Organizing Fishing Gear
August 04, 2016
In-Fisherman has been the world's foremost authority on freshwater fishing for more than four decades. The magazine has introduced generations of anglers to a comprehensive fish-catching system, along with the gear and techniques necessary to successfully target all species of fish. These teachings have facilitated my multi-species fishing passion and ever-growing collection of fishing gear. As fishing has transitioned from hobby to obsession, researching hot bites, organizing tackle, and developing a packing system for trips, have become a necessity.
The first step in any fishing trip is filtering through available information and locating credible sources. Case in point: As much as I enjoy chasing giant exotic species in remote parts of the world, I have an equal passion for mongo bluegills. There's something magical about bull bluegills. I can't count how many times people have told me about 12-inch bluegills, "the size of dinner plates." I've found that nearly all "12-inch" 'gills stretch the tape to 9 or 10 inches, fine fish but far from trophies. A request for photos often can confirm this reality. Try to get visual proof of purported giant fish.
Search for credible sources — DNR databases, IGFA records, and master angler programs are good resources for finding fisheries with species at top-end size. Focus on the latest information as fisheries can change quickly. Reputable guides, baitshops, and outfitters can verify current conditions. Ask about size and numbers of fish, as well as peak calendar periods.
If you plan to hire an outfitter, request references and confirm their cancellation policy prior to booking. Conduct Internet searches for further information. Social media also can yield valuable information, especially on distant places that don't operate websites in English. But be careful for scams. Keep this information organized and updated. If you can gather paper maps or SD map cards of the locale, all the better.
Each species can require specialized tackle. I store lures by type, then by brand, color, and size. I have separate Plano 3700 Stowaway boxes for mixed brands of jigging spoons, spinners, mini-crankbaits, hair jigs, and other categories that fit into one or two trays. But for heavily used lure categories like lipless crankbaits, jerkbaits, and deep-diving minnow baits, I designate specific types and brands of baits. Trays of lures in the same categories are stored together on shelves. I then select boxes for a trip or mix and match individual lures by placing them in a separate box. After each trip, I return baits to their storage trays.
Valuable storage lessons can be garnered from Capt. Steve Everetts (finseeker.com), a fellow tackle junkie. He has made tackle storage an art form by labeling clear plastic tubes to store his custom-painted lures. Eighteen lures in tubes fit in a deep 3700 Stowaway box. He labels the outside of each Stowaway box and inventories the contents. In this setup, baits don't become tangled, and it's obvious what lures need to be replaced at the end of an outing. He transports trays in luggage with identifying tags and he's installed custom deck extenders in his Ranger 620 to accommodate extra trays.
For unconventional baits and terminal tackle, I use specialty storage like Plano's Spinnerbait Stowaway and Hook and Sinker Stowaway, which are designed for these tackle categories. For stream fishing trout or salmon, where many sizes of hooks, split shot, beads, swivels, and flies must be within reach, a pocket-size box with many small compartments like Flambeau's Blue Ribbon Fly Box or Plano's Compact Side-by-Side organizer work great.
For storing bulky items like spools of line and bags of softbaits, consider 12-gallon totes with hinged lids. These containers are inexpensive and available at most home-improvement stores. Clear totes let you readily identify the contents. When storing monofilament, however, use opaque containers to block sunlight that damages line. I separate monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braid and other superlines and label them.
I store other large items like waders, snowsuits, and boots in Plano Sportsman Trunks, which also are convenient for travel as they have secure latching lids and waterproof construction. Their wheels allow easy transport. To eliminate mildew, unload trunks and dry gear upon returning home.
Rod and reel storage becomes tougher as your collection grows. If I don't intend to use a combo for some time, I break it down and store rods and reels separately. This saves space and avoids stress on rods. I clean my reels and keep them on a shelf with drags backed off to avoid compressing the washers. I store rods vertically to avoid warping blanks, which can occur if they're hung horizontally without sufficient support for the entire blank. Rotating rod racks are fine if space permits.
