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The Best Fishing Rods and Reels of ICAST 2022

(Photo/Drew Farwell)
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The ICAST New Product Showcase 2022 Award Winners were announced last week and the lineup does not disappoint.

It’s always exciting to see what’s hidden behind the curtain at the big gear shows. This year was no exception. From new twists on old classics to completely innovative fishing tech, ICAST 2022 had a lot to offer.

When it comes to fishing gear, there’s an endless sea of gadgets, gizmos, and options. If you ask me, it’s the in-hand gear that garners the most excitement.

So, here’s a look at the fishing rods and reels that took home top honors for 2022.

Freshwater Rod: St. Croix Legend Tournament Bass

St Croix Legend

St. Croix is no stranger to winning awards at ICAST, with multiple category sweeps in the past. This year, it went bold with this wild grip. The Legend Tournament Bass Rod has a surprisingly tactical feel. Do you see it?

Pistol grips are nothing new in the world of fishing, but St. Croix decided to take the idea a bit more literally with this one. Why cast a line when you can shoot it across the water?

Saltwater Rod: Ugly Stik Carbon Inshore

Ugly Stik Carbon Inshore

Ugly Stik designed the Carbon Inshore Series to be a workhorse. The blank is constructed of 24-ton carbon, with a solid graphite tip, and one-piece stainless steel guides. The goal here is to provide maximum durability while still being light and responsive.

The look is cool. Silver detailing and stark black components on a saltwater blue rod give this rod a really clean image that looks the part.

Rod & Reel Combo: Shimano Spheros SW Combo

Shimano Spheros Saltwater Combo

The Shimano Spheros SW Combo is a spin casting rod set designed to perform on the ocean. This kit includes the redesigned Spheros SW spinning reel, which has Shimano’s Infinity Drive technology. Increased power and a smoother spin are the goals with this updated reel.

Capable of throwing artificial and live bait, this rod has an EVA handle and a large reel seat to get the job when the fight is hard.

Fly Reel & Fly Fishing Accessories: Hardy Fortuna Regent Saltwater Fly Reel

Hardy Fortuna Regent Saltwater Fly Reel

The Hardy Fortuna Regent Saltwater Fly Reel is a beaut. This is one of the few reels from the show that stuck out to me. It just feels good in the hand. It’s substantial but still pleasantly lightweight.

The reel’s construction centers around a waterproof hub that houses a carbon fiber disk drag system. Having the main components isolated away from saltwater definitely extends your reel’s life.

It’s good to see Hardy making waves on this side of the pond.

Freshwater Reel: Shimano STELLA FK

Shimano STELLA FK Reel

First of all, the Stella FK just looks cool. Its sleek, gunmetal, monochromatic aesthetic is pleasing to the eye. That being said, it also is built for performance. Like the Spheros combo reel, the Stella FK has Shimano’s Infinity Drive. You may not need saltwater-level, gamefish power on a freshwater reel, but you still want to have the ability to land what you’re after.

One feature I think is underrated is the addition of an anti-twist fin to reduce line twisting. If you’ve gotten the dreaded loop that instantaneously grows itself into a bird’s nest, you know what I mean. Line twist can ruin an entire day … reel quick.

Saltwater Reel: PENN Authority Spinning Reel

Pure Fishing, Inc. PENN Authority Spinning Reel

Penn’s Authority Spinning Reel put a priority on keeping the internal workings dry. Both the spool and body are sealed to prevent saltwater from reaching the internal components, even when the reel is completely submerged. Available in just about every size you can possibly need, the Authority Spinning Reel will fit whatever fishing scenario you find yourself in

Fly Fishing Rod: Banshee Fly, Bull Bay Tackle Company 

The Banshee Fly Rod ($399) from Bull Bay Tackle Company has one defining feature that differentiates it from every other new fly rod on the market — the top of the grip is designed with rings that correspond with the rod weight: the more rings, the heavier.

Is it a game-changer? No. Is it cool? Absolutely.

It’s one of those little details that fly fishermen live for. The neutral tones of both the rod and wrap give it a slick, almost retro look and the price point hits that sweet midlevel spot.

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