The best of ICAST: Saltwater

This Z-Man Kicker CrabZ did its job on a big redfish.
This Z-Man Kicker CrabZ did its job on a big redfish.

Crabby new lure claws its way to the forefront of ICAST honors

Let’s face it. Fishing lures are the quarterback of your angling equipment team. They get in on every “play” and dictate the action. They get most of the credit when you win (i.e. catch a fish). They get most of the blame when you don’t.

So it’s no wonder that among all the new saltwater products on display at the 2022 ICAST show in Orlando, Florida in July was an innovative inshore fish lure, the Best of Category winner in saltwater soft baits. It’s the Z-Man Kicker CrabZ. It’s hard not to bite on a new bait!

CrabZ’s lifelike profile

Daniel Nussbaum, President of Z-Man Fishing Products, explained the thinking behind the new bait.

“Crabs spend a lot of time scooting along the bottom, but they also swim throughout the water column on top and at mid depth. When they come off the bottom they are swimming sideways and the first thing you notice is that big trailing craw. Its lifelike profile with some good action is what makes this bait.”

So many inshore gamefish love to eat crab that this is a multi-use lure, even though it was designed specifically with redfish in mind. The difference, Z-man says, is the action. There are a lot of crab imitation baits on the market, but this one adds super action. During testing, they caught every kind of fish imaginable. This new bait was designed to mimic a crab swimming sideways, as a crab often does to get away from predators. The lure is 3 1/2 inches long and has segmented legs, large eyes and protruding antennae. The keeled belly of the bait keeps it upright yet shimmying on a smooth straight retrieve. It comes in 10 color patterns and works well on a ProBulletZ, SnakelockZ or ChinlockZ jighead.

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

Penn Authority Spinning Reel

And of course, a good bait isn’t good without a rod and reel, so there are plenty of new choices there, too. One of the most intriguing and promising, according to members of the outdoor press and sporting goods buyers, was the new Penn Authority reel. It will be available on the market in September.

This tabletop full of new Penn Authority saltwater spinning reels will put lots of saltwater fish in trouble.
This tabletop full of new Penn Authority saltwater spinning reels will put lots of saltwater fish in trouble.

Penn’s new Authority spinning reel features an IPX8 waterproof rating, CNC Gear technology with a stainless-steel gear train and pinion gear, and Leveline slow oscillation system. The 12+1 bearing system delivers a smooth retrieve, and the Dura-Drag generates maximum drag pressure. Authority will come in sizes ranging from 2500 to 10500 and cost from $499.95 to $599.95.

LiveTarget Live Shrimp

Naturally, it’s hard to turn attention from baits when there are so many great ones. That’s why this lure was voted the Best of Category for saltwater hard lure.

Most “live shrimp” lures are soft lures, but this one has a hard plastic body with lively plastic legs. The real difference is a swing-weight system that allows the lure to fall through the water column with a horizontal profile. On retrieve, the weight wobbles and gives the shrimp a wobble. Anglers can customize the rate of fall and wobble using two interchangeable weights. Live Shrimp come in two sizes and eight colors.

The Frabill WITNESS Weigh Net

You’d think the last thing anglers want in the boat is a landing net that is also a tattletail. I mean, there’s nothing like landing a “20 pound redfish” and then your net telling everybody it’s just 16.5 pounds, right?

But most fishermen want to know the score, so this new net is a great, easy way to do that. It’s the first all-in-one fish net, scale and ruler for fresh and saltwater anglers. It has a scale that will go up to 30 pounds and can allow you to catch, weigh and release a fish quickly. With a built-in 30 pound scale, anglers can now quickly get the weight of a fish and release it without having to handle it and hang the fish on a handheld scale.

It works like this. Scoop up any fish up to 30 pounds, remove the hook and turn on the scale. Hold the net still in a vertical position with the net portion down to record the quick weight of your fish, then release it back in the water.

Bubba Saltwater Multi-Flex Fillet Knife

Bubba’s new Saltwater Multi-Flex Interchangeable Knife Set.

Bubba knives have swept the fishing industry off its feet in recent years and the trend is continuing. Bubba’s Saltwater Multi-Flex Interchangeable Knife Set features an easy-to-use squeeze-and-slide mechanism that allows you to switch between blades quickly depending on what you are cleaning or cutting. There is a Flex-Change locking system that keeps the blade safe and secure.

Anglers can quickly change from one or two different full-tang blades, a 9-inch serrated flex and a 9-inch stiff blade, and Bubba’s non-slip grip handle along with a watertight hard-sided carry case.

Emma Bean’s Pesky Cooling Relief Therapy

Let’s face it. No matter how much suntan oil or bug spray you use, you are going to mess up one day and get a sunburn or bug bites. And while Emma Bean has a lot of products to prevent those type of things, when it does happen, they’ve come through with a new one.

Emma Bean’s Cooling Relief Therapy gives almost instant cooling relief for sunburn, bug bites, itching and even sore muscles and minor aches and pain. Their newest topical application product contains a mix of Arnica, Camphor, Menthol and Tea Tree Oil.

Emma Beans Pesky Cooling Relief Therapy can bring relief for outdoor stings, burns and soreness.
Emma Beans Pesky Cooling Relief Therapy can bring relief for outdoor
stings, burns and soreness.

Ugly Stik Carbon Inshore Rod

Not everything has to be pretty to be good. Ugly Stik has proven that for years. The brand has put out tough and durable fishing rods for years and the new Ugly Stik Carbon Inshore Rod was voted Best Saltwater Rod at the latest ICAST gathering.

The latest Ugly Stik features a heavy duty 100% graphite blank, with a lightweight, well-balanced rod with increased sensitivity. There are nine models, including both spinning and casting. The icing on the cake is the one-piece stainless steel Ugly Tuff guides that eliminate insert pop-outs. The handle is cork on the fore grip for touch and a shrink tube rear handle for extended durability.

Simms Solarflex Guide Cooling Hoodie

There are two things that can cut a fishing trip short in a hurry. First, of course, is the fish not biting. Second is getting so hot you can’t enjoy being out there. Saltwater fishermen know that feeling during a long day on the water, which sometimes lasts from sunup to sundown.

The value of staying comfortable and as cool as possible is why Simms Solarflex Guide Cooling Hoodie won the Best of Category for Warm Weather Technical Apparel. The hoody offers maximum sun coverage and cooling power with a three-panel hood and a built-in gaiter. Integrated with cooling fabric technology allows the hoodie to stay cool to the touch even at mid day. It offers UPF 50 Sun protection value and has a large zippered back pocket.

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About Kinny Haddox 507 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, lakedarbonnelife.com and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.

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