ICAST 2016, Part I: Showtime!


ICAST! In the angling world, all eyes are on the fishing industry’s largest trade show to sneak a peek at new product for the next year. For years I scanned social media during ICAST week mining for information, waited for updates and photos to be posted, searched ‘#ICAST’ obsessively every fifteen minutes or so looking for new gear, tackle, equipment, reviews, anything!


This year, I was invited to be part of the team at the show. Kid in candy store? No. My excitement level was more on par with… well, an angler headed for ICAST! In Orlando!

There’s a lot of hustle, sweat and deadline battling happening in the months/weeks/days leading up to the show, and there aren’t enough kind words to say of the incredibly passionate and hard-working family we have at the factory in Sparta, Tennessee. Jackson Kayak teammate and fellow factory employee Matt Cunningham & I were at long last loaded down with new product and headed south.


We brought two new fishing kayaks– the Cuda HD, still in preproduction (meaning the development team is still dialing in different components on/of the kayak – maybe adding a logo here, a different seal there, etc) and the MayFly, still very much in preproduction. The Cuda HD was much further along in the process, looking much like a finished kayak. The MayFly hatched Sunday night, picked up by our JK Media House and delivered to the show Monday afternoon after a 48 hour weekend *marathon* work session by the factory team. We added a few trimmings at the show itself, and the MayFly was ready for launch!


Two non-air conditioned days worth of setting up the booth (and multiple showers) later, it was showtime! Other kayaks from the factory included the Cuda LT and Kilroy LT (thermoformed boats that have about a ten pound weight savings over their rotomolded counterparts), Kilroy DT (our sit-inside tandem), Skipper (full-featured fishing kayak sized for kids), Kraken 13.5 Elite, Coosa HD Pro and Cruise Angler 10.

Damon Bungard, product manager for Jackson Kayak and brand manager for Orion Coolers ran us through updates for 2017 – here are a few highlightsseat-system-comp

• New Elite Seating System on our premium tier of kayaks is mounted with YakAttack’s Mighty Bolts to tracks on the deck. This lets you adjust the trim of your kayak while sitting in the seat by loosening the bolt and scooting the seat fore and aft, and you have the option of a high or low seating position. We’ve partnered with Platypus to integrate a 1.8L hydration bladder into the seat system – we encourage the use of reusable hydration to minimize waste in the waters we love! The Therm-A-Rest lumbar support and water-resistant SealLine seatback pouch are back from last year, and we’ve added a LineCutterz ring to the seat to make quick work of changing lures (except the MayFly where it’s a fly line hazard). The seat can still be easily removed for use at camp or on the bank, and an Orion 25 can be used interchangeably as an even higher seating option.


• Cuda HD – Improvements to both hull design and deck staging were added to this new ‘heavy-duty’ version. Longer, slightly wider hull = more stability and capacity than the original Cuda. The hinged bow hatch has an integrated paddle blade keeper, new hatch closures and is bungee-free (I snarl my treble hooks on bow bungee regularly!). Rod protection gets an upgrade with internal tubular housing, making it much less likely for the rod to become unseated in a tight spot. Uses the new Elite Seating System. On-the-water was to follow directly..


• MayFly – This kayak was designed top to bottom with the fly fisherman in mind. Fly line management is a challenge in most fishing kayaks – anything that can grab a line…. does! The MayFly is fly line-friendly and snag risk was eliminated from every feature. Our foot pegs have been replaced with a foot brace on a recessed track, and fly box storage with fly patches are in easy reach. Fly rod reels seat perfectly in the rear hatch recesses. Uses the new Elite Seating System and has the same rod protection and bow hatch as the Cuda HD. The MayFly hull is based on the Coosa HD but tweaked for better tracking and stability. This kayak isn’t exclusively for those who fly fish – anyone who appreciates a clean deck will be a fan of this ride!


• Orion Coolers seat back/carry handle system (name TBD) – this new product lets you sit back and relax on your Orion 25. The frame attaches to the GearTrac on the sides of the cooler and can be rotated forward and locked down converting the seat to a carry handle.


• Orion wheels – YES! It was time. When the Orion is sitting on the wheels in the ‘roll’ position its easy to ‘park’ it by lifting the cooler using the recessed handle, kicking out the wheels and putting it flat on the ground – it won’t roll away!

We had a great show with a lot of new folks seeing our kayaks and coolers for the first time, a lot of folks who already were using our products swing through to say hello and some of our FLW crew (Jimmy Houston, Brad Knight, Scott Canterbury & Wesley Strader to name a few) in addition to our own Jim Sammons, Drew Gregory and a host of other Jackson Kayak team members on hand to talk about some of what we’re most passionate about – our products and our fishing!


After the show wrapped Friday afternoon we loaded the trailer and most of our teammates flew home. Matt and I were smack in the middle of the sportfishing capital of the world with brand-new boats perfectly suited for Florida fishing… the Cuda HD.


We left Orlando and pointed the truck toward Clearwater to fish the flats around Tampa Bay for a couple days before returning home – but that’s another story. Part two coming soon!

~ Bridgett Howard

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