It’s tough to create an innovative lure these days. Most new baits are either a variation of already-existing ideas, a tweak, a new color, or an uncomfortable combination. But out of the literally hundreds of new artificials I checked out at the 2016 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, or ICAST, I found a handful that are fresh, and that I would actually use. Here are my top five.
YUM 10-inch Swurm
Yumbaits.com; $8.99 per 4
I literally did a double take when I walked past this giant. I can think of countless applications for the beefed-up version of the YUM Swurm. The new 10-inch incarnation is touted to catch largemouth, musky, northern pike, lake trout, stripers, cobia, and redfish, and I could probably add a dozen more species to that list. It’s versatile for a big soft plastic and would have just as much appeal on a jighead as it does Texas-rigged on an 11/0 hook. The bulky body creates plenty to heave a cast with but without adding additional weight. The 10-inch Swurm is currently available in black, bubblegum, clear gold flake, silver shad, watermelon/flake, and white.
Savage Gear 3D Suicide Duck
This bait is going to be talked about—a lot. I have witnessed a muskellunge take down a baby duck, and the shock and awe of the attack was stunning. But the fact is that not only Esox chow down on small waterfowl but also lunker largemouths. Savage Gear is well aware of this, as evident by its new 3D Suicide Duck. The surface bait gets its action from two rotating feet that create a wake similar to a baby duck. The bait comes in two sizes: a 4 ¼-inch 1-ounce model, and a 6-inch 2 ¾-ounce model. The three available patterns are blackbird, yellow duck, and wood duck.
Castaic Boyd Duckett BD Soft Squarebill
When it comes to lures, it’s not often that I wonder why someone hasn’t thought of an idea sooner. But that was the case with Castaic’s Boyd Duckett BD Soft Squarebill. The crankbait is as old as bass fishing, and so is its reputation for less-than-stellar hook-ups. But the benefits of a soft crank are obvious: Fish can get a better hold of it, so there’s a much smaller chance of the lure slipping before the hooks are planted. The collapsible soft body also enables it to contort and slip through tight spots. The BD Soft Squarebill comes in one size, measuring 2.5 inches and weighing 2/5 ounces. It dives from 0 to 4 feet and is currently available in six color patterns.
Lucky Craft Screw Pointer
I’ve seen plenty of propellers on lures before, but they’ve always been on topwaters. But Lucky Craft has taken its venerable Pointer and added an interesting new component: a front and a rear prop. The slow-sinking Screw Pointer creates a subtle, rhythmic action, inspired by other legendary Japanese baits. Its compact body can be cast a mile. The Screw Pointer props and slowly rolls on the retrieve, giving it the ability to trigger strikes from wary fish in tough conditions. The water movement created by the blades is unlike any other bait you will find on the market. I have to give it to Lucky Craft for innovation on this one. The Screw Pointer is 4½ inches, weighs 5/8 ounces, and is available in seven patterns.
Live Target Swimbait Series
Soft-plastic swimbaits are nothing new, and, I have to admit, I was underwhelmed when I heard that they were the basis of Live Target’s big launch. But after learning about the innovations brought to this existing concept, I was excited. In true Live Target fashion, the swimbait series was created to replicate actual forage species in meticulous detail. Beyond the swimbaits’ key components, such as a factory-built internal weight system and a dorsal fin that doubles as a weed guard, the tails are what really make them shine. Live Target has created an oscillator with a specific paint pattern for each species. Between the paint and action, each has a swimming action that replicates that of the species. In essence, the yellow perch swimbait moves like an actual yellow perch, the herring swims like an actual herring, and so on. There are ten forage species available—seven for fresh water and three for salt.
New fishing reels were on everyone’s radars at the 2016 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, or ICAST, including mine. Picking out pricey, top-of-the-line reels was fairly straightforward. But finding the gold among the massive amount of new products took some digging. And I dug plenty. There were a couple of expensive standouts that clearly shined above the rest, but anglers need not fork out a mortgage payment to get a high-quality reel out of this year’s new crop. Here are my five top picks, with a little something for everybody.
Shimano Metanium MGL
The new Metanium MGL series is a product of Shimano’s cutting-edge technology and materials. The body of the reel is constructed of Hagane, and it’s durable, lightweight, and void of any frame distortion under stress. All reels in the series have ten strategically placed, shielded, anti-rust bearings, as well as a one-way roller bearing that eliminates any backplay in the handle. The result is a silky-smooth, long-casting reel. There are six reels in the series, all 150-size, with three different gear ratios, in both left- and right-handed models.
Okuma Helios SX
Okuma has been on fire lately. Each year, its products grow more impressive, and the Helios SX is a fine example of that trend. The Helios is constructed of Okuma’s C-40X carbon fiber, resulting in components that are 25 percent lighter and 50 percent stronger than their graphite equivalents. Just holding this reel leaves an immediate impression of its lightweight, rigid construction. It has eight stainless-steel, corrosion-resistant bearings, in addition to one roller bearing. The Helios SX reel comes in three sizes: a 20, a 30, and a 40.
Abu Garcia MGXtreme
This reel impressed me the most at ICAST. The price tag is going to turn some anglers away, but for a gear junky like me, the MGXtreme is a gem. This reel weighs only 4.5 ounces, which is incredible. The magnesium frame and carbon-fiber sideplates not only keep the weight down, but also offer maximum durability. For a tiny reel, the blazing fast 8.1:1 gear ratio takes in an insane 32-inches-per-handle turn. The downside is that it has only 12 pounds of drag, but this isn’t the reel you’d use to flip and pitch. That said, its ability to cast smaller lures with ease is unparalleled. The MGXtreme comes in one size, and is offered in both left- and right-hand models.
One 3 Creed GT
One 3 is a brand-new offshoot of 13 Fishing. Its reels feature 13’s sleek design and cool componentry, but are offered at a lower price point. The Creed GT is going to be an immediate hit—it’s by the far the best reel I’ve seen for the price. It features a carbon body, carbon rotor, carbon handle, and a six-disc carbon drag system. The reels are super lightweight, with the 2000-size models coming in at around 7 ounces. There’s are also 1000, 3000, and 4000 sizes in the series. These are sharp-looking reels with dynamite construction, and they are an absolute steal for the price.
Pflueger President XT
The Pflueger President is a household name (as far as fishing reels go, at least), trusted to withstand years of use. And for 2017, it got a serious upgrade. The new President XT features durable carbon sideplates, an externally adjusting magnetic braking system, and nine ball bearings that make it one of the smoothest reels on the market. I found the slip-resistant cork knobs to be ergonomic and comfortable, and they add to the overall aesthetics of the reel. The President XT weighs in at 7.7 ounces, and takes in a healthy 31 inches per handle turn.
Mark Modoski is Field & Stream’s go-to angling expert for crappies, muskies, ice fishing, and more. He also plays a big role in our annual tackles tests.