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The world’s largest fishing industry trade show (ICAST) was awash with new fishing lures for bass, panfish, ice fishing, catfish and saltwater species. Sizes! Colors! After two decades of going to the shows there’s little that surprises me anymore, to be honest. I look for unique and practical items, things I believe may resonate with the Joe Lunchbucket anglers since that’s the category I fit into.
Practicality, longevity and reasonable prices are what I seek. Here are some things I found at ICAST 2021 for bass anglers.
Ike’s Mini Swim Jig, Mini-D Chunk
From Missile Baits, this jig and chunk combo should find space in your box and help put more fish in your hand. Sleek, realistic swim jigs shine when the bite is tough, you need to cover water or you’re fishing vegetation such as milfoil, pepper grass or lily pads. The 3-inch Mini-D Chunk has a soft plastic body that looks like a tiny pillow with twin tails that move well. They’re not too long or short. The chunk and swim jig come in 10 complimentary colors. Slide the chunk on the jig and you’re ready to fish, whether casting or skipping to cover. Mike Iaconelli’s career has been aided by downsized baits that bass won’t ignore. This latest combo is proof. The jig comes in 3/16, 5/16th and 7/16th sizes. Info: missilebaits.com
Strike King Skip’N Buzzbait
I had no doubt that veteran pro angler Andy Montgomery could skip a buzzbait, but I wanted to see it. Back in May during a media event at the Santee Cooper Lakes in South Carolina, Montgomery pulled out a rod with a buzzbait and fired it down a line of pads and vegetation. It skitter-skitter-skittered five or six times each time he cast. It’s not uncommon for anglers (pro or weekend) with advanced skills to do things like that but it’s fun to watch.
Montgomery was throwing the Strike King Skip’N Buzzbait, one of the company’s two big lure introductions this year. The 3/8ths-ounce Skip’N Buzzbait is designed with heavier gauge wire to resist bending, no skirt and a Strike King Rage Toad. A Rage Swimmer also is included. The unskirted buzz-and-toad (or swimbait) combo isn’t new. Montgomery’s addition of a wire holding the top of the bait (near the blade) to the body (near the head) is, though. It helps keep it from opening or bending when it skips. It also skips best without a skirt. Internal barbs help keep the toad or whatever other plastic bait you want secured to the frame. Info: strikeking.com
Dudley’s Wacky Kit
The simplest things often are the best, right? That’s why I’m geeked about the possibilities for anglers to fish with and learn about the Dudley’s Wacky Kit from Perfection Lures. Pro angler David Dudley has caught countless bass with this simple rig that anyone can learn to use. The kit comes with six 5 ⅜-inch green pumpkin-violet Perfection Lures Wacky Worms. Unlike other stick baits, these have a bit of a bulge on each end to help impart more action as it slowly falls.
Each worm has a rubber O-ring already rigged, and a 2/0 wacky hook is on one of the worms to show anglers how to properly rig it. Remember, new anglers want to learn different techniques and how to catch fish. This kit should easily help them, at an affordable price, to do both. Info: perfectionlures.com
SPRO Bronzeye Pop 70
SPRO’s Bronzeye popping frogs and regular frogs are two of my favorite topwater baits, especially the big 1-ounce King Daddy frog. It’s about 3 inches long and 2 inches wide, and bass smash it through matted vegetation. The popping frog is great in open water for, of course, popping, but also walking with an occasional flick to make it sputter.
Now SPRO has upsized with the Bronzeye Pop 70 and that makes me happy as can be. The big bait weighs 3/4-ounce and is 70mm long (thus the number designation). It has twin Gamakatsu 5/0 EWG round bend hooks, twin long skirts that aid in walking, and a solid selection of colors. The body’s plastic is soft but tough and holds up to repeated bass smashes. I like the popping models for open water, skipping under brush, in sparse lily pads and over vegetation that has not topped out. The cupped face makes a good racket with a sharp snap of the rod tip. Big baits definitely attract bigger fish. Add this one to your box and tie it on. Info: spro.com
Dixie Jet Spoons
In the last few years mention spoons and bass anglers likely will think of the giant flutter spoons. Spoons have been around for decades, though, in different styles and sizes. Dixie Jet Spoons was one of the Midwest’s legendary producers of brass spoons before falling on hard times, as many small independent manufacturers do, and ceasing operations. Tom Murphy revived the company, found the original designs and recreated the size and action of the originals.
