If you were unable to attend the Houston Fishing Show at the George R. Brown Center in Houston this past week or even if you simply didn’t care to make the drive….you missed a very good show and that certainly isn’t the case every year. The seminars were good, a number of new products made their debut and several prominent lure manufacturers were there for the first time.

I visited with Bob Norton, owner of Norton Lures, the first day and his expanded soft plastic line-up for 2014 was impressive. This year he has added a new paddle tail to his angler favorite stable of sand eels and bull minnows called the sand shad. The body is tough yet supple and shaped much like the original sand eel with a paddle tail that generates a ton of vibration on the slowest of retrieves.

In addition to the Sand Shad he has also added several new colors that will be especially good here on Sabine. His version of chicken on a chain jumps out of the package!

Over the years, several manufacturers have taken a swing at giving us a jig head with a willow leaf blade and hook that will accommodate larger tails and hold redfish as well as flounder. Norton’s new Mad Mullet looks to be the long awaited answer. He had them on display at the show in one eighth and quarter ounce sizes with a screw lock head. I personally prefer the knobby lead shank on my jig heads and he said that the Mad Mullet would be available in both styles in the next few weeks.

I wanted to spend more time with Shawn and Dana at the Tidal Surge Booth, but they were covered up with folks that were desperately looking for two specific colors in the Crazy Croaker and the trout bite on Sabine Lake was the reason. This was their first time to work the show and there was no doubt that they were both surprised and pleased with the angler response.

They expected to sell a lot of Maniac Mullets, but the Crazy Croaker rush sent them scrambling back to the workshop for more. Their twin paddle tail, The Thing, also moved quickly once Dana demonstrated the most effective way to retrieve the new bait. He said that it fished much better on a quarter ounce head and was the most lethal when reeled on a steady retrieve just beneath the surface.

I can’t wait to fish a Gulp Swimming Mullet on Norton’s new Mad Mullet head, but The Thing may possibly work even better for trout and redfish. Oh yes, and as far as the two colors in the Crazy Croaker…… all of the Sabine Lake fishermen were asking for…..pearl-pink and gold-chartreuse.

Shimano also had ten of their new bait casters available until fifteen minutes after the doors open and the only one I held in my hand( it had already been purchased) looked like a positive addition for 2014. It is very light, noticeably smooth and has an exceptionally low profile. In truth, there are so many quality bait casters on the market today that I am reluctant to hang my hat on a single reel.

There was also no doubt that the rod industry is flourishing as your head would have been swimming had you visited every rod builder in the house. Not unlike bait casting reels, the choices are virtually unlimited and every manufacturer is building a variety of quality sticks that are not only durable, but feather light as well.

I won’t even try to list all of the makes that were under one roof, but I was especially pleased to see both Laguna and Sarge’s Custom rods in big demand. Both owners worked together only a few years ago and both have now managed to carve out their own niche in a very competitive business.

I spent much of the show visiting with Chris Williamson as I decided to go with Laguna following the split. Chris was all smiles and covered up with new customers only minutes after the doors opened.“There’s a world of difference in busting your butt just to make ends meet and busting your butt to keep up with new business,” stated an obviously pleased Williamson.

Not surprisingly, the most sought after rod in his extensive line-up was any model with the new Cyclone wrap. Fishermen have discovered that the “wrap around” guides all but totally eliminate the dreaded wind knot when fishing with braid and it reduces line drag as well. They have also discovered that, while not as personal and elaborate, the Liquid series rods are available in the same models as their custom rods and come in at less than $200!

You don’t have to drive to Houston to check out the cyclone wrap as Daley’s Hunt N Fish currently has every model in stock. Chris asked us to bring 24 of them back to Daley’s new store on Nederland Avenue and they still had several in stock as late as Friday evening. All of the models are available with the conventional wrap and different styles of eyes as well.