The fishing industry’s largest expo of new products is taking a very different approach this year, but the excitement to see the newest offerings from the sport’s top companies may be at an all-time high.


With the coronavirus pandemic crippling many of the most popular venues for entertainment and recreation, participation in fishing is through the roof this year.


Because of the virus’ spread, the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, or ICAST 2020 for short, saw its physical show in Orlando, Fla., canceled and will instead put on a virtual exhibition of all the new products.


Following is a preview of some of the new products from top companies that will be shown off during the virtual show, which runs July 13-17 at ICASTfishing.org.


Rapala


Rapala and its subsidiaries have a wide variety of new lures and items coming in for 2021, with the new Rap-V Blade lipless crankbait particularly striking.


The versatile bait can be fishing vertically or on the retrieve and comes in 16 different color patterns. The company also is unveiling a new Ott DeFoe signature series in the OG Slim 6 (OG standing for Ott’s Garage). These crankbaits come with a thin, rounded lip that produce a medium wobble and tight side-to-side action and come in 14 color patterns.


Rapala is introducing a new big-bodied topwater bait, as well, with the X-Rap Magnum Xplode. These come in 2 3/16-ounce and 5-ounce versions and feature, respectively, 2/0 and 5/0 VMC 75 Series 6X Tropic Spark Point trebles hooks. The 5-ounce version clocks in at just under 7 inches long (6 3/4).


The lure company also is unveiling new colors for several old favorites, including the Down Deep Husky Jerk, Super Shad Rap, Shad Dancer, Shadow Rap and RipStop, as well as pro custom colors for its DT series of crankbaits.


Storm, a subsidiary of Rapala, is doubling down on the jointed swimbait market after last year’s release of the Arashi Glide with its new Arashi Swimmer, a 7-inch, three-segment swimbait with a moderate sinking action.


Storm also is introducing its new Largo Shad soft-plastic paddletail swimbait in 3- and 4-inch varieties. These are exciting because in addition to the typical colors like Electric Chicken and Sexy Shad, there are several photorealistic options that include Live Bluegill, Live Minnow, Live River Shad, Live Threadfin Shad and Live Yellow Perch. They are good-looking baits that I think could be good multi-species baits.


VMC, which handles a lot of Rapala’s terminal tackle options, is offering a new Tokyo Rig Finesse Neko setup that is pretty intriguing in its applications for those who like to drop shot and use similar methods to entice bass. It’s also offering new sizes for its popular bladed treble hooks, with a short-shank option also set to enter the market in 2021.


Another interesting offering from VMC is its new Techset Assist Hooks, which are featured as tandem hooks on Williamson’s new Kensaki Jigs.


Also intriguing for finesse fishing enthusiasts are VMC’s new Moon Tail Jig series, which feature an "oversized aspirin head shape" with a low-profile bucktail and a UV finish on four of its 10 color patterns. They feature both 2/0 and 3/0 sickle hooks and range in weight from 1/8 ounce to 3/8 ounce. This could be a good smallmouth bass bait, but also serve as a panfish magnet.


Finally, Luhr-Jehnsen, another Rapala subsidiary, is introducing a new teaser head for live bait that creates a rolling action that’s pretty unique. Might be good for you trollers out there.


Strike King


Strike King has an array of new lures it’s introducing for 2021, but the main one that caught my eye was the new Hybrid Hunter crankbait.


The Hybrid Hunter is named the way it is because this lure functions as both a crankbait and a jerkbait. It floats, but dives to 5 feet with its L-shaped lip — similar to the 6th Sense Swank 77X — that helps it rip through vegetation without getting caught up in it like other traditional crankbaits. With the eye-popping color patterns and it’s flat sides, it’s an interesting design for a crankbait that I think makes it stand out, and in my eyes it’s got a good chance to win a Best of Category award. It will be available for purchase in the fall, probably the best time of year to fish a crankbait. Perfect timing.


Strike King also upgraded its finesse offerings with the Weedless Tour Grade Ned Head and Ned Rage Tail Craw. The Weedless Ned Head takes the sickle hook design of its older Ned Head and adds a wire weed guard. The Ned Rage Tail Craw is sure to get a lot of looks from bass anglers, as the company took one of its most popular designs and downsized it for a Ned Rig application. The flanged claws on the crawdad help displace water and create action. This is pretty clearly a response to Z-Man’s TRD CrawZ, but I do look forward to trying these out. When fish are aggressive, this could be a good alternative to other Ned rig trailers that have less action.


Other new Strike King lures of note include the KVD 1.5 Hard Knock crankbait, which includes a rattle unlike the original KVD 1.5, as well as the downsized KVD J100 Jerkbait and the new Tour Grade Spinnerbait.


Z-Man


The undisputed king of everything Ned Rig is offering up a new series of lures in 2021 that are sure to catch your eye, regardless of what style of fishing you prefer.


The new GOAT Series of lures — available Dec. 1 — offers three sizes of new flapper baits that will fit just about any style of fishing you are interested in, from a Ned rig trailer to a ChatterBait trailer to a topwater frog or even a bass jig trailer.


The 3-inch Baby GOAT makes for an ideal finesse bait, while the 3.75-inch GOAT and 4.25-inch Billy Goat work great on bigger bass jigs to give a flapping, double paddle-tailed action. Because they are made of buoyant ElaZtech, they can also be fished as a weedless topwater on an extra-wide gap hook. The versatility of this lure alone makes it an intriguing addition to the company’s lineup for 2021.


Z-Man is also upsizing several of its already successful finesse designs to make them more appealing to power anglers, including its Finesse BulletZ belly-weighed hooks that have become a popular finesse option when paired with the TRD CrawZ. The larger hook design is called the Pro BulletZ.


With the new upsized BulletZ, the company also is offering an upsized Pro CrawZ trailer that features a recessed hook slot to pair perfectly with the weedless, Texas rig-style of the Pro BulletZ. That bait will be available Nov. 15.


Another new finesse offering from the company is its Finesse EyeZ minnow-style jigheads, which can pair with any 3- to 5-inch swimbait. The company says the 3-inch Z-Man MinnowZ is an ideal matchup for the jighead and can be fished all along the water column, either horizontally or vertically. Personally, I’m looking forward to pairing this option with Z-Man’s GrubZ plastics for fall crappie fishing. I’ll have to wait to see how big they are in person, but I think I’d even like to see them go even a size smaller for those of us fishing vertically with 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-inch stinger-tail jigs during the colder months.


Of course, there are a few new ChatterBait offerings from the company, as well, with the new Jackhammer Stealth Blade, featuring a clear polycarbonate blade to help target fish in clear or pressured waters, and the new snag-resistant CrosseyeZ ChatterBait.