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Event Coverage

Pete Robbins Highlights Baits from the 2008 Bassmaster Classic Consumer Expo

Date: 1/28/08
Event: Bassmaster Classic Expo
Location: Greenville, South Carolina
Reviewer: Pete Robbins, Special Contributing Author



Judging solely from this past weekend’s crowds at the Carolina First Center in Greenville, South Carolina, the purported recession has not yet hit the fishing industry. Long before the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo opened its doors each day, long lines of bass anglers and their families snaked around the building. While some vendors claimed that the large numbers of spectators did not translate into exuberant spending, at times the endless sea of humanity made it difficult to move within the building. The exposure to be gained by savvy manufacturers and retailers was significant.


A prototype Lucky Craft crankbait accounted for most of Kelly Jordon's Day 1 catch.

Unlike ICAST, the Classic is not usually an opportunity for tackle companies to introduce new products, but the evidence of what was displayed and what sold quickly likely demonstrates tackle trends.

Jordon also relied upon a TABU jig for a few key fish.

But the Classic Expo is not a tackle-only event. While several retailers and manufacturers leased space, the lion's share of the floor was inhabited by boat companies, Toyota, chambers of commerce and various related but not pure fishing (lower case) products.

WBT pro Debra Hengst shows off Strike King's new Sexy Spoon.

In some respects, this event was a test for what the national tackle market will look like. While exhibitors at shows like the Anglers Marine Bass-a-Thon know that the attendees are likely to fork over big bucks for certain brands of swimbaits, this show was a test of whether geographical biases would prevent such sales in the southeast. This test was catalyzed by the fact that the most significant (and some might say only) retail space for high-end tackle was occupied by California's Tackle Warehouse. Would their wares, some of which were developed or first embraced by California big bass hunters, be equally attractive to the southeastern angler raised on a different diet of tackle?

Grant Goldbeck was in the Omega booth to explain the benefits of his jig design.

Goldbeck's signature flipping jig from Omega.

The Paddletail Story: Swimbaits, particularly those of the hollow-bodied paddletail variety (as in the Basstrix) were everywhere. Every manufacturer seems to have one, from the Berkley Hollow Body to the Strike King Shadalicious to the (now PRADCO) Money Minnow. Only time will tell which prove to be the most popular, but each manufacturer can explain why he thinks theirs is the best. Chris Brown of Strike King and WBT pro Debra Hengst demonstrated the Shadalicious, with its unique color schemes that go all the way through the plastic. Those colors included the Sexy Shad hue which Kevin VanDam used to win two Elite Series events last year.

The Strike King Shadalicious is one of several new paddletail soft swimbaits.  It is available in the popular 'Sexy Shad' pattern.

PRADCO purchased the distribution rights for the Money Minnow immediately prior to the event and Alabama pro Jimmy Mason showed why he felt theirs was the best of the bunch. "It has a split belly to rig your hook," he said. "On other models you may have to re-rig your bait two or three times to get it straight and get the right swimming action." He used this lure in the sold-out River Shad color at the PAA Qualifier at Choke Canyon (Texas) to catch over 50 fish the first day and more than 20 the second day. He typically pairs it with a 5/0 weighted Davis hook with a screw-in keeper and 3/32 ounce weight on the shank and says that it is deadly slow rolled or retrieved steadily over shallow grass.

PRADCO has secured distribution rights to the Money Minnow. 

Swimbaits: Black Dog Baits had a small space within the Tackle Warehouse booth, but Optimum Baits was one of the few other manufacturers that traffics primarily in swimbaits to have a retail presence. Matt Paino of Optimum, who also heads up US efforts for Ima and Deps, said that it was of crucial importance to his company to be at the event.

Alabama pro Jimmy Mason attributed his success at the PAA's qualifier on Choke Canyon to the Money Minnow.

"The exposure is huge," he said. "Especially to have this event in a city in South Carolina, where 99 per cent of the people have never seen or heard of Deps and Ima."

The Deps Realiser and two sizes of Highsiders were among the few hard swimbaits in evidence. 

He said that swimbaits had been his number one mover during the show, both the Optimum baits and some of the larger hard baits from Deps. He displayed the Silent Killer and Highsider to crowds that likely had not seen them before. He also had the relatively new-to-the-US Realiser, a large shad-shaped bait developed to fish over grass in Japan's Lake Biwa. "It mimics the bream coming up to sun themselves," he said. "You retrieve it fast, then kill it and it slowly floats up."

The IMA Shaker, designed by Kentucky pro Bill Smith, is a flatsided crankbait with a circuit board lip and internal weight transfer system.

Paino also displayed the new products from Ima, Japan's leading manufacturer of saltwater lures. He has worked with the Japanese brass, as well as American pros Michael Murphy, Fred Roumbanis and Bill Smith to develop the company’s first entries into the US freshwater market, the Flit (jerkbait), Roumba (wakebait) and Shaker (crankbait), respectively. While the Roumba has gained a great deal of exposure over the winter, and is prominently featured on Roumbanis's Ima-wrapped Triton, this was one of the first public showings of the Shaker, a flat-sided, circuit-billed crankbait that resembles one of the handmade flat sides of the past. It casts like a bullet due to its internal weight-transfer system and was quite timely considering that many of the leading Classic contenders were shallow cranking.

Curt & Ty from Jackall show us some of their hottest baits.

