3D Bat is available in three patterns: black, gray, and brown, and in two sizes: 4-inch, 1-ounce, and 5-inch long, 2-ounce.
6. Lunkerhunt Prop Sunfish
$9 Mark Modoski
Lunkerhunt had several standout topwater baits at ICAST this go around. The Prop Sunfish, in particular, has a topwater prop motion and the lifelike profile and pattern of a live sunfish. The hollow-bodied bait is similar to a topwater frog, in that it remains weedless and compresses when a fish strikes. But unlike many other topwater prop baits, the Lunkerhunt Prop Sunfish employs a single prop instead of two. This result in a subtle action that resembles baitfish breaking the surface. The Prop Sunfish is 3¼ inches long, weighs half an ounce, and comes in six patterns.
7. Phantom Reaper
Phantom long ago cemented their legacy in the muskie world. Over the past several years, however, the company expanded their famed lineup of jerkbaits to include topwaters, crankbaits, and lures for a variety of species. Designed for a vertical presentation, the Reaper will sink quickly and can be jigged through bait schools or over structures; it’s sure to entice large walleye, lake trout, and pike, as well as muskellunge. The presentation is bolstered by incredibly detailed, lifelike patterns. The Reaper is 6 inches long and weighs 5 ounces. Retail prices are not yet available.
8. YUM Finesse Worm
$3 for a 12-count bag YUM Baits
Today, more than ever, there are countless ways to finesse-fish for bass. It’s easy to lose track of the number of techniques and to get confused by which soft plastic to employ. YUM took some of that guesswork out of the equation with their own Finesse Worm. The soft plastic can be used on a shaky-head, Carolina, drop-shot, or Neko rig, as well as wacky-rigged or Ned rigged, depending on what you’re fishing. YUM’s legendary reputation in soft plastics makes their Finesse Worm a no-brainer. This is the top choice for a reliable bait to cover all finesse styles. The Finesse Worm will be available in 5-inch and 6½-inch versions, and in 12 popular colors.
9. Castaic BD Bluegill
Bluegills are top forage species for a number of freshwater fish. In turn, bluegill imitations—and swimbaits, in particular—are a go-to for catching quality fish. Boyd Duckett took this logic and designed a swimbait that was perfect from head to tail. The BD Bluegill has incredibly realistic detail and a paintbrush tail that flows as it swims. It has tournament-grade hardware, a patented Tri-Claw hook, and a magnetic keeper that secures the hook. The BD Bluegill measures 3¾ inches and weighs 1.3 ounces. It’s available in a sunfish pattern, as well as pumpkinseed.
10. 13 Fishing Coconut Crab
Now a top contender in the rod and reel world, 13 Fishing has earned a reputation for throwing curveballs to the tackle industry. This year was no different. In addition to their revolutionary new reel concepts, 13 Fishing broke onto the lure scene with a lineup of soft plastics for panfish. The Coconut Crab is one of seven ultra-finesse baits designed for the most serious panfish angler. Attention was given to every component, including detail, scent, and action. The Coconut Crab comes in ten fish-catching colors, and it measures 32mm long.
11. Booyah Flex II
One could stroll the floor of ICAST and see the hundreds, if not thousands, of crankbaits. And although it can be difficult to pick out the differences, Booyah’s Flex II is truly special. Booyah’s new square bill is constructed using a new foam-injection molding process. The design gives the bait properties similar to balsa wood but with the strength of plastic. With that toughness, the Flex II can be bounced and knocked around into all types of structure. The bait has 3D eyes, and it comes in 11 color patterns. It weighs half an ounce and measures 2¼ inches.
12. Berkley PowerBait MaxScent
Price varies by style Berkley Fishing
Berkley Power Worms have been a staple among bass anglers for nearly 30 years. Power Baits were designed to have a specific taste that fish would hold onto longer, allowing more time for the angler to get a solid hookset. More recently, Gulp! became a household name for saltwater anglers, by adding scent to baits. That technology had yet to cross over to freshwater, for Gulp! becomes brittle and doesn’t do well when left exposed to air or put in tackle boxes. Berkley’s new PowerBait Max Scent fills the void, however. The soft plastics bring all the benefits of Gulp! yet can handle freshwater use. PowerBait Max Scent will be initially offered in eight popular styles.
13. Jackall Kaera Frog
$10 Jackall Lures
The popularity of topwater frog fishing has reached an all-time high. Not only are more largemouth hunters recognizing the excitement and trophy potential of frog fishing—other anglers have noticed, too. In small pockets around the U.S., more and more fishermen are targeting bowfin and invasive snakeheads, for which topwater frogs are perfect. Hollow-bodied frogs traditionally have drawbacks that Jackall has aimed to correct with the Kaera. By giving it wide-gap hooks, they’ve increased what can sometimes be a dismal hook-up ratio. The flat surface body of the frog pushes more water around it, and hook positions keep the bait free of snags. Another key feature is a hole that drains excess water during the cast. Anglers will no longer need to worry about squeezing the frogs after each cast or having a water-logged bait interfere with a hook set.
