CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla.— Last week, we delved into a few new products and impressions from manufacturers gathered on the Gulf Coast, in the small town of Crystal River. This week, we delve further with news and notes from several more, including Mustad, Okuma and Savage Gear.

Mustad has long been renown as a world-class manufacturer of hooks (they’ve been at it since 1877), but they’re also a capable creator of tackle accessories that might fill a niche in your store. I had some hands-on time with their new 30L Dry Backpack, which makes a perfect, portable storage place for electronics and camera gear on the water. As a bonus, it’s roomy enough to carry several tackle trays and probably a hearty sandwich or two for an on-the-water snack.

Guides and media seemed impressed with Okuma‘s Helios TCS Low-Profile baitcasting reels. Several guides remarked on the overall smoothness and perceived improvement in quality of Okuma’s product in recent years. The aluminum-framed Helios TCS Low Profile weighs in at just 6.3 ounces and retails for around $199.

Savage Gear supplied a bevy of TPE Shrimp for the event, which I had a chance to deploy for a full day amidst mangroves, rocky shoals and channel markers. Sure, the lures caught plenty of fish, but importantly, they held up to a full day’s worth of hammering with little sign of exhaustion. On the hard bait front, Yo-Zuri‘s Hardcore Minnow proved a worthy jerk bait in the snook-filled estuaries of the Crystal River.

Wildlife lookout: While the Crystal River area is loaded with fresh and saltwater fish of all kinds, its most famous resident creature is the beloved West Indian Manatee. For most of the event, our various boats were surrounded by the venerable sea cows, and captains responded with appropriate caution. The manatee, by the way, was moved off of the endangered species list just weeks ago, and is now considered “threatened”—a dramatic improvement from its most dire days in the 1970s. U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials say the new status does not change federal and state protections for the animals; however, it does mark a noted increase in population thanks to reduced manatee fatalities from boaters and improved access to natural springs, where they congregate.

In other news FTR’s Digital Newsroom mourns the loss of grunge rock pioneer Chris Cornell, who died unexpectedly at age 52 in Detroit this week. Cornell was a prolific creator of music, who along with late-frontmen Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Layne Staley (Alice in Chains), and Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots), ushered in a paradigm shift in American music that can still be felt today. Less than a week ago, I was watching Cornell’s reunited Soundgarden perform beside the rising flood waters of the Mississippi River. Now, like too many too quickly, another iconic figure of American culture is gone. RIP, Chris.

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