The best of ICAST: Freshwater

Brian McKinnon, center, poses with his invention, the PacBak P88-MK Combo, chosen Best of Show at the 2022 ICAST outdoor show.
Brian McKinnon, center, poses with his invention, the PacBak P88-MK Combo, chosen Best of Show at the 2022 ICAST outdoor show.

PacBak P-88 combo cooler, table, sealer (and more) is ICAST winner

There’s fishing for fun and then there’s fishing for flavor. The flavor part comes from eating your catch, and the fresher you can eat it or the quicker you can preserve it, the better.

That’s one reason why the PacBak P88-MK Combo was chosen as the Best of Show at the 2022 ICAST show in Orlando, Florida in July and boosted the small company to the forefront of fishing in an instant. It won out over more than 900 entries in the New Product Showcase, including all the big boys of the industry. It was designed for freshwater fishing use, but frankly, could go anywhere.

Mobile kitchen

The innovative do-it-all-cooler is basically a mobile kitchen (which MK stands for). The cooler has a battery operated vacuum sealer, a removable/foldout table top, a cutting board and three different chambers for storing food, drinks, bait and, of course, fish. It works for a trip to the pond, an overnight camping trip or on trips to hard-to-reach waters.

“Me and my brother grew up on the river,” said Brian McKinnon, designer of the system. “We would fish all summer long, and pretty much out of necessity we would take two coolers to separate the wet and cold from the dry and warm. We would take a table and a vacuum sealer and go up river until we couldn’t see footsteps. Then, we would take salmon right out of the river and throw them on the grill.”

McKinnon and the company are based in Anchorage, Alaska. They almost didn’t even make it to the show and settled for a small booth on the outer edges of the arena. But the unique product overcame adversity to win the Soft and Hard Coolers Best of Category and the prestigious main event of ICAST, the Best of Show Award.

Adversity is nothing new to McKinnon. Tragedy almost destroyed his life. He was in attendance at the infamous country music concert mass shooting several years ago in Las Vegas and a good friend died in his arms. He ended up struggling with PTSD and was even homeless at one point. But he overcame and now is at the top of the fishing cooler game. This is a great item, but it certainly is not your daddy’s ice chest. MSRP is around $899.

Here are a handful of other new freshwater products for 2023 to be on the lookout for:

Plano EDGE Frog Box

The use of plastic frogs for catching bass is at an all-time high. A few years back, anglers might only have six or a dozen frogs in their tackle arsenal. Today, serious anglers have dozens in all kinds of shapes, sizes and actions. The new Frog Box offers 25 dual-sided posts allowing you to hang up to 50 frogs by their line ties.

It offers easy identification and access to frogs when an angler needs a quick bait change and gives them a quick view of all their available frogs to make the best choice for the situation.

The new Plano EDGE frog box is a must for anglers who fish for bass with frogs.
The new Plano EDGE frog box is a must for anglers who fish for bass with frogs.

Zebco Bullet 20 Spincast Reel

Tens of thousands of fishermen caught their first fish on a Zebco. It’s one of the oldest products around, but almost every year, it gets a bump up in technology. This year is no different as the new Bullet 20 has been remastered in a smaller size, making it perfect for a variety of finesse techniques including small jigs, inline spinners, and lightweight lures. The Bullet 20 provides phenomenal speed with its ability to pick up 28.9 inches of line with each turn of the reel handle. Forget the $15 Zebco combo you bought your kids. This one has a suggested selling price of around $110.

SpiderWire DuraBraid Hi-Vis Yellow

Want to know the best line on the market? Good luck.

There’s no way to answer that question because there are too many great choices. But this line was voted Best of Category for Fishing Line at ICAST. Engineered to be 25% stronger than conventional braided lines thanks to its use of gel-spun polyethylene, it has top-of-the-line abrasion-resistance ideal for fishing around rocks, docks, boat hoists, heavy vegetation, and timber.

Berkley Slobbernocker

The Slobberknocker is designed to bust bass out of heavy cover.
The Slobberknocker is designed to bust bass out of heavy cover.

For two years in a row, Berkley and Pure Fishing captured the Best of Category for freshwater hard lures. This year with this aggressively named bait. Slobbernocker means to get hit extremely hard, and that’s what bass do to this innovative bladed jig. It provides versatility and ease of use with its ability to deflect off cover and rip through vegetation as the sizable blade delivers increased flash and water disturbance.

Bobby Garland’s Mayfly Crappie Bait

The Mayfly is a 2.25-inch insect-profile design that stays true to Bobby Garland’s reputation of product innovation specific to crappie fishing. This new soft-plastic bait is loaded with features appealing to multiple senses crappie rely on for feeding. Plus it just looks good to fishermen. Its distinctive silhouette serves the species’ focus on vision and sight. And flexible appendages and tail produce vibrations that crappie can “hear.”

The lure’s light fish-oil enhancement satisfies smell and taste. Collectively, these features bring the Mayfly to life. It was designed to trigger strikes from stubborn crappie that have been brought to light thanks to forward-facing sonar’s popularity in crappie fishing. It comes in a variety of colors.

The Garland Mayfly showed early in product testing that it will land big slab crappie.
The Garland Mayfly showed early in product testing that it will land big slab crappie.

Berkley PowerBait PowerStinger

Berkley continued on a roll with its second 2022 Best of Category, this time for Freshwater Soft Lure. The PowerStinger is a swimbait, but it is uniquely designed to work with a bladed jig as a trailer as well as just a stand-alone swimbait. Using trailers on bladed jigs isn’t for every application, but the bulk of that combination is aimed at big bass with big appetites.

Such is the case with the PowerBait PowerStinger, recommended as a bladed jig trailer, long and slender where it won’t affect the natural action of the jig. It can also fit the bill as a stand-alone swimbait. These lures also come in the super natural looking patterns that won Berkley awards last year for its PowerGilly.

Humminbird MEGA Live Imaging TargetLock

In a fishing world dominated by electronics, you would expect some new developments in trolling motors and depth finders. MEGA Live Imaging TargetLock from Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics didn’t disappoint, winning the Best of Category for electronics.

TargetLock makes it more simple for anglers to use the Minn Kota Ultrex trolling motor and Live Imaging, allowing independent trolling motor control and movement of the depth finder transducer as it locks onto waypoints. It’s designed for the serious angler who invests in serious electronic gear setups.

Legend Tournament Bass Rod | St. Croix Rod

Picking a fishing rod is like picking a fishing bait. There are so many it is hard to choose. But this rod series was voted as Best of Category for freshwater fishing rods at the show by media and retailers. The next generation of Legend Tournament Bass is the latest in St. Croix Rod design, materials, and angler recognized feedback. From specific handles, lengths, powers and actions plus new materials, this rod comes in several models for spinning or baitcasting.

About Kinny Haddox 589 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.