GEAR organisation is easy when you only have five lures and a few hooks. Later as the collection grows so does the need to come up with some sort of tackle organisation system. Some anglers regard tackle tinkering as therapeutic and the next best thing to fishing, but others see it as an onerous task that is never completed. Regardless of your preference, what we can all agree on is the concept of having the right gear on hand in the right quantity and ready to go.
The absence of a working system causes annoying problems. These include forgetting stuff, taking too much or not enough, bad stowage choices that cause rust or damage, having no back-ups to cover losses and so on. The bigger your tackle inventory the worse it gets.
Everyone I spoke to claimed they had a system but quite a few were not happy with it. Many admitted they were thinking of reorganising. More than one angler told me they had recently tried a revolutionary new system only to discover it is useless.
As tempting as a new tray or box is, it isn’t the solution. Before buying storage containers, you need to design a system tailored for you. In this article we discuss tackle organisation and some ideas and concepts that will help you get sorted.
Organisation…where do you start?
The problem is finding a working criteria or “theme” for your tackle organisation. It is easy and convenient to stow tackle by brand, lure type, colour, size or some other basic theme but we don’t fish that way. Those that use one of these criteria are constantly re-packing, cross loading and discovering why this is not workable.
To develop your own system first define your requirement. You know when, where, and how you fish. You know what your favourite species are and what tackle you use to chase them. Other factors to consider are do you go weekly, sometimes, or hardly ever? Are you shore or boat based? Do you travel a lot or fish the same few locations regularly? Maybe you do all these things.
Now you have a fishing “profile”!
Attack the pile!
A very handy exercise before going further is to cull your inventory. Once done, you are now only dealing with stuff you need and will actually use. There are four categories you can consign your tackle collection into. Tackle in use and needed, junk you will never use again, superseded gear and “sentimental” stuff.
Start with those sentimental items that you retain for personal reasons. The baitcaster you got for your 21st birthday, the lure that caught your first “metrey”, etc. These valuable items should be stored safely for your enjoyment in the future.
The next pile contains serviceable tackle you don’t use or want any more and aren’t attached to. Look critically at reels, rods, tackle trays, lures and tools. Things of value like reels that are only a few years old can be sold or given away. If you discover any old Aussie lures, particularly ones in good condition you might be surprised who might want to buy them. Search the web for interest groups and put this stuff up for sale. Money earned can be used to buy more gear!
Junk is stuff you are throwing away. If it’s broken, hasn’t been used for 10 years or is clearly obsolete then it is probably junk. Look for things like those busted lures you found 10 years ago on that barra trip, broken rods, reel parts and boxes of half empty line spools you have kept since 2004. If you own a ton of tackle and cannot get a decent pile of stuff to throw out, you are either well organised or not serious.
Let’s assume you have reduced the pile considerably. Now you can address what really matters. It helps to divide stuff into consumables and hardware. Consumables are used up as you fish and are replaced regularly. They are disposable items including line, braid, trace, most lures, hooks, sinkers and bait scent. Hardware includes boats, electric motors, sounders, rods, reels, nets and tools. It also includes all the previous tackle storage solutions you have tried or are presently using.
Now how do we organise this?
Apply your Profile
Your system has two major components. Bulk storage bins and “frontline” tackle solutions. Bulk storage generally stays at home or back in camp and holds all the tackle you need but not right now. The key component is a range of solutions for your day-to-day fishing. Let’s talk about these first.
You can choose to organise by species, location, technique or mode. You decide which way to go by matching the next few options to your profile.
The “Species Box” contains all the gear you need to go after that favourite fish you chase a lot. The idea is that you can grab that bag or box, top it up with consumables and head off confident you have everything you need. This is a perfect solution for the jack fanatic, the bream pro, the blue marlin addict, or the jewie specialist.
If you fish a certain area regularly for a variety of species, you can opt for a “Location Box”. Make this choice if you fish an area regularly and chase a variety of species using multiple techniques. I have one for cod dams (Copeton – cod and yellowbelly) and another for central Qld barra dams (Awoonga, Callide, etc). I also have one for “General Beach”. These contain tackle used when fishing those spots.
A “Technique Box” is focussed for a particular method. It could relate to fly fishing small creeks, deep dropping off-shore or ballooning off the rocks. I use a “Live Bait Rigging Box” regularly. It holds sufficient consumables, tools and premade rigs for my live bait requirements and is taken both offshore and the estuary.
“Mode boxes” are all about the specific gear and tackle needed for your kayak, push bike, canoe, boat and so on. My son has a fish tub which holds all the gear he needs to go “yakking” including rod holders, safety lines and waterproof tackle trays. In my case, after years of forgetting to take the pliers or some other vital piece of gear, I now leave essential tools and hardware in the boat and only rotate species, technique or location solutions. The boat is the “mode” storage container.
It is not unusual to end up with quite a quite a few options that reflect your fishing priorities. Some are quite extensive multi box/bag options, some are simply a shoulder bag and belt, some are used all the time while a few are rarely called on.
Getting the quantity and spread of tackle right is tricky. You will always need scissors, knife, lip grippers and other hardware and these are permanently stowed in each solution. This eliminates forgetting stuff after swopping it out. Your requirement for consumables will vary. Only you will know how many soft plastics you’ll need for a session and the secret of keeping the size of each solution manageable is to limit how much of each consumable you include. The rest is held in “bulk storage”.
Fish tubs or similar are ideal for holding spare stuff. I have one for soft plastics, one for hardbodies and others for terminal tackle, crab gear, fishing line and so on. It makes sense to maintain a quantity of some hard-to-get categories while relying on tackle stores for others.
