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. In the coming year, some baits will prove that they catch fish and will achieve staying power—while some are quickly forgotten. It would be impossible to cover all the new lures on display, but I narrowed the field to 15 promising new models, based on their innovation, application, and strike potential. Start cleaning out your tackle box to make room.
1. Headbanger Shad
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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.