The newest tackle trend to come out of the recent ICAST trade show in Las Vegas is a weighty issue. As anglers peruse the rod aisles and reel counters later this fall, they’re going to notice that many of the latest rods and reels have lost weight.

“ICAST” is the acronym for the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades. The annual trade show is where companies unveil their new goodies to wholesale and retail buyers for the following year, and while many of the products are labeled as “2012 introductions,” several will begin appearing in retail outlets later this summer and during the fall.

Much of the rod trend has been ignited by the popularity of rods configured with “micro guides,” dainty eyelets that keep the line flowing closer to the blank, yet off the rod during each cast. This trend was initiated by Bassmaster Elite Pro Boyd Duckett who blazed the trail with his own Duckett MicroMagic rods (www.duckettfishing.com) that he introduced in 2007.

Initial angler reception to the radical change was lukewarm. In fact, the first time I showed up at a local bass event with Duckett rods to test, my buddies snickered. Today, they’re drawing rave reviews. Other manufacturers have noticed, too, as several implemented similar versions on baitcast models they rolled out at ICAST this year. Those companies include Quantum, Kistler, St. Croix, CastAway, Airrus, and Abu Garcia, to name a few.

“It is the real deal and not just a gimmick,” says Chris Strickland, product manager for Quantum, which has expanded its micro guide lineup. “The public is really responding.”

You can’t blame anglers for being skeptical early on. Larger conventional line guides have been the standard on fishing rods for decades. But once you cast a rod draped with micro-style guides, you notice the difference immediately.

Appearance aside, weight is the first thing you’ll notice. Although these new generation rods have more guides spaced closer together, they are considerably lighter – some claim 85 percent lighter than traditional guides. By reducing weight, more guides can be added to enhance rod performance, says Duckett.

“These rods are far more sensitive, because sensitivity comes from points of contact along the blank and that’s transmitted faster through the smaller guide,” he explains. “It makes a $149 rod feel like a $400 rod.”

Lures will cast farther, especially heavier lures, because there is less drag from the line slapping the blank. Some anglers swear the new guide design enhances casting accuracy as well.

“On traditional guides, the line moves around as it runs down the rod during the cast, but with micros, the line stays fairly straight,” Duckett offers.

Spinning rods dressed with micro guides still have a couple of conventional stripper guides near the reel end of the rod due to the nature of spinning reel and how the line spills into the first guide. However, Strickland says they are still more sensitive, and, he adds, the guide alignment reduces line twist issues commonly found on spinning tackle.

Disadvantages? You bet. Threading line through the tiny guides isn’t easy in low light. If you use braid and tie a fluorocarbon leader to it, the knot may hang up in the smaller guides. Also, some companies’ early versions of micro guides had a breakage issue, but that has since been corrected.

“The rods aren’t for everyone nor are they for all types of fishing applications,” says Strickland. “But for basic bass fishing applications, it’s here to stay.”

Reels: Companies also are discovering ways to reduce weight in reels thanks to new components and overall reel design. Garcia’s new MGX (5.4 ounces), for example, is more than a full ounce lighter than its Revo Premier, a top selling bass reel. Quantum took weight out of the frame on its new EXO “Skeletal” Series without sacrificing strength. Several Bassmaster Elite pros who fished prototype versions this season gave the EXO (5.9 ounces) rave reviews.

“There’s a significant difference in weight and comfort,” says 2011 Bassmaster Angler of Year Kevin VanDam, whose Quantum KVD Tour reels of prior years weigh nearly 3 ounces more.

When you reduce weight in a rod and reel, it equates to more sensitivity and less arm fatigue during a day of casting. That can make the difference in how efficiently you capitalize on light bites or unexpected strikes that occur late in the day after a long day on the water.

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