Other Baits: In other hard bait news, Jackall Lures continues its quest to become the "next big thing" in American tackle. Their substantial advertising and promotional efforts seem to be reaping the desired benefits, as their sunfish and crappie-profiled Girons were sold out early on from the Tackle Warehouse booth. In addition to their space at TW, they also had a full-sized booth of their own and both their hardbaits and soft plastics (particularly the Cross Tail Shad and Flick Shake Worms) tempted anglers looking for new trends in finesse. Curt Arakawa and Ty Ono manned the booths and Kota Kiriyama and Chris Loftus represented the company in the Classic. Second place finisher Cliff Pace, who is not associated with the company, proclaimed on stage that the Jackall Squad Minnow is the best jerkbait he's ever used.

The Jackall Giron, a jointed panfish imitator available in four patterns, was among the hottest-selling lures at the show.

The southeast is a traditional stronghold for jigs – indeed, the tournament was won by Alton Jones on two PRADCO prototypes – and novel jigs were in abundant supply as well. SPRO had the K Finesse Wide Bite (designed by Gary Klein). Omega Custom Tackle received a huge return on their investment last year when they signed on as Derek Remitz's title sponsor – he rewarded them with a win on Amistad and a second place finish at the Delta – and now he's developed a signature football head jig for them. The company has also signed on Maryland pro Grant Goldbeck and allowed him to design a signature flipping jig, with a top-quality hook and precise paint jobs and skirt combinations. TABU Tackle ("Tackle Approved By Us") also displayed in the TW space. In addition to a finesse swimbait designed by Fred Roumbanis, their initial run of products was highlighted by a jig.

South Carolina pro Marty Robinson explained the benefits of the Buckeye Lures Mop Jig.

South Carolina pro Marty Robinson manned the Buckeye Lures booth where he explained the regional significance of the "mop jig." He said that it features "thicker rubber instead of silicone, although it uses a bit of silicone for color. It flares out and creates a natural action even if it's sitting still."

Vicious offers both a football head and a flipping jig in the Russ Lane signature series. 

Vicious is another company that has jumped feet-first into the lure market, with the Russ Lane signature series of baits, including a football jig and a flipping jig. Of the latter, Lane said that it's superior to its rivals because "the flat head makes it easy to skip and has ridges like a craw." Furthermore, he noted the novel trailer keeper and the detailed paint jobs rendered by noted Alabama lure designer William Davis.

The vicious paint jobs from William Davis are beautiful and the company claims that they will stand up to abuse from rocks and timber. 

Lane also demonstrated the distinctive blades on the Vicious spinnerbaits. "They have a scale pattern, but what really makes them different is that they're real thin with a flat profile," he said. "They pull harder than any other blades on the market." He also said that the lure features stronger wire than its counterparts from other companies: "There's a lot of confusion about that among fishermen. Thicker wire doesn't absorb the shock, it transfers it, so you actually feel the vibrations better." Like the jig, the spinnerbait features a trailer keeper that has a slot to hold a toothpick.

The Vicious spinnerbait features thin, relatively flat willowleaf blades with scale patterns. 

Russ Lane illustrates the important attributes of the Vicious spinnerbait. 

In the "other" category, several manufacturers displayed unconventional baits that played up recent events. For example, Strike King introduced the Sexy Spoon, building both on KVD's "sexy shad" phenomenon, and also on the recent popularity of using casting spoons (not jigging spoons) for offshore fish. While that technique had some regional popularity, particularly in Texas, it didn't become widely known until Texas pro Kelly Jordon whacked a few good limits on the spoon on the Ultimate Match Fishing TV show.

Aaron Martens was one of several pros to take advantage of the offer of free booth space from BASS.

Likewise, ever since Aaron Martens finished second at the 2004 Lake Wylie Classic, the "horsey head" spin has been widely known, but nowhere is it more popular in the Carolinas. Sworming Hornet lures had a perpetually packed booth, and Marty Robinson in the Buckeye Lures space showed off both their double-bladed Su-Spin as well as the more conventional Ditch Blade. Of the former, he said "it's the best there is in this area in cold clear water. It has two blades, but they're offset, which keeps them away from the trailer and allows them to spiny freely and provides additional flash. You can fish it deep and it's an awesome shad imitation."

While others touted swimbaits and other big fish attractors, the newest offering from Kicker Fish is a finesse worm.

Non-swimbait soft plastics were also well-represented, but there didn't appear to be much in the way of revolutionary designs. Kicker Fish showed off a finesse worm with seven holes in the trail that allow it to stand straight up, and promised that a seven and a half inch version would be on the way shortly.

Dave Maurice of Venom was riding high due to Charlie Hartley's success.

Venom Lures, the title sponsor of fan favorite Charlie Hartley, proudly displayed some of the lures that helped Hartley earn his Classic berth. They included a hand-poured dropshot minnow, a small paddle-tailed swimbait, the Senko-like Slingipede, and their Big Shot tube, a short, stubby flipping tube which provides a lot of bulk in a small package.

Venom's stubby tube was a key part of Hartley's tournament success.

Classic qualifiers were given the opportunity to fill free booth space with promotional items and their sponsors’ goods, so long as they could keep the booth manned at all times. Reigning angler of the year Skeet Reese had a large space selling logoed items as well as products from Lucky Craft, Lamiglas and Mercury. Others like Kota Kiriyama, Mike Iaconelli and Derek Remitz had smaller spaces. Aaron Martens used the opportunity to promote and sell his Aaron Martens Lures, specifically the “Scrounger,” an updated version of an old-school California jighead. Although the television coverage of the tournament only showed him fishing a dropshot, his representatives assured us that he was using the Scrounger as well.

Aaron Martens lures brings back the old-school scrounger with some modern-day soft plastics.

TackleTour would like to welcome Pete Robbins to our staff of Special Contributing Authors and thank him for his assistance in bringing us coverage of the 2008 Bassmaster Classic Consumer Exposition. Look for more from Pete in the coming months as he brings us his unique perspective on the fishing industry.










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