The fishing tackle industry ceases to amaze. Just when I thought lure makers couldn’t get any more crafty, a creepy-looking spider with a mysterious name comes along and wins a significant popularity contest at the biggest fishing tackle show in the world.

The spider is called the Phantom. It’s made by Lunkerhunt. Based in Canada, the company says its aim is to deliver fishing products that are both innovative and high in quality to anglers of all skill levels.

The soft plastic Phantom is innovative, alright. It’s got a lifelike hollow body to make it float and eight flailing legs that pulsate when twitched across the surface like a weedless toad. It’s available in six colors with catchy names.

But will it catch bass? Probably so. Bass are opportunistic. They will eat just about anything that doesn’t try to eat them first.

The bait is likely to catch a few fishermen, too. But I won’t be waiting in line to hand over nearly 10 bucks for the 1/4-ounce lure when it hits the market this fall.

There’s something about tying a fake spider to the end of a fishing line and hoping for a bite. That just doesn’t seem right — sort of like fishing with an imitation baby duck or blackbird. Not to say it won’t work. I’m just not biting. Not yet, anyway.

The Phantom was among the 1,000-plus products entered in the New Product Showcase at the 2019 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show held July 8-12 in Orlando, Florida.

Better known as ICAST, the show is recognized as the largest sportfishing trade show in the world. Each year, hundreds of tackle manufacturers gather under one roof to show off some of their newest wares to buyers, pro staffers and media representatives from dozens of countries.

The idea is to generate buzz, publicity, valuable contacts and make money through sales to tackle distributors and other outlets who in turn will make the goodies available to consumers.

Sales and advertising deals worth millions are cut at ICAST. Lucrative sponsorship contracts are hatched. Trends within the industry are unveiled. It’s a big deal.

This year’s show was particularly large with a record attendance of 14,500 buyers, media members and exhibitors from all around the globe — a good sign that all is well within the sportfishing industry.

“Across the board, this was a record-breaking year for ICAST, proving, once again, that ICAST is the cornerstone for the entire sportfishing industry,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the America Sportfishing Association. “This was the largest year yet for ICAST in both the number of exhibitors and the number of registrants In fact, the total number of registered buyers was up six percent over last year.”

The New Product Showcase is always an ICAST highlight. It gives manufacturers the opportunity to see how their best stuff stacks up against others in more than two dozen categories. Products are judged by buyers and media according to innovation, execution, workmanship and, of course, practicality.

It boggled my mind to learn that a spider wound up at the top of the heap in a division as competitive as the Freshwater Soft Lure category.

I’ve never seen a bass eat a spider. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a bass pounce on a real-life frog, either. But we all know how deadly toad imitations can be when the conditions are right.

Could those creepy, crawly arachnids be the next trend in trend in topwater soft plastics?

Doubtful. But it will be interesting see how many anglers take the bait. More importantly, how long they run with it.

War between trolling motors

Even more intriguing is the trolling motor war brewing between Lowrance, Garmin and MotorGuide as they jockey to steal some thunder from Minn Kota.

In 2016, Minn Kota revolutionized the trolling motor market with the Ultrex. The motor is equipped with a long list of high tech goodies, including power steering and a built-in GPS that holds the boat in place whenever the motor’s “Spot Lock” feature is engaged. The Ultrex sold so quickly early on that Minn Kota couldn’t build them fast enough to keep up, despite a price point of around $3,000.

The competition responded simultaneously at the 2019 ICAST show with the introduction of trolling motors that some claim to be even smarter, quieter, more efficient and significantly more powerful than the Ultrex.

Garmin, a long-time leader in GPS electronics technology for marine, automotive, aviation and sports activities, made the biggest splash with its “Force” trolling motor. The motor was voted overall Best of Show out of 1,004 products entered in the new product showcase.

Force is built around a stealthy brushless motor that Garmin says reduces sonar interference, is 30 percent stronger and easy on deep cycle battery life. It works with 24/36 volt systems and is available with 50-57 inch shafts. Retails for around $3,100. Check it out at garmin.com

Lowrance’s answer to the Ultrex is the Ghost. Like the Force, it’s compatible with 24/36 volt systems using a powerful brushless motor that is advertised to provide 45 percent longer run times on a full battery charge, virtually eliminate sonar interference and deliver 25 percent more thrust than competitors. It will be available in 47-inch shaft models for about $3,000. To learn more, go to lowrance.com

MotorGuide enters the smart trolling motor race with its Tour Pro. The unit relies on Pinpoint GPS to maintain precision boat position. The company claims the Tour Pro is the only “true cable steer” motor with GPS anchor and is the most durable, reliable, easy-to-use trolling motor on the market. It’s also the least expensive of the group. The 36-volt motor is listed for $2,399 at tacklewarehouse.com.

So, how about all those Best of Show winners? There were 29 in all, plus the Overall Best of Show winner. Here they are in random order:

Overall Best of Show

Garmin USA

Product: Force Trolling Motor

Boating Accessory

Garmin USA

Product: Force Trolling Motor

Boats and Watercraft

Hobie

Product: Mirage ProAngler 14 with 360 Drive Technology

Eyewear

Costa Del Mar

Product: WaterWoman

Footwear

Frogs Toggs

Product: Skipper

Giftware

13 Fishing

Product: Fillet Table Beverage Management System

Lifestyle Apparel

AFTCO

Product: Yurei Air-O-Mesh Performance Shirt

Technical Apparel (Cold Weather)

Simms Fishing Products

Product: M’s G4Z Stockingfoot Wader

Technical Apparel (Warm Weather)

AFTCO

Product: Overboard Submersible Shorts

Ice Fishing

Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc.

Product: Ice Helix 7 Chirp GPS G3N All-Season

Cooler, Bait/Storage

Plano Synergy

Product: Frabill Magnum Bait Station 30

Cutlery, Hand Pliers or Tools

Bubba

Product: 110V Electric Fillet Knife

Electronics

Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc.

Product: MEGA 360 Imaging

Fly Fishing Accessory

Simms Fishing Products

Product: Dry Creek Z Sling Pack

Fishing Accessory

American Tackle Company

Product: MW20 Finesse Set

Fishing Line

PowerPro

Product: Moon Shine Braid

Kid’s Tackle

Anything Possible Brands

Product: The Bumblebee

Tackle Management

Plano Synergy

Product: Plano EDGE

Terminal Tackle

Rapala

Product: VMC Bladed Hybrid Treble Short

Freshwater Soft Lure

Lunkerhunt

Product: Phantom Spider

Saltwater Soft Lure

LIVETARGET

Product: Slow-Roll Shiner

Freshwater Hard Lure

LIVETARGET

Product: Erratic Shiner

Saltwater Hard Lure

LIVETARGET

Product: Flutter Sardine

Freshwater Reel

Shimano

Product: SLX DC Baitcasting Reels

Saltwater Reel

Shimano

Product: Stradic FL Spinning Reel

Fly Reel

SEiGLER Reels

Product: SF (Small Fly)

Freshwater Rod

St. Croix

Product: Mojo Bass Glass MGC72HM Rip N’ Chatter Rod

Saltwater Rod

St. Croix

Product: Avid Surf VSS80MMF

Fly Fishing Rod

St. Croix

Product: Imperial Salt IS908.4

Contact: Rich Belanger

Rod & Reel Combo

Lew’s Fishing

Product: Lew’s Mach Smash Baitcast Combo

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by email at mattwillwrite4u@yahoo.com.

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