14. Storm 360GT Searchbait
$5 Storm Lures
These jigs and bodies of the Storm’s 360GT Searchbait are sold separately but are intended to be used together. The combo had quite the buzz, even prior to ICAST, for the Searchbait has already become a go-to rig for elite anglers.
The other half of the Storm 360GT Searchbait | $5 Storm Lures
The jig head and boot-tail soft-body produce vibrations that fish can feel in the water. The lure also has a unique side-to-side motion as it swims, and is perfectly patterned for a variety of species. Jig heads are currently sold in two packs, in ⅛-ounce, ¼ ounce, or ⅜ ounce, and the bodies in six packs, in 3½ inches, 4½ inches, or 5½ inches.
15. Rapala RipStop
Few, if any, lure brands have more history and are more revered than Rapala. So when they tout a lure as their latest and greatest, people tend to notice. This year that lure was the RipStop. Rapala has been annihilating the jerkbait and slashbait competition of late with their various X-Raps, and the RipStop aims to continue that trend. This jerkbait creates a fast ripping action that stops on a dime when paused. With a flash and a subtle shimmy, the motionless bait begs for punishment from onlooking predators. It can be fished a variety of ways, from jerking, twitching, pausing, and snapping, to a straight retrieve. It’s 3½ inches long and weighs a ¼ ounce, and it will achieve depths greater than three to four feet. It comes in 14 different patterns to match any hatch or water condition.
16. LIVETARGET Hollow Body Craw
Crawfish imitators regularly adorn the backsides of jigs and Texas rigs, but LIVETARGET’S innovative approach creates an all-in-one package with several nice details. For starters, the three-dimensional body design—including pincers—is very realistic, while the orientation of the weighted tail section ensures the bait moves in the authentic backward-scooting motion of a fleeing crawdad. The bait’s silicone skirt mimics a crawfish’s legs and antennae, and its hollow body accepts rattles and add-on scent. It’s available in three sizes: 1 1/2-inch, 1/2-ounce; 1 ¾-inch, 5/8-ounce; and 2-inch, 3/4-ounce. Eight bio-realistic color schemes allow anglers to match the craw’s regional and molting variations. $9.99-$11.49 (includes one fully assembled body and one spare pincer)
17. Jackall Chop Cut
This bait’s asymmetrical prop design ensures proper rotation and creates different sounds depending on the retrieve speed. A front wire with an attached swivel allows you to cast freely without having to worry about your fishing line tangling with the prop. Another nice aspect is the swiveling feathered front hook, which helps prevent bass from spitting the lure. The hooks also have a special coating that facilitates easier penetration for efficient hook sets. The 3.25-inch ChopCut topwater weighs 0.8-ounce and comes in six colors. $22.99
18. Terminator Shudder Bait
Terminator’s new Shudder Bait pushes more water. Resembling a bladed jig, this creation replaces the usual flat metal blade with a cupped plastic swimming lip that catches and displaces water ahead of it. The result is a unique side-to-side shimmy with loads of bite-triggering vibrations that are particularly important in mud-stained water. The 3/8- and 1/2-ounce sizes make this bait heavy enough for targeted underhand casts, as well as open water chunking and winding. The jig head comes in five colors, is pre-rigged with one of nine lifelike interchangeable silicone skirts, and can be paired with one of six blade colors. $7.99
19. Strike King KVD 1.5D
Bassmaster Elite pro Kevin VanDam’s signature Strike King KVD 1.5 square-bill crankbait has become one of the most popular tools for bumping around shallow cover since he won the 2011 Bassmaster Classic on the Louisiana Delta with it. Now, after several years of R&D, Strike King introduced the KVD 1.5 Deep, a bait that extends the same hunting action of the shallower version down to 10 feet deep. It comes in 25 of VanDam’s selected color patterns. $7.49
20. Westin Salty the Shrimp R n’ R
The double R’s stand for “rigged” and “ready,” and that’s how Westin created this soft-body shrimp with a weighted head. A glass/steel rattle stick inside each bait ensures attractive sounds, while the long whiskers mimic a shrimp’s antennae. The jointed body produces lifelike action, and the ultra-sharp, strong Japanese-style sea fishing hook (No. 1 and 1/0 sizes) ensures you catch what bites. $7.99
21. Booyah Melee
One of the key baits that Bassmaster Elite pro Jason Christie used in his third-place performance at the 2018 Bassmaster Classic, the Melee has a lead-core head covered with polycarbonate. The blade is positioned in a notch behind the bait’s eye, and when it strikes the head, it creates a distinctive sound that drives bass crazy. The thinner blade on the Melee adds to the bait’s vibration and action during the retrieve, while a long shank 5/0 hook, with a wire keeper, securely holds a trailer. Made to stay down in the water column, the Melee will reach those deep stumps, lay-downs, brush piles, and grass beds. Available in 3/8- and 1⁄2-ounce weights with nine head and blade color combinations. $8.99
