First-time exhibitor wins Best of Show at ICAST this week

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Brian McKinnon, Phil McKinnon and Jac Arbour, of PacBak, rocked the ICAST Show in Orlando, Fla., when their newcomer business from Anchorage, Alaska, won the Best of Show Award on Thursday, July 21.

Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Fla. — Upstart product developer Brian McKinnon is the king of the 2022 ICAST Show after PacBak, a self-designed portable cooler and vacuum sealer out-dueled more than 900 entries in the New Product Showcase and some of the biggest brands in fishing.

Three weeks ago, the 38-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska was still scrambling to find a spot on the show floor in Orlando. Ultimately, he landed with a 10×10 booth tucked away on the outer edges of the Orange County Convention Center for ICAST 2022. But he didn’t need the spotlight or prime placement to capture an award that is the current culmination of an incredible journey to the top.

On Oct. 1, 2017, McKinnon and a large crowd of fans gathered in Las Vegas to hear country music star Jason Aldean. While McKinnon survived the traumatic event, his best friend, Adrian Murfitt, did not.

The events that night altered McKinnon’s life forever.

After surviving the Las Vegas massacre, McKinnon decided to return home. Rattled by the trauma of watching his best friend die in his arms, and the effects of substance abuse, McKinnon found himself homeless for a year following the shooting.

“I went to a couple of different counselors and they couldn’t explain what was happening,” said McKinnon. “I would be walking into Walmart and something would trigger it. I would see people bleeding through their shirts.”

Without steady income or a place to live, McKinnon looked to work in the Alaskan oil fields to put a roof over his head. With counselors unable to help him process trauma, he turned to American veterans to help him understand what he was experiencing.

“I got invited to the VA hospital for post traumatic stress disorder, and those war veterans were able to explain to me what was happening and how to deal with it,” McKinnon said.

For four years, McKinnon lived paycheck-to-paycheck while scrapping together funds to build today’s ICAST “Best of Show” winner. Pacbak was designed to be used far afield in the Alaskan wild. It was born from McKinnon’s childhood dreams and the need to refocus his life after Las Vegas.

“Me and my brother grew up on the river,” said McKinnon. “We would fish all summer long, and pretty much out of necessity we would take two coolers to separate the wet and cold from the dry and warm. We would take a table and a vacuum sealer and go up river until we couldn’t see footsteps. Then, we would take salmon right out of the river and throw them on the grill.”

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PacBak’s winning product aims to be a tool to solve an age-old problem: a way to lock in flavor right after you catch a fish, whether on the boat or on shore. The 88-MK Cooler has three separate compartments, a removable processing table with fold-out legs and a fitted compartment with a vacuum sealer.

The flavors of that fish stuck with McKinnon his entire life. In travels around the country, he realized the flavor was almost impossible to capture unless it was captured immediately at the source. Thus, the concept for PacBak was born.

Product development meant researching rotomolds, batteries, layouts and marketing ideas, all of which came together this week at ICAST. Now, Brian McKinnon’s Alaskan startup will forever hold a place in the industry record books, alongside legendary brands from Shimano, Berkley, Humminbird, Garmin, Old Town and Hobie.

“This changes everything for our company,” he said on Thursday, July 21 after receiving the Best of Show award. “We are getting so much press now and so much interest. We have people trying to write checks and all sorts of stuff. Hands down, I couldn’t have done it without ICAST.”

Here is a list of the complete 2022 ICAST New Product Showcase Best of Category and Best of Show winners

Best of Show – Soft and Hard Coolers

P88-MK Combo – PacBak

Best of Category — Novelties and Wellness

Garmin Quatix 7 Smartwatch – Sapphire Edition – Garmin USA

Best of Category — Boating Accessories

Frabill ReCharge, Deluxe Aerator – Pure Fishing, Inc.

Best of Category — Boats and Watercraft

BOTE Rackham Gatorshall + APEX Pedal Drive – BOTE

Best of Category — Footwear

AFTCO Ankle Deck Boot – AFTCO

Best of Category — Ice Fishing

Garmin LiveScope Plus Ice Fishing Bundle LI – Garmin USA

Best of Category — Eyewear

Roca – Baijo Sunglasses

Best of Category — Lifestyle Apparel for Women

Women’s Reaper Softshell – AFTCO

Best of Category — Lifestyle Apparel for Men

CocoBoardies Boardshorts – AFTCO

Best of Category — Warm Weather Technical Apparel

SolarFlex Guide Cooling Hoody – Simms Fishing Products

Best of Category — Cold Weather Technical Apparel

Barricade Rain Suit Acid Camo Colorway – AFTCO

Best of Category — Soft and Hard Coolers

P88-MK Combo – PacBak

Best of Category — Electronics

MEGA Live Imaging TargetLock – Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics

Best of Category — Cutlery, Hand Pliers or Tools

BUBBA Saltwater Multi-Flex Fillet Knife – BUBBA

Best of Category — Fishing Accessory

Product: Frabill WITNESS Weigh Net – Pure Fishing, Inc.

Best of Category — Kids’ Tackle

Product: Kid’s Tributary Wader – Simms Fishing Products

Best of Category — Tackle Management

Product: Plano EDGE Frog Box – Pure Fishing, Inc.

Best of Category — Terminal Tackle

Product: DieZel Eye Jigheads – Z-Man Fishing Products

Best of Category — Custom Tackle and Components

Product: RBS Pro G2 Power Wrapper – Mud Hole Custom Tackle

Best of Category — Fishing Line

SpiderWire DuraBraid Hi-Vis Yellow – Pure Fishing, Inc.

Best of Category — Freshwater Soft Lure

Berkley PowerBait PowerStinger – Pure Fishing, Inc.

Best of Category — Freshwater Hard Lure

Berkley Slobberknocker – Pure Fishing, Inc.

Best of Category — Saltwater Soft Lure

Kicker CrabZ – Z-Man Fishing Products

Best of Category — Saltwater Hard Lure

LiverTarget Live Shrimp – LiverTarget Lures

Best of Category — Fly Fishing Rod

Banshee Fly – Bull Bay Tackle Company

Best of Category — Freshwater Rod

Legend Tournament Bass Rod – St. Croix Rod

Best of Category — Saltwater Rod

Ugly Stik Carbon Innshore Rod – Pure Fishing, Inc.

Best of Category — Rod & Reel Combo

Shimano Spheros SW Combo – Shimano

Best of Category — Fly Reel & Fly Fishing Accessories

Hardy Fortuna Regent Saltwater Fly Reel – Pure Fishing, Inc.

Best of Category — Freshwater Reel

Shimano STELLA FK – Shimano

Best of Category — Saltwater Reel

Penn Authority Spinning Reel – Pure Fishing, Inc.

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