FishLab Never Rests

A look at the new ICAST 2024 baits and why you need to add FishLab products to your retail space.

For the third year running, I had the opportunity to sit down – albeit virtually – with the FishLab team to get a first look at what they have coming down the road for ICAST 2024, as well as what makes this all-star team tick and how they remain not just on the cutting edge of new lure design, but well ahead of the pack.

Joining me once again this year were the FishLab ‘Mad Scientists’ of Mike Bennett and Bill Siemantel, and I also had the pleasure of being joined by FishLab Lure Designer, Hide Iwasaki, all the way from Japan. Hide is a fishing industry veteran who has had a hand in creating and launching some incredibly popular and innovative lures over the years. He brings his lure design and craftsmanship to an already impressive team to further bring the Science of the Strike to every lure that comes out of the FishLab!

Many lure manufacturers claim to have assembled the best team possible to produce their baits from concept and design, to manufacturing and distribution. And while most companies live up to this claim, one thing really stood out to me with FishLab as our conversation evolved this year, and that is how their team is always working. With Mike and Bill stateside, and Hide in Japan, they truly can be working on product development around the clock. Mike described how he, Bill, and Hide often work on a new project. “Bill will be on the water or in his office and come up with a design concept. He’ll call me and we’ll talk about it, perhaps scribbling out some early concepts, and we’ll ruminate on the idea for a few hours. By the day’s end, we’ll shoot something off to Hide, just as he is starting his workday on the other side of the world. As we sleep, Hide will play with the idea and start designing the lure on his computer, and by the time we wake up the next morning there will be a string of text messages and emails outlining his progress.”

He went on, “Bill and I start off our day as Hide ends his, and we’ll pick right up where he left off on the evolution of the new bait. This will go on for weeks, a few months, or even perhaps as much as nearly two years as in the case of the new hard swimbait we’re launching at ICAST 2024 until we feel we have the perfect bait. It’s not until that time that we bring a new product to the market. That’s just how we are with all our baits at FishLab; it’s either perfect, or it doesn’t see the light of day.”

The FishLab team has two major product launches and several existing product lineup expansions coming out at ICAST 2024 in Orlando, Florida, this July. Beginning with FishLab’s #1 selling lure and a year-one bait, the Mack Attack Soft Swimbait, they have added to the current 6.5”/5.5-ounce and 8”/9.5-ounce models which have become extremely popular in places like the Cape Cod Canal and offshore for large pelagics. Adding to the family is a slightly smaller 5.5”/3.5-ounce model that will fit perfectly in a wide variety of inshore scenarios on both coasts. This model adds a more castable, more versatile option for anglers fishing both by boat and from shore. All models have also received an overhaul of colors to make them more vibrant, more durable, and of course, more realistic!

Launched at ICAST 2022, the BBZ Gizzard Shad and BBZ Floating Cranking Shad were received with much excitement, and both will now see an expansion in color selections thanks to work by Hide Iwasaki. For the FishLab Bio-Gizzard Shad, four new colors including Wakasagi, Black/Silver, Threadfin Shad and Bluegill patterns have been added. Three new colors were also added to the Bio-Shad Crankbaits which include Black/Silver, Wakasagi, and Bluegill.

Another ICAST 2022 launch, the Nature Series Creature Baits Flutter Nymph has quickly become the best-selling soft bait coming out of the FishLab. The original 3.5” and 4.5” models were used on everything from bass to trout to pike, and ingenious saltwater anglers targeting snook, redfish and seatrout have been quietly racking up some great catches on the bait, too!

Expanding the line further in 2024, FishLab has added a “micro” 2.5” size for those true finesse applications as well as for anglers targeting trout and panfish in addition to bass. This smaller size can be rigged in a variety of ways but is perfect for the Bait Finesse System (BFS) for highly pressured and finicky fish. From Ned rigs to jig trailers and more, the Flutter Nymph truly does it all and appeals to all manner of gamefish both fresh and salt.

