Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL – July 21, 2022 – Upstart product developer Brian McKinnon is the new king of ICAST 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 October 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.”
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. “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.”
ICAST 2022 New Product Showcase Best of Category and Best of Show Winners
Best of Show – Soft and Hard Coolers
Product: P88-MK Combo | PacBak
Best of Category — Novelties and Wellness
Product: Garmin Quatix 7 Smartwatch – Sapphire Edition | Garmin USA
Best of Category — Boating Accessories
Product: Frabill ReCharge, Deluxe Aerator | Pure Fishing, Inc.
Best of Category — Boats and Watercraft
Product: BOTE Rackham Gatorshall + APEX Pedal Drive | BOTE
Best of Category — Footwear
Product: AFTCO Ankle Deck Boot | AFTCO
Best of Category — Ice Fishing
Product: Garmin LiveScope Plus Ice Fishing Bundle LI | Garmin USA
Best of Category — Eyewear
Product: Roca | Baijo Sunglasses
Best of Category — Lifestyle Apparel for Women
Product: Women’s Reaper Softshell | AFTCO
Best of Category — Lifestyle Apparel for Men
Product: CocoBoardies Boardshorts | AFTCO
Best of Category — Warm Weather Technical Apparel
Product: SolarFlex Guide Cooling Hoody | Simms Fishing Products
Best of Category — Cold Weather Technical Apparel
Product: Barricade Rain Suit Acid Camo Colorway | AFTCO
Best of Category — Soft and Hard Coolers
Product: P88-MK Combo | PacBak
Best of Category — Electronics
Product: MEGA Live Imaging TargetLock | Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics
Best of Category — Cutlery, Hand Pliers or Tools
Product: 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
Product: SpiderWire DuraBraid Hi-Vis Yellow | Pure Fishing, Inc.
Best of Category — Freshwater Soft Lure
Product: Berkley PowerBait PowerStinger | Pure Fishing, Inc.
Best of Category — Freshwater Hard Lure
Product: Berkley Slobberknocker | Pure Fishing, Inc.
Best of Category — Saltwater Soft Lure
Product: Kicker CrabZ | Z-Man Fishing Products
Best of Category — Saltwater Hard Lure
Product: LIVETARGET Live Shrimp | LIVETARGET Lures
Best of Category — Fly Fishing Rod
Product: Banshee Fly | Bull Bay Tackle Company
Best of Category — Freshwater Rod
Product: Legend Tournament Bass Rod | St. Croix Rod
Best of Category — Saltwater Rod
Product: Ugly Stik Carbon Innshore Rod | Pure Fishing, Inc.
Best of Category — Rod & Reel Combo
Product: Shimano Spheros SW Combo | Shimano
Best of Category — Fly Reel & Fly Fishing Accessories
Product: Hardy Fortuna Regent Saltwater Fly Reel | Pure Fishing, Inc.
Best of Category — Freshwater Reel
Product: Shimano STELLA FK | Shimano
Best of Category — Saltwater Reel
Product: PENN Authority Spinning Reel | Pure Fishing, Inc.