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 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 1000-plus products entered in the New Product Showcase at the 2019 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show held July 8-12 in Orlando, Fla.

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 the new product showcase.

Force is built around a stealthy brushless motor that Garmin says reduces sonar interference, is 30 percent stronger and really 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 and 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

Game-changing, bipartisan wildlife legislation introduced

Fish and wildlife populations are under increasing pressure from habitat loss, invasive species, emerging diseases and extreme weather events in Texas and throughout the country.

As many as one-third of our nation’s species are on the brink of becoming threatened or endangered. A bill just introduced in Congress seeks to reverse this trend.

House Resolution 3742, known as the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), would provide $1.3 billion annually to state initiatives and $97.5 million to tribal nations in order to support at-risk fish and wildlife populations and their habitats.

The funding would come from existing revenues and would not require any new taxes. Texas would get an estimated more than $50 million per year.

Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced it with 61 original cosponsors and with nationwide support from conservationists, hunters, anglers, businesspeople, oil and gas company representatives and the outdoor recreation industry.