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Buzzing About Best Boat

Predator XL kayak prevails as winner of ICAST's Overall Best of Show

There was a positive buzz at the Johnson Outdoors Watercraft booth over its Predator XL, the ICAST 2014 Overall Best of Show winner. (Mike Suchan photo) There was a positive buzz at the Johnson Outdoors Watercraft booth over its Predator XL, the ICAST 2014 Overall Best of Show winner. (Mike Suchan photo)

By: Mike Suchan, OutdoorChannel.com

ORLANDO, Fla. – Excitement hit the Johnson Outdoors Watercraft team when news spread of their big win at ICAST. The crew at their hotel busted out of their rooms announcing it to anyone within earshot as they headed out to celebrate.

“Overall Best of Show, Baby!”

Marketing manager Luke LaBree related his “funny story.” He said the envelope advising winners to be at the awards ceremony came after he had already left for the hotel.

“They called and said we had two minutes to get over here, so we ran across four lanes of traffic, diving over stuff to get in here,” LaBree said. “We run into the doors just as they started the ceremony, and we ended up winning Best of Show Boat. They said to stick around, and sure enough we were back up on stage for Overall Best of Show.”

Their winning product voted on by media and buyers is the Predator XL, a 13-foot-long, 3-foot-wide kayak that weighs 95 pounds. Its attraction is a 45-pound thrust Minn Kota console mounted motor that is interchangeable with an electronics console or flat decking.

“When developing this product, we wanted something that had a little bit for everybody,” LaBree said. “When you’re in kayak tournament, you can’t use motors. So you can prefish with the motor (which tops out at about 4 ½ mph). Then boom, take the motor out and drop in your electronics console in a matter of seconds. You got your fish finder and everything all in one unit, and you’re street legal for the tournament, so to speak.”

With its original Predator winning last year, the Johnson Outdoors Watercraft team is familiar with what a Best of Show can do for business.

“It’s really important," LaBree said. "Being here at the show in front of this crowd, the publications and all the word of mouth, we love ICAST as a big reveal. It’s a great place to showcase a new product, and winning really exposes this and gets it out there.”

There was a definite buzz at their booth, and not just with media and buyers coming to check out the overall winner. All the workers and staff were rather stoked. There’s was a huge sense of pride throughout the team members.

“When we design things like this, we don’t just sit down in a closed-door room and come up with an idea,” LaBree said. “We involve our pro staffers, our dealers. We bring a council together and bring ideas. We get on the water and test it, and try new things. At the end of the day, everybody’s got a little feedback and we make modifications and go from there.

“We, as a company with a heritage of 120 years, take a lot of pride in what we design and develop. So from the guys on the floor putting the first bits of resin in the mold, to the guys finishing it off, the design crew and everybody inbetween, it’s an enormous sense of pride. We put our hearts and soul in designing it, and to have an industry recognize it, this accomplishment is really something.”

More than 700 tackle products and accessories were entered by 253 companies into 24 “Best of Show” categories in the New Product Showcase this year.

“I congratulate all of the winners and everyone who participated in the New Product Showcase,” ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman said. “Every year it’s amazing to see all the creativity and ingenuity our member companies use to add curiosity, excitement and discovery to the adventure of fishing. I also thank Fishing Tackle Retailer for their sponsorship of this important event.”

The “Best of Show” awards, sponsored by Rapala, were presented on Wednesday during the Chairman’s Industry Awards Reception.

ICAST 2014 Best of Show Awards

Overall Best of Show

Johnson Outdoors Watercraft
Predator XL

Best of Show Winners

Freshwater Rod
Duckett Fishing
Micro Magic Pro

Saltwater Rod
Shimano American Corporation
Terez Stand Up

Fly Fishing Rod
G. Loomis, Inc.
PRO4x Short Stix

Freshwater Reel
Pure Fishing, Inc.
Abu-Revo Beast

Saltwater Reel
Pure Fishing, Inc.
PENN Battle II Spinning

Fly Fishing Reel
3TAND, LLC
TF-70 Sealed Fly Reel

Hard Lure
SPRO Corporation
BBZ-1 Rat

Soft Lure
Okuma Fishing Tackle Corporation
Savage Gear 3D PVC Crab

Lifestyle Apparel
Pelagic, Inc.
4TEK Fish Finder Boardshort

Technical Apparel
STORMR
Fusion Bib

Boating Accessory
Johnson Outdoors
Minn Kota Ulterra Trolling Motor

Boats
Johnson Outdoors Watercraft
Predator XL

Combo
Lew’s Fishing Tackle
American Hero Baitcast Combo

Electronics
Johnson Outdoors
Humminbird ONIX 8SI

Eyewear
Costa
Hamlin - 580P Mirror Lenses

Fishing Accessory
Lit-Industries, LLC
Lit Coolers

FishSmart Tackle
Cuda Fishing Tools
Cuda Grip & Scale

Fly Fishing Accessory
Plastica Panaro SRL
M2300 – Fly Caddy

Footwear
Columbia Sportswear
Megavent PFG

Giftware
Helter Skeletons, Ltd.
Authentic Skeletal Articulation

Kids’ Tackle
ZEBCO Brands
ZEBCO Splash Combos

Line
Pure Fishing, Inc
Berkley IronSilk

Tackle Management
ENGEL U.S.A.
UC30-RH

Terminal Tackle
Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle
TroKar TK619

Click here for videos, stories and photos from ICAST 2014.

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