Scarcity and the need for redundancy will help you decide. = I use a particular lure in barra dams that is rarely stocked at tackle stores. I order six or eight after a trip which ensures I have replacements available.
Take-along bags, trays or boxes are topped up as required from these “storage bins”. Most stuff in the bulk bin is best left in its original packaging. The bins don’t need to be super robust, expensive or waterproof and large ziplock plastic bags are useful in establishing subcategories (eg “barra hardbodies”). Write on the bag to help identify the contents using an indelible pen.
Special Purpose Boxes
Along with your specific tackle selections, there are several special purpose boxes most anglers require. A “Rod and Reel Service / Repair Box” includes special tools, spare parts, and other servicing gear. Rod runners, tips, hot glue, and binding thread are not bulky and can make a big difference if you break a guide in a remote location. Zip ties, lube, super and 24hr glue are some of the other stuff included.
A “Rigging Box” holds items including replacement hooks, crimps, and a crimping tool, lumo tube, trace, wire, cutters, and a few dozen other items required to rig trolling lures, upgrade hardbody minnows and jigs. This is the box you get out to make live bait rigs for mackerel or paternoster rigs, assist hooks for jigs or any other rigging task.
A “Treble Box” may be required if you are in the habit of upgrading trebles on lures. Apart from trebles of various strengths and sizes it will hold split rings and split ring pliers. I have a flat foam lined tray with sufficient trebles to upgrade and replace lures for a session to two backed up with a “bulk tray” holding heaps of spares in numerous brands, sizes, and strengths.
A “Camera/Drone Box” is used by increasing numbers of anglers looking to capture their fishing activities. These delicate instruments may need special cases for transport purposes.
Some of these specialist boxes (eg. rod repair, camera, treble boxes) will go on trips while others never leave home. Select the storage container accordingly.
One method that seems to work well if you are travelling to a “one off” destination is to use a soft bag or backpack that holds a range of trays as well as the required hardware. This is all packed in your big bag. Once there you use the soft waterproof bag to hold what you need for each day or session.
On a recent trip to PNG, we took trays of lures, blue water tackle, hardware, and consumables. Each day the contents was packed to meet the requirement. As weight limits made taking a lot of tackle impossible, we carried limited spares in soft bags and topped up each night.
Some tackle needs special treatment. Examples include painted jig heads, soft plastics that react with other types of tails, flies, and expensive swim baits. In some cases, the standard tackle tray is not the ideal option for these items.
There are other options. Foam forms (trays with foam in the bottom) are lightweight and excellent at holding items that need cushioning. “Worm proof” trays are ideal for tails that destroy other soft plastics. Wallets with clear, resealable pages work well if you like leaving tails in their original packaging.
Lures like Gulps are often a challenge to stow. Many anglers leave them in their packet while others use watertight containers to hold the fluid and tails. The unmistakeable odour of leaked juice will tell you if you got it right!
Some companies sell their soft plastic tails in moulds that help hold the lure shape. It makes sense to employ this packaging rather than dumping dozens of tails into a tray where they can distort, stick together or blend.
Some bulky lures are best held in soft, clear fronted wraps. These are strong and can hold heaps of lures. Rigged marlin skirts, big poppers and stickbaits are good examples. Those soft envelopes containing multiple clear pages are also good for holding premade rigs and a variety of terminal tackle. I use one for small spinner baits. Make sure the plastic used does not react with the skirt material. If it does it will adopt the colour of the skirt touching it.
Sinkers require tough packaging. I use a shade cloth “sock” which is easy to make and will last decades.
Applying the System
Having made your decision about how to “group” your tackle, now is the time to choose the container to do the job. Now we can decide if tackle trays, boxes, fish tubs, lure rolls, or a backpack is the best choice. Don’t be surprised if several categories require big solutions. My “Cod Dam Box” is actually two fish tubs. This is because the spinner bait wraps, the deep diver boxes, and the huge swim baits in both hard and soft body are very bulky.
My local estuary solution is a large tackle box that holds all the lure types and associated tackle I need to chase flatties, jew, jacks and whiting on a nearby river. In it you’ll find an extensive range of lures, a variety of trace in different breaking strains and the tools required to fish that area.
Each category will require a solution that will hold the gear, protect any delicate tackle, and suit the way we fish. In some you can take heaps of stuff while other categories like wading the shallows or walking the beach, you are restricted to a light weight option. The lighter you pack the more you need a good bulk storage back up. On extended rock fishing trips where weight was an issue, we used to take bulk storage boxes with spare line, lures etc and leave them in the car at our camp site.
There are several guidelines to follow if you proceed as recommended. It is normal to share expensive hardware like rods and reels between categories but moving pliers, scissors and most consumables will invariably result in a drama. Buy enough hardware including essential tools as well as consumables to equip each category or specialist bag.
Take only what you need along with some spares. If you are unsure then take extras so you can restock after each day. Avoid loading the just-in-case “kitchen sink”.
Buy in bulk when the price is low, or stock is available. Order in must-have tackle where it is unlikely to be available.
After travelling to a “one time” destination, restow gear in bulk storage or the various containers you took it from.
If a box hasn’t been used for a reasonable length of time it might be appropriate to pull it down and use the contents to supply other boxes. On the other hand, a “pop up” bag may be required for something you have never done but want to try. Avoid ransacking existing high-use options and on return decide if this is a new category or a one off.
All tackle organisation and stowage systems are “works in progress”. As your fishing evolves, so your solutions will change.
Those anglers who don’t pay some attention to organisation are nearly always the same pests who forget stuff, bludge gear off you, buy lures they already have and store things far beyond its useful life. If you want to spend less time preparing for a fishing session, reduce dramas like forgetting tools or running out of an essential item, then establishing your own system based on your fishing profile will be well worth the cost and effort.