Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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Tackle box basics

By Steve Scepaniak
Contributing Writer


It was to be a casual guided walleye trip for two people, and I’d mentioned to the two anglers to bring whatever tackle of their own they wanted. Otherwise, I had everything we needed. 


That was my mistake. 


They each brought two large soft-sided tackle boxes with six large and four small plastic compartment boxes in each bag. I tried to reassure them I had all the essential walleye equipment needed for our trip. 


We caught plenty of walleyes that day. And, I learned to expertly maneuver and sidestep, in my own boat, four large soft-sided tackle boxes as I netted fish after fish – using my gear and not something within the many compartments of their tackle boxes. 


I’m the first to admit there is never enough tackle. At least that’s what I keep telling my wife. But I’ve learned to scale down my stock and streamline the selection of lures and other tackle I bring on each trip. The key is to have the right size and style of tackle box.


Gone are the days of one large, plastic-molded hard-sided, fold-out tray box that does it all. If you’re trying to take your fishing to the next level, having the right tackle box is one way to do it.


There’s a wealth of lures and presentations for each species of fish during certain times of the year. For example, there’s no need to bring my late-fall crankbaits if I’m trolling walleyes at night in early spring. Here are some thoughts on getting the tackle box that’s right for you.

Soft-sided tackle boxes

Soft-sided tackle boxes come in all sizes and varieties and fit the angler’s needs whether he or she be a bass enthusiast, panfish guru, or walleye connoisseur. From small to large sizes, this box is easy to carry and will meet your fishing needs. 


Soft-sided tackle boxes can come with plastic compartment-style trays of different sizes. You can have one tray full of walleye rigging equipment and another loaded with floats or jigs. And with plenty of side pocket room for tools, maps, extra line, sunglasses, and more, it’s easy to see why these boxes are a big hit among anglers.


Pros: Easy to store multiple boxes in a boat. Easy access to equipment. Lures kept in separate plastic trays. Waterproof and durable material and construction ensure a long life. 


Cons: It’s hard to find any cons regarding a quality soft side, but trays within can get rearranged fairly easy making what you’re looking for a chore. Keep everything in the same order to eliminate that problem. 


These are the tackle boxes our fathers and grandfathers used. When opened, they kept us entertained by all the treasures within. That was back then one huge box carried all the tackle needed for walleyes, northern pike, bass, catfish, and panfish. 


For years, hard-sided tackle boxes had their place. They could easily carry most of the tackle you owned. You can open one side of the box and pull out the side trays and take your pick of lures. 


The bottom of the box was for all your miscellaneous items, such as pliers, line, fish scale, sinkers, bobber stops, and much more.  


Pros: They’ll hold plenty of lures, and there are plenty of small compartments for tackle. They’re made of a durable, molded plastic composite that can withstand the test of time.


Cons: These tackle boxes can be heavy and bulky. Latches for securing have a tendency to come off. They can become stinky from lures and tackle put away wet. 

Species-select boxes

These tackle boxes are used by diehard muskie enthusiast, cat fishermen, sturgeon anglers, and other species that require plenty of room for lures and gear.


Often, these essential large tackle boxes are made from a molded plastic composite with plenty of dividers for lures. Some boxes are made from a weather-treated wood and fabricated to perfection. Some of the finer tackle boxes are custom-made with a waterproof, weather-resistant outer material with fitted zippered side pockets and main storage areas. 


On the front are stitched tool holders for files, pliers, and more. Inside are sectioned plastic trays that can hold up to 100 lures or more. They come equipped with easy-carrying straps.


Pros: They hold plenty of lures, with room for other accessories. Built to last a lifetime. 


Cons: These boxes have a tendency to be heavy and can take up lots of boat room.  

Plastic boxes

Simple, plain molded plastic boxes in various sizes have come on strong the last few years. If you know exactly what you need for tackle, a few plastic compartmentalized boxes can be all you need.  


Pros: Easy to use. Can be stacked for ease of carrying several. Can be easily cleaned. Waterproof. 


Cons:  Latches for closing easily come off.  


No matter what species of fish you’re after, there’s a tackle box that’s right for you. Take your time to figure out which one it is.

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