“The versatility of the Flutter Nymph is utterly amazing. I started fishing the new micro size on a 3/32-ounce dart head and light line and did quite well, but quickly I saw its potential for other rigging styles. I threw it around pods of tiny bait and started getting not only largemouth bass, but 20-pound stripers were hammering it!” said Bill. “I was fishing these things in tournaments this winter and doing extremely well, even winning several on the tiny Flutter Nymph. It is going to shake up the micro bait industry for anglers fishing for not only panfish, but also those targeting giant fish as it has that signature, vibration and look of what they eat like no other bait available today!”

On the brand-new FishLab lure launches for ICAST 2024, first up is a soft swimbait in the Alabama Rig style. The Nature Series Soft Swimbait is a full length solid bait with heavy ribbing on the belly, smooth back, and slight slot on top for weedless rigging. The T-tail style gives the bait a great kick, and the added tip on the tail produces a more natural flutter and appearance to provide even more realism. It can be fished in a variety of manners from weightless on an EWG hook to standard jighead to a variety of Forward-Facing Sonar (FFS) rigging methods. The Nature Series Soft Swimbait will be available in three sizes – 3.5”, 4”, 4.5”.

The Nature Series Soft Swimbait will start at a $4.99 retail price.

Another ICAST 2024 new product launch, the redesigned BBZ Hard Swimbait was downsized from the original rainbow trout shape that Bill originally created to produce a more universally applicable silhouette and to better represent swimbait trends across the country. As Bill described in the creation of this bait, “When I originally designed the BBZ Hard Swimbait, rainbow trout were all the rage. The trout was what anglers sought to represent when targeting giant bass. It worked at the time, but stocking trends, especially in California, have changed and we don’t see the focus on trout baits that we once did. We decided to go a different direction in shape on this bait, and the FishLab team truly knocked it out of the park on this one!”

Available in two sizes – 4.5” and 6” – this 4-piece bait features an integrated semi-soft tail to not only produce a more durable product, but to also better represent the natural movements of a wide variety of forage species. The 4.5-inch model was designed to be a slow sinker and to target the average fishing consumer who doesn’t have dedicated swimbait gear. These anglers simply want to throw an awesome bait on their standard bass gear and catch big fish. The 6-inch model is a super slow sink to almost suspending bait depending on the type of line it’s fished on – mono, fluoro or braid. This model truly excels at the suspended animation concept that Bill has been a strong proponent of for a long time. “I have caught a lot of bass on this bait when it was on a pause, either by design or otherwise. A few weeks ago, I was doing some filming, and I had a nasty backlash. As I picked out the bird’s nest, the bait very slowly sank towards the bottom where a 2-plus-pound smallmouth bass grabbed it. Once I cleared the line and began cranking it back in, I realized I had a fish attached to the end of my line!”

A lot of time and effort went into this bait from discussions on color to tail construction to how the bait is weighted. “The BBZ Hard Swimbait is our pride and joy launch for ICAST 2024. It was a 2-year process, and we went through four or maybe even five different weight configurations on this bait before we agreed upon the final product,” said Mike. “We had more discussions over about a half-gram of weight than I’m sure any lure design team has ever had!”

The BBZ Hard Swimbait obviously hits the swimbait market running, but it has more applications than just that. Saltwater anglers will find it a great option for mimicking a wide variety of inshore and even some offshore baitfish. Anglers using FFS are finding ways to expand beyond the standard finesse-type baits, and the suspending action of the BBZ Hard Swimbait perfectly fits this application for anglers working the middle of the water column.

Talking about the new bait launches, Bill noted that, “We elevated these news baits, especially the BBZ Hard Swimbait, to a level and at a price point that no one in the fishing industry has seen or been able to meet so far. The quality, craftsmanship, and realism are unmatched at any price.” We here at Fishing Tackle Retailer agree wholeheartedly, and we’re certain that your customers will, too.

The BBZ Hard Swimbait will come in seven tournament-inspired colors that can be used for any type of fishing or water conditions and will start at a $17.99 retail price.

Be sure to check out the full line of FishLab offerings at ICAST 2024, booth numbers 2502 and 2802 along with Okuma Fishing tackle. In the meantime, be sure to contact sales@okumafishingusa.com to add these hot new FishLab baits to your retail store shelves today.