CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. — This week, several manufactures from around the country are gathering in the manatee-filled waters of the Nature Coast for product demos and introductions. FTR had the opportunity to get hands-on with some of the newest products on the market this year. These are our impressions:
Raymarine‘s Axiom is generating a ton of buzz, and rightfully so. If you’ve had a chance to see the new flagship MFD from Raymarine, it’s likely been on a show floor. And while the demo units at the Bassmaster Classic were impressive, we weren’t sure how the product would actually perform on the water. In the varying terrain of Crystal River, where units were tested in water ranging from shallow mangroves to deep, offshore blue water, the Axiom’s quad-core processor refused to hiccup. Raymarine’s RealVision 3D offers an intuitive, 3D sonar readout and the company says its CHIRP technology outpaces competitors for accuracy. That was hard to determine without side-by-side comparisons, but the images coming up from the depths of the Gulf were extremely impressive.
Here’s the promo video for reference:
Side note: Raymarine’s HybridTouch is still one of the most elegant platforms out there. It’s interesting to see guides taking advantage of the custom colorization available from several manufacturers now. Capt. Danny Allen blended his to match a pair of bright red Power-Poles.
Speaking of Power-Pole, the Tampa-based company says they’re keeping a tight lip on an innovative new product that will (hopefully) debut at ICAST this year. If you’re not familiar with their story, it’s worth catching up on. Sure, everyone knows who Power-Pole is now, but it wasn’t too long ago that they were making a niche product for inshore fishermen out of a garage. “Once the bass guys got ahold of it,” says JL Marine Product Support Manager Branden Franklin, “there was no looking back.”
Franklin, for what it’s worth, got his gig as a Power-Pole early adopter who walked the shop looking for spare parts. “The whole place back then was maybe 1,000 square feet.” Oft-Bassmaster Classic qualifier and occasional writer Bernie Schultz has a nice feature on the tale of Power-Pole.
Cuda just completed a total dealer program overhaul. Company officials say their new program, which is currently filling out its rep group across the country, is going to increase dealer margins by vast percentages—a good thing, as the generally affordable products coming out of Connecticut offer a range of must-haves for anglers. The two top sellers, right now, are the 3″ Titanium Micro Scissors and 11.5″ Grip and Scale, which swivels on a set of ball bearings to keep frisky fish held tight.
Maui Jim made its first appearance at an industry media foray in several years. The company is eager to grow its presence in fishing. I tested the companies glass for several days, and came away pleased with the quality of the polarization on the glass lenses and the comfort of the frames—not sure what else you could ask for from a pair of sunglasses, though some anglers prefer plastic lenses for lighter weight. The polarization from Maui Jim is silky smooth, which was great for spotting flights of rays, underwater structure, mangrove-tethered snook and just about everything except staring through camera lens. Aside: the pair on my head might have saved a young manatee’s life on the way in.
Columbia, more widely known in fishing circle’s for its PFG line, released an incredible short film earlier this month that features conservation and fishing in The Florida Keys, Vietnam and the Seychelles. If you’ve got a few minutes at the shop, it’s absolutely worth a watch.
I’ll have more feedback from the Crystal River event next week, when we’ll break down some new offerings from Savage Gear, Navionics, Yo-Zuri, Mustad and Okuma.
FTR Contributor and Bassfan.com Guru Todd Ceisner reports back from a Niagara River event, where manufacturers and media reportedly suffered through 30+ mph winds and a violent Lake Erie with a look at the new Flambeau Ike Quotient IQ Series Utility Boxes (say that five times fast.)
“At first glance, they look like something you’d find at a home improvement store,” writes Ceisner. “Big, sturdy handle. Heavy duty plastic. Hefty latches and interchangeable trays on the inside for sorting or swapping. Perfect for bolts, screws and miscellaneous items.
But also ideal – and designed – for organizing fishing tackle, by Elite Series competitor Mike Iaconelli, a former Bassmaster Classic winner and B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year. The Ike Quotient IQ Series of utility boxes from Flambeau offer endless possibilities for tackle organization. Designed to handle heavy loads (e.g. jigs, weights, hooks), the boxes come with removable and modular Zerust trays that give users the option to swap out items quickly and efficiently while allowing for bulk storage if one or more trays are removed.”
Available in three sizes:
- Small – 13 1/4″ x 8 1/8″ x 2 1/4″
- Medium – 16 3/4″ x 13 1/8″ x 2 1/4″
- Large – 16 1/2″ x 13 1/4″ x 4 1/4″