He wouldn’t let me on the back deck. “You’re fishing up front with me,” the reigning Bassmaster Angler of the Year said. And so it was that at 6:38 a.m. Aaron Martens and I watched the searing sun rise over Central Florida’s Lake Toho— Martens chunking a frog, me slinging a worm.
We were on the water, technically, as one of over 60 boats in the 2016 ICAST Cup, the second-year ICAST fishing tournament sponsored by FLW that pairs media and pros with manufacturers to compete for a surprisingly awesome trophy. Perched over a grass bed, we were looking to make waves.
Last year’s trophy was infamously championed by local legend Cody Detweiler, living legend Bill Dance and outdoor journalist Dave East. News of Dance’s return to the winners circle spread like wildlife at ICAST 2015; and here, in the early morning light of Lake Toho, bragging rights were once again on the line. Dance and Detweiler returned to defend their crown, accompanied by FTR‘s own Managing Editor Ken Duke; meanwhile, Martens and I, down a man and a functional gas tank, mustered a charge to take them down. A full field littered with Bassmaster Elite Series and FLW pros were doing the same. But even as hundreds of anglers slugged it out in the lake, the real waves were being made on shore.
There, a mixed bag of manufacturers set up shop to display new rods, reels, lures and more than a few watercraft at the lake’s edge. This was ICAST On the Water, and for most of Tuesday, shuttles would run from the Orange County Convention Center—where ICAST was officially kicking off— to the lake for demos. And as the ICAST Cup provided the entertainment, ICAST On the Water was supposed to provide the education.
Indeed, the small sea of tents and manufacturers from giants like Humminbird and Shimano to newcomers like the Drophook app did educate; but the only concrete results on Tuesday came from the Cup: 17 pounds 2 ounces, the winning weight of the 2016 Cup. Dance and Detweiler (and Duke) had been taken down, but not by Aaron Martens and not by me. They fell victim to a brutally tough day under that rising sun, and a solid bag of bass from Enigma Fishing guru Jesse Tacoronte and Adam Santanoff— a bag which included the Costa Big Bass of 5 pounds 13 ounces.
Tacoronte and Santanoff each won a few pairs of Costa sunglasses for their troubles. They also took home that killer trophy. It was the first one awarded at a week full of awards in Orlando. For a full ICAST view from the front deck, follow it all here.