22. Bill Lewis MR-6
The company best known for its iconic Rat-L-Trap lipless baits introduces its new medium diving crankbait that’ll work the 6-foot zone. Made with a small profile (2 1/4 inches, 1/2 ounce), the bait’s flat sides and tapered tail give it that heavy vibration fish can’t resist. Fitted with size 4 Mustad Triple Grip hooks, it’s balanced for a slow rise when stopped. The MR-6 emits a low-pitch knocking sound ideal for pressured fisheries. $7.99
23. Larew Wheeler Target Toad
Designed with input from Bassmaster Elite pro Jacob Wheeler, this 4.25-inch bait has a thick, wide head that won’t split when rigging on buzzbaits and other trailers. The entire bait is bulkier than most toads. The bigger profile and added weight allow for extra-long casts. The Target Toad includes Larew’s proven long-legged design, which creates easy swimming and lots of kicking action at any retrieve speed. The Target Toad has a hook groove on the underside and horizontal ribs across its mid-back section for specialty hooks. Colors include solids and laminates. $5.99 for a 5-pack
24. Z-Man Cross EyeZ Football Head Jig
Expanding a collection that also includes flipping, finesse, and swim jigs, Z-Man’s CrossEyeZ Football Jig is built for that bottom contact game. A longer shank, light-wire 5/0 VMC black nickel hook acts similarly to a trailer hook by snaring more bass on the hook sets, especially at long range. The single Y-guard deflects snags and also moves out of the way when fish bite. Exclusive Z-Man silicone skirts feature strand colors and quantities selected by Bassmaster Elite pro and jig expert David Walker. Skirts are affixed to the jig head with copper wire, rather than rubber bands, for maximum skirt flare and durability. Available in 1/2- and 3/4-ounce with eight color patterns. $4.99
25. Thundermist JigEye
Playing on a predator’s instinct to attack the head of its prey, Thundermist places a treble hook next to a realistic-looking eye, which sits below a center-weight topped by a spoon-style spinner. Effective for open water, fresh and salt, as well as ice fishing, the Stingnose comes in a “Minnow” version (1/16-, 1/8-, 3/16- and 1/4-, 3/8-, 3/4- and 1 3/4-ounce weights), and the 2 3/4-ounce “Stingnose Smelt.” $3.99-$6.99
26. 13 Fishing PRO V Lipless Bait
Built with a compact form that delivers a tight wobbling action, the PRO V swims nose-down to protect against snags. When paused, it falls nearly horizontally with a shimmy on the drop that tantalizes predators. Made with an HD holographic eye, the bait’s weight-forward design fosters long casting and swimming without rolling, tumbling, or spiraling. Fitted with Mustad KVD Triple Grip trebles, the PRO V comes with multi or single pitch rattles in 3/4-ounce weight. (1/2- and 1-ounce models coming soon.) $11.99
27. Greenfish Gaff Swim Jig
With heavy cover and dense vegetation in mind, the Gaff features a heavy-duty 5/0 Mustad heavy wire hook that’s up to the task of winching the largest bass out of its fortress. Featuring a hand-tied skirt and a wire keeper that holds a trailer in place, it comes in 1/4- and 3/8–ounce weights with seven colors. $5.29
28. River2Sea Worldwide Spoon
This jigging spoon was designed by FLW Tour pro James Watson, an Ozark spooning expert. In addition to the high-definition eye, the lure’s most noticeable detail is its cupped body and weighted rear section, which make the bait glide away on the fall. This action works well under docks, on ledges, and in open water. Complementing the size 2 4X strong rear treble is a single size 6 stinger harness. $9.99
29. Berkley Spin Bomb
This one will make an impact for anglers fishing a bream bed or fry guarder pattern, which mimics the coloring of panfish. Following the general shape of these common species, the Spin Bomb emits a distinct shuddering action when paused—like wounded prey. The cupped design’s clear plastic props can spin at slower speeds with maximum spray. Twitching, ripping, or steady retrieving will activate that enticing action. Measuring 2 2/5 inches long and weighing 2/5 ounce, the Spin Bomb carries a set of Fusion 19TM hooks (feathered rear).
30. Big Bite Baits Suicide Buzz
Pairing one of its most productive soft plastics, the Suicide Shad, with the topwater commotion of a buzzbait, Big Bite Baits offers a ready-made profile that anglers have been improvising for a while now. Out of the box, the blade emits an enticing squeak, but tuned properly, it’ll clack against the bait’s head for added commotion. It features a quick rising head designed to promptly plane to the surface. The head also has a double wire keeper to firmly hold the swimbait in place. Head and blade colors perfectly match the swimbait, and each pack comes with a spare bait. Available in 1/4- and 3/8-ounce weights and in four colors. $6.99