His latest model is the Pro Series Gizzard Spoon, a cupped brass teardrop design that falls about a foot backward for every foot of descent. It has a sticky-sharp VMC treble, which Murphy says works best at securing fish without tearing big holes in their mouth. The spoon comes in 11 colors. Info: dixiejetlures.com
Big Bite Baits Hybrid Swimmer
When you want to catch fish, downsize your bait. It’s that simple. Using a smaller spinnerbait or stickbait or swimbait often elicits more strikes from a wider size range of fish. Unless you’re seeking big bass, go smaller and you’ll catch more.
One way to increase your catch numbers will be with the Big Bite Hybrid Swimmer. I love the smart design of this bait. The slim, ribbed body has a tail that is half boot and half fork, so it has a different action while still giving off good vibration. The coolest thing to me is the concave face. This helps it sit flush with ballhead jigs, thus making it more streamlined. That means it’ll swim better during the retrieve. The bait is available in 3.3- and 3.8-inch sizes in eight colors. Info: bigbitebaits.com
Z-Man Big Blade Chatterbait
Z-Man’s Chatterbait has secured its place in tackle history, without doubt. From its introduction in the mid-2000s to today’s myriad knockoffs, the vibrating bladed jig has become a staple for untold numbers of anglers. It’s almost idiot-proof, to be honest, and it definitely catches fish of all sizes.
Z-Man has upsized the bait considerably with its new Big Blade model. The company says it has been working on it for three years to get the correct size and bend of the blade to the right specs. With a 70-percent larger surface area on the blade, the new model throws off considerably more vibration that fish can detect. The bait also has a 6/0 Mustad UltraPoint hook and keeper barbs on the jighead’s collar that will handle larger trailers. Skirts are tied with wire, too, too prevent them from slipping and to help with skipping. Info: zmanfishing.com
Berkley’s Gilly swimbait won the ICAST Best of Show title and the Stunna jerkbait helped Hank Cherry win his second straight Bassmaster Classic last spring. Spotlight, limelight and hoohah all around for those baits. They definitely are top-notch and deserve the accolades.
What flew under the radar to me at ICAST 2021 is Berkley’s line of seven jigs that now include silicone skirts infused with PowerBait. That’s a first for the company after all these years. It has previously tried and failed to make inroads into the jig market and the PowerJig from about 20 years ago didn’t last. This time Berkley may succeed. Veteran pros Bobby Lane and Gary Klein oversaw the design of football, flippin’, pitchin’ and heavy cover heads (and colors), and swim jigs for finesse and heavy cover tactics. All include PowerBait skirts, which are light and fluffy and look great in the water, and Berkley’s Fusion19 hooks. Klein and Lane are detail geeks and the results show it. For example, the Heavy Cover and Finesse swim jigs Lane obsessed over have pointed heads, 3D eyes, a 0-degree recessed and vertical line tie, and medium weedguard. These are winners. www.purefishing.com/pages/berkley
Read Next: The Coolest New Products From ICAST 2021
Pro X Hooks
If you fish soft plastics you need hooks, whether you’re tossing topwater flukes or stickbaits, dragging bottom with Carolina-rigs or banging into cover with Texas-rigged worms, tubes and craws. (Y’all still throw tubes, right?) To do those things you need sharp, strong and reliable hooks.
Pro X is the latest from TTI-Blakemore, makers of the legendary Tru-Turn and Daiichi line of hooks. Pro X hooks have what the company calls an “Up” point to gain better, deeper penetration along with an improved barb to keep fish on. The point is designed for a smaller hole in the fish’s mouth, which also will reduce losses. I talked with Bassmaster Classic champ Randy Howell at ICAST 2021 about the hooks and he said the strength, point design and slightly opened angle of the bend and point (in relation to the eye) definitely are upgrades. The hooks are available in wacky, drop shot, wide X-Gap, offset and offset round bend designs. Info: ttiblakemore.com