ICAST 2009 Product Review
by David Hall of Hall-Em-In-Lures
Contact info: 4575 North US Highway 1
ICAST was a great show to attend and nice to have in our own backyard. The show was by far a success and the booths overall were outstanding. I am only reviewing the companies that really impressed me and have products that, I feel are by far, some of the best on the market.
1. DRAGONFLY BOATS
This skiff and boat builder, Mark Castlow, has taken things to the next level. Mark is a Florida native and grew up in Miami and the Keys. Living on the water only intensified Mark’s love for the blue water, and as a teen he leaned toward riding the water on Mother Nature’s waves. Surfing became a love of his and he started his own surf shop and a line of surfboards. His love for surfing and travel allowed him to discover lots of different bodies of water and wave conditions that further tuned him in to the knowledge of the sea.
Mark’s knowledge overall of water and fiberglass made him a valuable asset to the fiberglass industry to create, repair and tackle all sorts of problems that involved glassing. Eventually he ended up in the boat business as a co-owner of Maverick, Hewes, and Pathfinder boats, mastering over the years of what it takes to manufacture and market a successful shallow water fishing machine. He has listened to guides and other people, of what they want out of an inshore skiff, and applied it to perfection.
Dragonfly Boatworks was founded in 2007 by Mark. They are a new company, with years of information and knowledge behind them. Mark has combined some of the old school look with the new school technologies, exceptional components, and purposeful design. Mix them all together with a master craftsman and out came a beautiful, yet extremely functional line of boats.
The Emerger 16 was the one that I was lucky enough to discuss with Mark. It is a 16 ft skiff, 71” beam, 18 gallon, built in fuel cell averaging about 500 lbs. and drafts a true 5 inches. The fit and finish is truly incredible and it comes with a slew of options. This boat is solid, will not give you a rigid kidney jarring ride, but is super smooth and allows you to fish 1-3 anglers. It is a very different build with a unique bottom configuration that is ultra quiet putting you into the zone perfectly.
All together, Mark has a nice selection of boats – Silver Shadow, Dragonfly, Grandslam, and the Emerger. I am a very picky person and these boats have turned my head and dropped my jaw. Having met Mark only once, he seems like a very down to earth person and still you can see the glimmer of excitement in his eyes when he talks about his boats. Please give his website a look: www.DragonflyBoatworksLLC.com.
Vero Beach, FL 32967
Phone # 772-567-8835
Fax # 772-567-8836
2. CROWDER RODS
When I got to Rob Crowders booth, he was excited to talk about his new series – the Blue Steel Series. These are a premier rod and one of the most advanced on the market. All Crowder rods are designed and developed by Rob Crowder and Matt Potsko. This line of rods comes in an Inshore and Fly Series and range from 6 to 8 ft in lengths on the Inshore Series. As soon as I picked one up, I fell in love. The 7’6”, 10-70 lb class rod just melded perfectly into my hand and felt like an extension of my body. The extra fast tip was sensitive and the lower back bone is strong. These rods have a proprietary blend of 72 million modulus high strain carbon fiber, and a new technology infuses an outer coating to reduce chances of outer fracture. High grade cork, Fuji reel seets, and Fuji sic guides are used, and the combination creates a powerful, lightweight and beautiful rod. Their attention to detail is over the top, like a titanium plug insert at the end of the butt section of the rod.
The manufacturing of all Crowder Rods is completed in Stuart, FL and they have always been rigorously tested in the inshore arena around Stuart, FL. Rob and Matt started in the business as custom rod builders and have developed into a full scale manufacturer. These are definitely some of the best rods on the market today and well worth the money. Please visit their website: www.CrowderRods.com.
3. ST. CROIX RODS
What can I say, other than St. Croix Rods is a great company. I don’t know if you have noticed yet, but I love products that are made in the U.S.A. I feel America still makes the best products in the world. Talking to the people at St. Croix Rods was just a wonderful experience. I have personally owned and fished their rods for years now, and still love them. All I have ever owned from them, was the Avid Series. In talking with them, I mentioned that we were doing a TV show, called Ultimate Catch, with my company, Hall-Em-In-Lures, and we needed a Tarpon Rod to handle 80-120 pounds. Immediately, they gave me a Tidemaster, 7’6” heavy power, fast action, SC” graphite, 12-25 lb, ¾ to 2 ounce rod. Needless to say, we landed two 80-100 lb Tarpon and multiple 40”+ Snook on this rod, and it handled like a champ. I can’t say enough good things about this company and their rods, and they are handcrafted in the U.S.A. Please visit their website: www.StCroixRods.com.
4. GUIDELINES SUNGLASSES
I have tried almost every kind of good fishing sunglasses on the market. A couple of my guide buddies were really after me to try out the new Guidelines. After about and hour of talking with them, I decided to try a pair of their high end sunglasses. I tried on various models and went with the Bimini Guideline Elite, with the Freestone Brown lenses. First of all, when buying sunglasses, I look at the lenses. The lenses are the most important factor in sight fishing. They connect you with the world under the sea, and allow you to visually pick up on shadows, mudding, motion, grasses and holes, and most importantly fish. All of which, without a great pair of polarized sunglasses, you cannot distinguish with the naked eye or even a bad pair of lenses. Secondly, I look for the feel or fit of the glasses, and how they form to the face. You can have a great pair of glasses, but if the form and fit is wrong, this will effect how the view of the glasses work. For example – if they fit off your face a little too much, sunlight creeps in the sides and can give a false glare. Also, if the glasses don’t fit right, and are too tight around the temples, they can be very uncomfortable to wear or cause chaffing or headaches over time.