When packing for local trips, I place rods in protective sleeves such as the Stick Jacket and bind them together with velcro straps to keep them from tangling and rattling in the vehicle. I keep reels in a separate case to avoid damaging bails and handles. On trips involving air travel, I pack rods in an airline case like Plano's Airliner, Flambeau's Bazuka, or a custom PVC tube. For international travel, there are increased restrictions on rod tube length. Multi-piece pack rods are invaluable in these situations.
To ensure that rods arrive intact on commercial airlines, pack them with tips and butts matched at either end. Butt ends should extend beyond the tips. Then secure rods tightly together with straps and wrap a towel around the bound rods to keep them snug in the tube. When using a collapsible tube, replace any clips or pins that set the length of the tube with a bolt and locking nut. Pins can get dislodged, leaving it vulnerable to a disastrous collapse.
When only a few lure boxes are needed for a trip, a soft-sided tackle bag with strap and side pockets works great. When you're ready to throw the kitchen sink at fish — such as when trolling many sizes, colors, and brands of stickbait for walleyes — a dozen or more boxes may be needed, consider On-Board Series bags by Plano. The 3700 series On-Board bag holds seven 3700s, and the 3600 On-Board bag holds five 3600s. They can be slipped easily in and out of storage compartments.
Don't neglect sun protection gear, especially if your destination is semi-tropical or tropical. Clothes with a minimum SPF 15 rating now are common. Long-sleeve shirts and zip-off pants are favored over standard shorts and t-shirts. Face shields, like the Buff are a mainstay, and sun gloves keep the tops of hands from burning. Buff, AFTCO, and Glacier Glove offer many models of sun gloves. Pack sunscreen and lip balm of at least SPF 30. Pack two pairs of sunglasses (in case of loss or damage). Finally, top off the ensemble with a lucky fishing hat.
In the course of my travels, I've learned the value of a top-quality cooler and have had success with those made by Grizzly, Pelican, Canyon, and Yeti. They can keep food and drinks cold for more than a week and their sturdy construction goes anywhere. They also serve as a table, seat, or casting platform in a pinch.
Camera gear is another important consideration. For my high-end SLR digital camera with multiple lenses, I favor a hard-sided Pelican case that accommodates two camera bodies, along with a wide-angle lens, a mid-range lens, and a telephoto that stretches out beyond 300 mm.
For trips that don't permit this space, weight, or costly gear, I've adapted a system of packing several compact digital cameras — one a universal digital camera, the second a waterproof camera that lacks overall picture quality but can be subjected to harsher condition, and the third an ultra-zoom compact camera that has the equivalent of a 12,000-mm zoom for capturing wildlife. They fit neatly into a light, water-resistant soft cooler bag. This bag doesn't leave my side and also contains my wallet, passport, extra batteries, charger, and memory cards.
The list of other items to pack for remote fishing trips includes: flashlight, headlamp, extra batteries, lighter/matches, compass/GPS, multi-tool, water filtering kit, knife, long-nose pliers, split-ring pliers, hook file, rope, dry bag, superglue, duct tape, garbage bags, ziploc bags, insect repellent, first aid kit, ear plugs, pen and paper, electrical adapter and converter, toiletries, water shoes, rain gear, and appropriate clothing.
Since size and weight restrictions limit what you can pack, select lightweight luggage that's water-resistant and easy to carry. An affordable and functional duffle option is Bass Pro Shop's Extreme Rolling Bag. It has heavy-duty, water-resistant construction with wheels and handles for easy transport. It's almost inevitable that your bags get wet at some point and nothing dampens spirits like wet clothes. Alternatively, pack clothes in a heavy-duty garbage bag before packing them in your luggage. It can be used later to separate dirty or wet clothes from clean items.
Researching, planning, and organizing fishing gear is a productive use of time off the water. Once details for the next trip are final, it's easy to mark a checklist and pack for a comfortable and productive outing. â–