June 01, 2020
As a tackle junkie who never entirely achieves organizational harmony, I went into this past winter ready to re-examine my tackle-packing program. Inspiration to organize seized me on one of the last days of the 2019 season. Digging into the storage of my friend Steve Pennaz’s bass boat for another jig, I discovered a slick-looking lure box I’d never seen before. A clear lid revealed its contents and quickly pointed me to the bait I needed—no opening a bunch of extra Pandora’s boxes. That day, Pennaz showed me several of the other cool accoutrements built into his new Plano Edge boxes.
Now, I’m not about to forsake those good old, economical 3700-size boxes. But as we behold some of the newer, intelligently engineered tackle vessels from Plano, Flambeau, Bass Mafia, Gruv, and others, we’ll all be re-assessing our tackle-packing.
Not only are some of the newer boxes, like the Bass Mafia Coffin series, designed for tackle specialization, these containers address several other previous tackle-storage dilemmas. Designers have addressed rust, durability, and the annoying tendency for hooks and small items to sneak their way into neighboring compartments.
Bags, Boxes & Specialization
It’s probably best to start from the outside in—the use of tackle bags to house categorized collections of lures. I have a magnum duffel-sized bag, for example, that’s stuffed with four Plano 3700 Deep boxes and eight more standard 3700-size containers—all packed with hundreds of crankbaits. The top side panel of each box conveys a different designation in black Sharpie pen: Shad Baits 1, Shallow Jerkbaits, Squarebills 2, and so on.
In the garage, nearby shelves of tackle allow me to grab boxes and bags I need while standing in my boat. Bags, bigger boxes, and stacks of smaller boxes—mostly labeled—line each shelf, while directly above the boat, homemade rod racks stretch across the ceiling and hold combos for easy transfer in and out of the rod locker.
To compartmentalize specialized lure categories, I use various soft bags to encase smaller boxes and mini bait bags for further sub-organization. A large Flambeau Ritual duffle serves as the Ned rig bag. It encases a couple Z-Man Bait BinderZ, which stow ElaZtech finesse baits. Bags of Roboworm and Lunker City baits fit into a smaller Plano KVD Speedbag, while a Gruv Fishing Micro Jig Box and a 3500-size Stowaway box house mushroom-head and other finesse jigheads.
Containing a growing stash of ChatterBaits, a second Flambeau Ritual bag encases several Flambeau 5007ZM Tuff Tainers full of bladed jigs for different applications. The Zerust-infused plastic boxes emit a harmless vapor that forms a protective layer around hooks to prevent oxidation and rust. Tackle bag side pockets secure paddletails and other ChatterBait trailers.
I like to keep terminal tackle such as hooks, swivels, sinkers, and split-rings inside a versatile Shimano Borona bag, which contains a dozen small Plano Compact Side-By-Side Tackle Organizers. These little boxes feature tiny compartments that fit all manner of terminal tackle, and mostly prevent items from spilling between compartments. The bag-box program isn’t perfect, but it keeps things nicely grouped. Next winter’s to-do list tells me it’s time to transfer the terminal tackle into Bass Mafia Terminal Coffins and Plano Edge Terminal boxes.
For those days when I’m hopping into a buddy’s boat, or need to consolidate for a daytrip, I keep a large A-Series Plano bag (aka the bug-out-bag) on the shelf, ready to be loaded with different utility boxes for the day’s fishing. Among them, almost always, is a so-called panic box, a Flambeau Tuff Tainer 5007ZM that holds a mish-mash of go-to hair jigs, black Berkley Power Grubs, tubes, 3-inch swimbaits, and tiny jerkbaits and spybaits. When nothing else works, or your pal’s cleaning your clock, reach into the panic box and scratch a few fish to save face.
In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of specialty fishing backpacks (fishpacks), ideal for daytrips, strolling the banks of streams and ponds. Back in my bicycle-to-the-bass days, I could have used one of these customized, hidden-compartment satchels. Today, a fishpack still comes in handy whenever I hop on a plane destined for somewhere with biting fish. Kayak anglers find them valuable, too, particularly draped over the back of their seat. I’ve used fishpacks from Cabela’s and Shimano (Blackmoon Bag), for at least a few decades. A lot of the better ones feature close to a dozen large and smaller compartments for 3700-series boxes, plus smaller partitions for sunglasses, pliers, phones, and in some cases, small built-in coolers.
What’s in the Boat?
The cavernous tackle storage in my Lund Predator includes several smaller side compartments and one giant tackle cubicle, big enough to nap in. This compartment contains three rows of stackable 3700-size boxes. Two rows of favorite jigs, jerkbaits, topwater baits, and worm hooks rarely leave the boat. The third row’s box selection changes based on body of water, season, and species. All boxes ride front-label-out so I can read the contents of each box, inscribed in Sharpie. The main boat cubicle also houses three or four smaller specialized tackle bags, including the aforementioned terminal tackle pack and three or four boxes for spinnerbaits and buzzbaits—most of them Plano Hydro-Flo Spinnerbait boxes. Two or three Plano ProLatch Line Spool boxes each hold six spools of fluorocarbon, mono, or braid.