I have rigorously tested my Guidelines for two weeks straight on the water. They felt very comfortable over long periods of time and the lenses worked perfectly for sight fishing. They come with a nice case and lens cleaner wipe and their price point is very reasonable. Guidelines offer seven fishing specific polarized lens tints, along with bifocals and prescription lenses. This company is sure to be a success with these sunglasses. Contact them at: www.GLPolarized.com.
As a lure maker, I have tested all sorts of rods on the market. I do build my own rods and when I build my own, I have always used Lamiglas Blanks. I have never used a production rod from Lamiglas, so this is untested territory for me. I met Dick Posey, the president, and Russ Rivers at the Lamiglas booth, and they were more than excited about their new saltwater Indian River Series. Jim Ross and Russ Rivers formed a relationship between Lamiglas and created a light weight rod for artificial lures. The rods are fast action, high modulus blank and they have eliminated the fore grip for extra sensitivity. The Texalium rear grip is an aluminum impregnated fiber. It’s more durable than graphite, yet lighter than fiberglass. It is a non-slip material and they have an exposed blank reel seat to even increase an already sensitive rod.
Upon picking up the rod, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful fit in my hand. They have a palm swell grip on the reel seat that is perfect. Secondly, the lightness of the rod amazed me. The rod I had chosen is a 7’0”, 3/8-3/4 ounce, 8-17 lb, fast rod (the IRFA-704S).
Putting the rod to the test, I used a 2500 reel that was a perfect fit. I feel that this rod is designed for more soft plastic, and jigs that are light, up to the 3/8 ounce range. I fished top-water lures up to ¾ of an ounce and had a hard time controlling the lure to produce the right action. Everything that was ½ ounce and under was great for the casting, and distance was good and very accurate. This probably is because of the guide sizes. They are right about the sensitivity, it is super sensitive. Hands down, Lamiglas has produced another well built, solid rod made in the U.S.A.
Well, we have finally come to fishing line. I have used different kinds of braids across the board for years and I still go back to Copolymer Super Monofilament. Blair Wiggins and I got to talking at the ICAST show and he finally persuaded me to try to use the Fins Braid. BBS has been developing and producing superlines since 1994. They have produced more braided lines for dozens of today’s leading companies. They now have come up with a line of superlines under their own name, Fins. What makes these lines unique is they have taken braided lines a step further and have come up with four different kinds to satisfy all anglers.
1. Fins original PRT (all around)
2. Fins Windtamer (great performance in wind)
3. Fins Shock Absorbing (10% more stretch)
4. Fins Smooth Cast Superline (best casting)
The two that I have tested are the Shock Absorbing and the Smooth Cast. I really like the Shock Absorbing, it does as the name says. It does have some stretch to it for user friendliness. It worked great on my spinning outfits and was excellent on knot strength and throwing top-water lures. The abrasion strength seemed to be great. We fished around docks and bridges for Big Snook and Tarpon, and it held well. I used the other smooth cast superline on a 3000 Diawa Fuego and it worked great. I caught multiple Reds and Snook (10-20 lb class) using this braid and it is definitely the best I have used. The castability, using our Hall-Em-In-Lures, is excellent, not to mention the action you can produce on the top-water lures using this braid. It is very quiet and the knot strength was very good as well, going from 17 lb test to 40 lb leader. I have to give it up to both Fins and Blair Wiggins, they were right! Website: www.FinsFishing.com.
7. TUFF STUFF
This is another new company that struck my interest. They gave me 40, 50, and 60 lb Florocarbon Leader to test out. We tied on 60 lb crystal line Florocarbon and fished live bait on outgoing tide under a major bridge in SW Florida. We started to catch large Snook on top water as soon as we got there. The grasses were thick on top, floating with the current. So we picked up, got some live bait and came back. Using that St. Croix Tidemaster Rod and a 4000 Diawa spooled with 50 lb Fins Shock Absorbing Braid and Tuff Stuff 60 lb Florocarbon Leader. We landed five to seven large Snook, 36” to 42” range, a 30” Grouper, and two 80-100 lb Tarpon. We also had numerous break-offs in which we could not turn the fish. The last bait was about a 2 lb Lady Fish and Tarpon were everywhere hitting top-water. So, we threw that Lady out and in about 10 minutes, WHAM! An 80 lb Tarpon nailed it and came straight out about 8-10’ in the air. We got 7-9 jumps out of him and finally got him boat side. The leader was wrapped around his head and gill plate and we didn’t think it would hold. He was still green and he gave us a few more runs before he got worn down. We boated him and unhooked him and revived him well. After all was said and done, we both looked at the leader, thoroughly impressed. It is a good product! Visit their website: www.TuffStuffUnlimited.com.
Special thanks to Pete Alvarez, Capt. Glyn Austin, and all the people that took the time to talk to us and believe in products made in the U.S.A.!