John Merwin's 2007 ICAST Picks

By John Merwin Carrot Stix
This new carrot-colored rod series from Ken Whiting (shown, center) won the overall "Best in Show" ICAST award. The rods are made partly from-"are you ready for this?-"carrots! Scottish chemists Eric Whale (shown, left) and David Hepworth (shown, right) developed a method of extracting strong microfibers from carrots. The fibers are used to reinforce the resins in various composites-"including fishing rods. Less graphite is required in creating the rod blanks, which, according to Whiting, "have the performance of graphite and the durability of fiberglass." Whiting, formerly of Airrus Rods, is now with a company called E21 Fishing. There will be 3 spinning and 4 casting models selling for about $350.00 each. (e21fishing.com)
John Merwin
Vibra-Trap
New from Bill Lewis Lures (makers of the famous Rat-L-Trap), this lipless crankbait has numerous features that add up to an outstanding bass lure. The front surface is now spoon-shaped and the belly is enlarged to make the lure dart from side to side when retrieved, in addition to constantly vibrating. Tungsten-ball inserts add a louder rattle, and shaped ridges at the rear add another layer of pulsing, underwater noise. To be available in three-eighths- and five-eighths-ounce versions in 12 colors. Price will be about $9.00. (rat-l-trap.com)
John Merwin
Castaic Rock Hard Swimbait
Big swimbaits are all the rage among bass guys, and these imitations of big-bass forage like rainbow trout and bluegills are proliferating like crazy. Castaic, which pioneered soft-plastic swimbaits, now has a hard-bodied, jointed version that looks and swims amazingly like the real thing. This 8-inch rainbow trout has its big treble hook held against the belly by an imbedded magnet and will set you back about $40.00. (castaicsoftbait.com)
John Merwin
Lizards-R-Us
I was taking a break on the sidewalk outside the convention center, admiring the wonders of Las Vegas, when this young guy comes up and introduces himself as Larry the Lizard. My first reaction is to think pimp or pusher or at least the long-lost grandson of Nathan Detroit. I was wrong. Larry Rydalch grew up in Colorado's trout country, but has seen the light and now fishes for Colorado largemouths. He makes very good-looking soft-plastic lizards-"bulky and wiggly 10-inchers with a glass rattle in the tail. After all the corporate hype I'd been enduring inside the hall, this was very refreshing. Larry's lizards cost about $8.00 per 5-pack, including rattles. (lizards-r-us.com)
John Merwin
Tru-Tungsten Weighted Soft Plastics
These get my vote for the most significant new bass lure of 2008, at least among the dozens I've looked at. The guys here have figured out how to add small bits of tungsten weight (heavier and thus smaller than lead) to the insides of various soft-plastic baits. Because the baits are pre-weighted, you don't have to use the customary bullet-shaped sinker when fishing. Just Texas-rig the worm and go for it. To be available in a variety of styles and weights. These 6-inch reverse-dart, green-pumpkin worms weigh about 0.1-ounce each and will retail for about $6.00 per 8-pack. (tru-tungsten.com)
John Merwin
Berkley TEC Pistol Grip
Part of a new line of fishing tools from Berkley, this new-style fish lipper got a "best new accessory" award at ICAST. The pistol-grip and trigger operation make this tool really effective and easy to use. This 8-inch model will retail at about $50.00 (berkley-fishing.com)
John Merwin
Stren Microfuse superline
This new, fused-filament, braided superline is an excellent product. It's somewhat similar to Berkley FireLine (both brands are owned by Pure Fishing). But Clay Norris (shown holding a new package), Pure Fishing's fishing-line manager, tells me it has more and finer fibers fused in a line of similar overall diameter. That means Microfuse has more body and is even better behaved on most reels. The new line also fluoresces bright blue under ultraviolet light (remember the original blue Stren monofilament?), so it's easy to see above the water. To be available in sizes from 2- to 30-pound-test at about $19.00 per 125-yard spool. (stren.com)
John Merwin
Dr. Shade
A lightweight and breathable sun hood from Glacier Glove is slit in the back so it can be worn either for full head and face protection or just around your neck and lower face. In either case, it gives 50-plus UPF sun-blocking ability. (The sunglasses on the mannequin aren't included.) This might be overkill in cloudy Manitoba, but I'd say it's almost essential in sun-blistered Florida. Anglers who scoff at sun-protection tend to develop skin cancers over time. So just how stupid are you? About $20.00. (glacierglove.com)
John Merwin
Shimano Fishing Sandals
After last year's successful introduction of a molded fishing boot, Shimano follows up with this new molded fishing sandal. The soft EVA material is extremely comfortable, and the soles are both non-skid and non-marking. After trying them on, I ordered two pairs on the spot. About $40.00. (shimano.com)
John Merwin
Streamworks Pliers
Ever since manufacturers discovered they could sell premium fishing pliers, styles and varieties have been multiplying like manure-pile mushrooms after a rainstorm. These stainless-steel pliers have sharp, carbide cutters and-"unusually-"a small L.E.D. light between the jaws to make grabbing small things easier at dusk. There's a tiny switch on one side of the jaw hinge and an equally tiny, outside-accessible battery compartment. This bit of cleverness will set you back about $120. (streamworks.com)
John Merwin
Eagle Claw Saltwater Pliers
Yes, more pliers. At $36.00, though, these heavy-duty tools are a bargain. Eagle Claw's version is similar to the better-known Manley tools with a compound-leverage action that enables the cutting of heavy hooks. You won't need these until you get in trouble, and then you'll need them desperately. (eagleclaw.com)
John Merwin
Xtreme Reel+
Todd Vehmeyer of Xtreme Lubricants showed me the company's new reel cleaning and lubricating formula that gets the crud out of your reel's bearings while leaving a dry lubricant newly in place. Just a couple of squirts does the job. When the solvent evaporates, it leaves behind slippery, microscopic Teflon particles for high-speed operation without attracting dirt. A two-ounce bottle is $10.00. Eight ounces goes for $20.00. (xtremelubricants.com)
John Merwin