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Sarley: Trying to beat the heat at Orlando's ICAST

Adam Brown caught this incredible 31-pound king salmon on Capt. Caleb Weiner’s Migrator out of Winthrop Harbor. It was the largest king ever caught on the Migrator.
Adam Brown caught this incredible 31-pound king salmon on Capt. Caleb Weiner’s Migrator out of Winthrop Harbor. It was the largest king ever caught on the Migrator.

After a mere four hours of fishing in the 95-degree heat with 95% humidity on Lake Toho in Kissimmee, Florida, I was wiped out. The work at the ICAST convention back in Orlando doesn’t stop, however.

Once the trophies were passed out, it was on to the convention hall. ICAST offers an event called “On the Water,” which allows a small number of select exhibitors the opportunity to display their wares on a small lake positioned outside the exhibition hall.

In attendance were a few kayak manufacturers offering the opportunity to hop in their boats and paddle around for a while. A couple of lure manufacturers gave attendees the opportunity to cast their products to see and feel the action. Some of the rod builders offered a chance to try casting their products. Lowrance, who was getting into the trolling motor game for the first time, offered bass boat rides powered by their new electric model.

Working the booths was tough duty for employees who had to man their employer’s spaces in that oppressing heat and humidity. I don’t think it was an accident that most of the exhibiting company’s top executives were inside the air-conditioned exhibit hall setting up their booths.

Whenever I see my old friend Mike Iaconelli, he usually throws his arms out wide and says, “Bring it in, Steve!” expecting a big hug. I was so drenched in sweat at the On the Water display that when he saw me, he threw his arms wide and very quickly put them down while shaking his head negatively. Ike wasn’t even going to consider putting his arms around my soaking wet frame.

Man, it was brutally hot. I can’t believe that people drive 16 hours to go down to Orlando to stand in endless lines with their children waiting to ride “It’s a Small World” at Disney World. I especially can’t believe that I did that same thing about 20 years ago with my own family. I must have been crazy!

I had a cab driver ask me where I lived, and when I told him, he replied, “Wow! How can you live in a place like Chicago? How can you stand the weather?”

“Well, my friend,” I told him, “I’ll take our snow and sleet and sub-zero temperatures any day before I’d live in this inferno you people live in down here.”

After the On the Water event ended, we moved inside to examine all of the entries in the “New Product Showcase,” where manufacturers enter their best new products to be scrutinized and voted on by buyers and media members. There are 29 categories of products to consider and then one is voted on as the overall best new product of the year.

I take this balloting seriously, and it takes a couple of hours to check out all the new goodies. I also did quite a bit of research on the new products that had been announced to be there through the scads of news releases that came out in the days preceding the show. The manufacturers take this judging very seriously. A best of category prize can make or break a company’s sales effort for the year. A best of show overall award is like winning the lottery for a manufacturer.

The next day started two days’ worth of continuously walking up and down the aisles of the 650,000 square feet of the Orange County Convention Center. I will wager that I logged at least 10 miles a day. I wish I had a Fitbit to have kept count. Thank goodness for my trusty Keen sandals that I wear every day from at least April through October. They saved my feet.

In addition to being able to see more fishing equipment under one roof than you could ever possibly imagine, ICAST offers the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the biggest names in the sport. It’s great to be able to talk to legends such as Bill Dance, Roland Martin and Hank Parker. These guys are all still going strong and work the booths of their sponsors from the show’s opening to its close.

The modern-day stars such as Iaconelli, Skeet Reese, Edwin Evers, Kevin VanDam and Jacob Wheeler all attend, too. It’s fun to watch the new young stars of the sport, such as Jordan Lee, get surrounded by hordes of autograph seekers. It’s a new experience for these young stars, and it seems to surprise them when it happens.

The fishing business is really a world built around bass fishing, but there were pockets of pros from other types of fishing, too. “Mr. Crappie” Wally Marshall drew throngs of fans.

Quite a few walleye pros were there, including really young stars such as Max Wilson, Dylan Nussbaum and Korey Sprengel. I think walleye fishing is growing by the day.

I’ll wrap up the show with some talk about the new products next week.


Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “The dams at McHenry, Algonquin and Carpentersville are seeing some fairly stained water, but it is clearing up as the week goes on. Catfish continue to hit stinkbait, cut bait and large minnows.

“McHenry County Conservation District Area has Lake Atwood in the Hollows. This lake holds bluegill, bass and catfish. They all can be caught on nightcrawlers. No minnows are allowed here.

“Crystal Lake has Vulcan Lake at Threes Oaks Recreation Area. Try to fish in 15 to 25 feet with a dropshot rig tipped with a plastic. I like Big Bite’s Trick Sticks or a Shaking Squirrel 4.5-inch worm. A Defender jig also works here for those deep-water bites.

“For more info on northern Illinois fishing, call 815-455-2040 for an updated report.”

Fox Chain O’ Lakes: Chris Taurisano of T-Bone Guide Service ( – 630-330-9090) sends word, “Bluegills are running good in the shallows on small jigs tipped with waxies. Walleyes are fair on jig-and-crawler combos. Trolling with Flickr Shads is worth a shot. Hit shorelines that are covered with rip-rap or that have the current blowing into them. Muskies are eating bucktails and topwater lures. Bass are fair on topwaters and plastics.”

Lake Michigan: The Lake Michigan fishing report is provided by Capt. Caleb Weiner of Migrator Charters.

“Fishing this summer never ceases to amaze us. We get a few tougher days of fishing and then, bam, a new batch of fish shows up. Coho, kings, lakers and rainbows are all hitting.

“Fishing seems to be steady from 100 feet all the way down to 230, with the last few days being better in the 100- to 130-foot range.

“The rainbows have really liked the modified Blue Dolphin Stinger and especially the RV Moonshine Blue Flounder. The coho have been hitting a variety of white Hotspots with Howie Bullfrogs and Super Frogs. The best spoon has been the RV Moonshine Orange Flounder. The best king rod has been the 200-copper with either the Moonshine Raptor or Stinger NBK.

“The coho are huge, and the kings are massive. This will be a summer to remember. Give us a call at 224-234-3704 or check us out at”

• Steve Sarley writes about the outdoors for Shaw Media. Write to him at Steve does a weekly podcast about fishing called “WeFishASA.” You can find it at

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