2022 was a big year for the crew at FishLab, debuting seven brand new baits at ICAST in Orlando, Florida last July. Fishing Tackle Retailer (FTR) was the first to show you those new offerings with FishLab First Look – ICAST 2022 Debuts, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Even for the FishLab team, the excitement over these new products, which included a rat, a pair of hard-bodied swimbaits, and the Nature Series line of soft baits exceeded their expectations. Riding the wave of excitement following ICAST, retailers, anglers, and fish across the country gobbled up the available inventory at a faster pace than it could be replenished. Basically, if you didn’t jump on the boat right away then you were left back at the dock, kicking yourself for not hopping onboard when you had the chance.
Not all is lost, however, as inventory is being shipped and pegs are being filled, so be sure to familiarize yourself with those ICAST 2022 debuts and don’t make the same mistake this year with the next wave of innovative, mold-breaking new baits from FishLab coming your way in just a few short weeks.
FishLab could have very easily kicked back to ride the popularity of the 2022 launch, and no one would have faulted them, but that’s simply not in their DNA. Instead, the FishLab ‘Mad Scientists’ of Mike Bennett and Bill Siemantel set out to build on this momentum, taking direction from that product launch to produce not only baits that have never been seen before, but to also improve upon and even redefine some existing standards that we’ve all been fishing with for years. FishLab was able to design new baits and improve on exciting concepts in ways that keep making us here at FTR ask ourselves, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
So once again, FTR was given behind-the-scenes access by the FishLab team to get a first look at what is coming down the road for their ICAST 2023 launch as we sat down with Mike Bennett and Bill Siemantel to talk turkey, or more aptly to talk rats and frogs. Once again, FishLab left us buzzing with a new appreciation for what goes into new product conceptualization and design.
FishLab is in a unique position within the industry when it comes to designing new baits and the direction of the company on how they tackle new projects with the team they have assembled. You can get a taste of this in FishLab ICAST 2022 Sneak Peek where we first met with Bill and Mike as they filled us in on this subject. What is worth repeating is that these two guys, who lead the product design and development force at FishLab, are fishermen at heart, but they also have a ton of experience in bait design, and they know how to bring their ideas to market while keeping them at an angler-friendly price point without sacrificing on quality construction or components.
Mike Bennet kicked off the discussion by talking about what FishLab learned from the success of the 2022 product debuts. “We continue to think outside of the box with product development like we did in last year’s Nature Series, but as we move into more recognizable baits in known product categories, we don’t plan to simply change a color here or add a leg there and call it new. We went to the core of the baits and designed them from the bottom up, including what we know as fishermen and the Science of the Strike into every prototype until we reached the final design to take to market.”
Bill Siemantel chimed in, noting that, “Even though we design a certain bait with a specific application and market audience in mind, FishLab is unique in that our baits are so universally applicable. For example, saltwater anglers in Texas are fishing the Nature Series Flutter nymph – which was designed to mimic freshwater aquatic insects in the Midwest – and they’re doing a number on species like seatrout and redfish too!”
When asked what it is that Mike thinks sets FishLab apart from other manufacturers in the industry, he was quick to answer, saying, “Some of the projects we take on could get expensive for the consumer quickly, and that’s probably why a lot of guys don’t even bother going down the roads we have. We know the markets, we know the price points that sell, and we work with some of the best factories in the world to ensure our quality is second to none.”
Bill pointed out that, “FishLab has been around for several years, but last year was a pivotal point in our history in that the industry was shaken up by what we did and what we continue to do. The BBZ line absolutely took off last year and we are going to continue to push the design and innovation within that family of baits this year and beyond.”
And with that, the first teaser you’ll get today is an expansion on the BBZ Rat family with a new addition geared towards fishermen who know and like that classic, wakebait style rat. Where the BBZ Bio-Rat broke the mold for what a rat bait could do with the ability to be chugged, popped, ripped, slow-rolled, and even made to perform a unique walk-the-dog that you simply cannot produce with other baits in this or any other category, this new member of the BBZ Rat family will be more familiar to anglers. That said, it is in no way just another ‘me too’ bait to get FishLab’s foot in the wakebait door, this thing goes where no other plastic bait has ever gone before. The sound; the action; the surface commotion; the profile; it’s all unique to this bait and will simply blow your mind and have you rethinking what lure designers can do in plastic. The desirable waking swimming action remains true across all sizes, something only seen on high-end custom baits, another request of the people answered by the FishLab team. What’s even better, it does all this and more at the very same price point as the Bio-Rat, something that both retailers and consumers alike can get behind and support. You can literally buy several of these baits for the same total investment as other single baits fetch thereby opening up a ton of both new and existing anglers to this exciting market.
Next up, I got to see a new member of the Nature Series Creature Baits family, the epitome of incorporating the Science of the Strike into every bait FishLab designs by replicating true-to-life forage. Even with the early model of the new addition I saw, without giving anything away just yet, it was apparent how Bill and Mike tirelessly work to find ways to continually redefine what goes into a given bait category, and each and every component has a purpose, or it simply wouldn’t be included. They run through countless prototypes, putting them to real-world test scenarios, and nothing goes to market until it is perfect. This new Nature Series family member was designed to team up with one of the other new products set to debut at ICAST 2023 which I’ll get to in a moment, but like all FishLab baits it is not a one-trick pony. Depending on how an angler chooses to rig it, this single bait has the ability to successfully cross product lines and break through all preconceived molds.
Last in line is a straight-up tease of a pair of baits in a category that we all know and love, but which you’ll have to come back in the follow-up installment to see for yourself. It’s a bread-and-butter tool that every bass angler uses around the globe, that we’ve all been throwing since the early days of modern bass fishing, and that has become, for the most part, a somewhat stale design market. You see this line of baits in every tackle box and on every bass boat from the weekend angler to the seasoned pro, but FishLab is going to deliver it in a way in which you’ve never seen before or even imagined possible with design improvements and innovation that will redefine the category. They are going to take it from being a bait based on illusion, and through the Science of the Strike, take it to a level of realism never seen, right out of the package, and made accessible to every angler.
Once again, when I first set my eyes on these baits, much like in 2022, my eyes darn-near popped out of my head! My mind immediately began to race not only as I dreamed of putting them to use this year, but also as to exactly how they were able to take something so familiar, so basic, and turn it into something brand new. Just wait until you see the new spin that FishLab has put on this classic bait; there’s sure to be plenty of buzz about it come ICAST!
While I am not able just yet to give away everything that I was shown when I sat down with the FishLab team, rest assured that you’re once again seeing it here first and we will be coming back in a few weeks with the official debut of the entire FishLab ICAST 2023 debut product line. In the meantime be sure to contact Mark Rogers today at Mark@okumafishingusa.com or (909) 509-4843 to be the first in line to add these hot new FishLab baits to your retail store shelves to avoid finding yourself left back at the dock because you missed the boat!