To keep the compartment dry and odor-free, I throw in a half dozen Odor Checks—carbon and silica-filled cloth pouches worth their weight in gold. The pouches can be recharged every few months by removing them and placing them in any dry area for a couple days. Within most of my basic 3700-size containers, I also add a few small bags of silica gel desiccant, which you can find in shipping boxes or vitamin jars.
As the tackle collection expands, most anglers find themselves getting more specialized. You might start with a single large tacklebox and then move into two or three bigger tackle bags that contain numerous 3700-size utility boxes. Soon, you’re adding more utility boxes, grabbing just the ones you need on each outing, or loading a bug-out bag for side trips.
Deep Box Storage
The Lure Lock 4-inch deep box features a divider system allowing anglers to customize the box with 1 to 24 compartments. Or forget the dividers and use the two 1-inch trays for three levels of tackle organization. The 4-in-1 box is offered in three sizes. Lure Lock boxes use a sticky gel—Tak Logic Gel—in the base of trays to hold lures in place.
One of the coolest “utility” boxes I’ve seen lately is a Cal Coast Fishing Battle Box (MSRP $42.99). At 14 x 10 inches, it’s sized like other stackable boxes, but has an assembly of “Ammo Cans,” small, transparent cylindrical canisters that fit jigheads, tungsten or lead weights, hooks, or other terminal tackle. Slotted black foam inserts secure up to 24 individual Ammo Cans. Inserts can also be cut and customized to leave room for other terminal tackle items. The underside of the lid can be further customized with a waterproof canvas “Ammo Pouch” for holding individual hook packs. Battle Boxes have become popular among kayak anglers as well as tournament co-anglers.
A slightly different, though equally valuable terminal tackle box is the aforementioned Bass Mafia Terminal Coffin (14 x 9.5 inches). Composed of an almost unbreakable frame, waterproof seals, and stainless-steel hinges, Bass Mafia boxes employ opaque lids that prevent water, dirt, and sun damage, while concealing their contents from co-anglers or tournament competitors. The customizable Terminal Coffin offers room for six small, modular storage units, including Hook Coffins and Weight Coffins. The entire front row is dedicated to miscellaneous storage, including split rings, glue, markers, or other items.
Also from Bass Mafia, the Ice Box 3700 boasts super-deluxe tackle accommodations in a standard sized, stackable box. Like other premium next-gen tackle storage, the Ice Box costs a bit more (MSRP $28.99) than standard boxes, but its lifetime durability and ability to safeguard your baits make it a good investment. The Ice Box is nearly indestructible, with dual high-grade latches, water-tight seal, and up to 48 customizable compartments.
Another box made for storing tungsten weights is Gruv Fishing’s Tungsten Vault. The 5- x 4-inch box, like all Gruv boxes, features a super-tough, durable polycarbonate shell, stainless-steel hinge pins, and clear lid for maximum visibility. An extra-strong “neodymium magnetic closure” provides a snug open and close. Inside, 50 silicone “docks” form around each tungsten weight, holding it in place. Five different sized silicone docks provide anchor points for weights from 1/16 to 11/2 ounces.
You can’t help but appreciate the approach taken by the folks at Gruv, who offer several other unique designs, such as the Hard Bait Box and Big Jig Box. The Hard Bait box uses silicone anchors to hold and isolate 14 to 30 hardbaits of varying sizes. The Big Jig Box is a larger version of the Micro Jig Box and has molded silicone slits providing solid hook-anchor points that align jigs in straight rows. All my hair jigs will be finding new homes inside Gruv boxes, which are the best jig boxes I’ve used.
The entire Plano Edge series is equally impressive. The Edge Terminal box matches the 3700-size footprint, preloaded with over 20 individual, recessed compartments and lift-out boxes with their own lids. Three specialty weight crates sport high-density foam slots that eliminate rattling and store weights in perfect rows.
All Edge series boxes feature easy-to-open, one-handed latches. A blank white label on the outer edge allows for quick ID. Boxes also offer a waterproof O-ring seal around the outer edge, a water-wicking desiccant divider, and infused rust restrictors. Precut tray dividers allow airflow and won’t let hooks slide into neighboring compartments. The clear lid is crack proof and heavy-duty steel pin hinges bolster box longevity.
Four basic storage models, including standard and deep 3700s plus six specialized boxes cover all bases, from the Edge Spinnerbait, Plastics, and Crank XL. The Crank XL uses silicone fingers to hold baits snug and prevent hook tangles. The Edge Jig box also isolates individual jigs with special vertical dividers. Which reminds me to add one more item to the off-season to-do list: Move the ChatterBait collection into a new smart box, ASAP.
*In-Fisherman Field Editor Cory Schmidt is an outstanding multispecies angler who writes for all In-Fisherman publications, often on gear and equipment topics.