Once a year the fishing industry gets together to demonstrate and talk about the new products for the coming year. This year’s International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) chose Orlando for its big event. All the big boys like Berkley, Johnson Outdoors, Shimano and many more were there to show their wares.
ICAST is closed to the public, so the new products are displayed and demonstrated only to attending media who might write about it and buyers looking to stock their shelves with the newest and best fishing tackle for their customers. It is interesting to note, that most of the new products from small companies are the result of filling a perceived need or solving a personal problem related to fishing.
Take the OutlawMAX Game Changer for example. Pro crappie angler Whitey Outlaw was frustrated with the ability of big crappie in shallow water to avoid the hookup. After fishing a tournament on Granada Lake he came up with an idea for a new crappie jig. “Grenada is known for big crappie,” says Whitey. “Often those big crappie hit and run sideways on you. The hook up rate on those fish is something I wanted to improve on.”
The idea was a jig head with three hooks. “My lure has three hooks and you can bend them anyway you want. Straight up and down, side by side, many combinations are possible.”
Whitey had used Rockport Rattler jig heads before, so he went to Chicky Tackle owner Charles Sablatura with his idea. The two fishing enthusiasts were at the 333 Restaurant in Granada where Whitey sketched out his idea on a 333 napkin as Sablatura looked on.
Charles Sablatura recalls that time back in 2013 when he was introduced to the Game Changer concept. “Whitey came to me and said he had an idea for a new bait. He explained that some of the lakes they fish have some absolutely gigantic crappie. We were in Mississippi at Lake Grenada, the perfect example of a big fish lake. They have up to 4 pound crappie there and they fight like they’re on steroids.”
Crappie anglers know that when spring rolls around and the crappie are up in the shallows they hit and run sideways, because they can’t go down. That strike is often so fast and they shake so hard they often throw the hook. “Whitey explained to me that the miss rate could be as high as 70 percent on those big energetic fish,” explained Sablatura. “Very simply, he wanted to put more crappie in the boat and he thought he had a way to do it.”
The concept was similar to existing Rockport Rattler crappie jigs, but it included 3 hooks. “The Game Changer has the standard crappie jig in the middle,” explained Sablatura. “Flared out to each side perpendicular to the standard hook is a second and third hook. It is similar to a treble hook but the hooks are three different shanks, allowing you to use standard jig techniques. The new jig can be tipped with a minnow or a plastic on that center hook. In other words all the stuff you can do with a standard crappie jig you can do with this bait.”
The new jig head also contains the all ready proven rattle system of the original Rock Port Rattler. Field testing the product in tournament fishing, Outlaw and his fishing partner Mike Parrott have found the OutlawMAX to be tremendously effective. The fishing duo has effectively locked up the Team of the Year honors for the 2014 Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters tournament trail. They did it with two 1st place finishes; one state championship in Alabama, four 4th place and two 5th place finishes! This accomplishment came just halfway through the 2014 season.