Three best tackle boxes
Any box can be a tackle box. There's nothing to stop you from stowing your fishing gear in a family-size plastic ice cream tub, or the picnic hamper (although that might not make you very popular). But a purpose-designed fishing tackle box gives you a variety of compartments to store different items and numerous ways to organize your bait, hooks, line, and tools. With a good one, everything comes easily to hand. You're not wasting time sorting and searching when you could be fishing. There are hundreds to choose from -- something to suit every type of angler and every budget.
Having so many options can lead to confusion, so we've put together the following tackle box buying guide to help you find the right model and get the best value. We've also included a few of our favorite tackle boxes that will suit a variety of anglers.
Considerations when choosing tackle boxes
Tackle box, tackle bag, or both?
Before we look at tackle boxes in detail, let's clarify what we're talking about.
Tackle box: A tackle box is a container for your fishing tackle. It can be anything from a single tray with a couple of compartments to a self-contained, system of racks with a multitude of drawers and other storage areas. The largest tackle boxes can carry 25 pounds or more of fishing gear. They're so big they have wheels and extendable handles, like suitcases for anglers!
Tackle bag: A tackle bag is usually a soft-sided canvas or nylon holdall, carried in the hand, over the shoulder, around the waist, or as a backpack. These are designed to hold a number of tackle boxes or trays and maybe a fishing reel, beverage bottle, and so on.
There are a number of all-in-one solutions -- tackle bags with trays included. For some, these are the perfect answer, particularly because you can be confident the trays will fit. Some people, however, prefer to put together their own selection.
Materials and capacity
How is it made? What can it hold? These are the two most important questions to ask when buying any tackle system, and the answers will depend on the kind of fishing you do. Fly fisherman typically travel light, while some anglers have huge amounts of tackle.
You also need to think about flexibility. The largest boxes make efficient at-home tackle storage. Specific tackle can then be transferred to a smaller box or bag for individual trips. While your choice is almost limitless, there are some considerations that apply to all bags and boxes, so let's look at those.
Tackle bags have a rough life. They get dropped and thrown, dragged through dirt, mud, and water. They need to be tough.
Material: Nylon is the most common fabric because it's hard wearing, wipes clean, and resists water. Thickness is measured as a denier (D) number. Higher numbers are thicker. Look for a minimum 600D for the exterior fabric and 300D for the interior. Less than that can be prone to snags and tears.
Clips and zippers: These also need to be rugged. Large zip pulls make it easier to open and close pockets. Clips are usually PVC, which is durable and will never rust. Saltwater is particularly corrosive, so any metal parts should be plated for longer life.
Straps and handles: These need to be as comfortable as possible. It's nice to have a variety of options so you can carry the bag, throw it over your shoulder, or attach it as a fanny pack, for example.
Attachments: It's useful to have D-rings or other attachment points so you can clip additional items to the outside of the bag.
Pockets: Exterior mesh pockets are handy for quick access to items.
With such an enormous variety of tackle boxes available, there's no right or wrong choice, just which one is best for you. Bear in mind that complex tackle organization systems can be extremely useful, but they inevitably end up being heavy. Before you buy a tackle box, think about how much gear you really want to be carrying around with you. It's great to have every gadget and gizmo to hand, but there's also a lot to be said for gearing up light and moving fast.
Compartments: You can toss your tackle in anything, but it's much more convenient if you have separate compartments for hooks, bait, spinners, bobbers, spare spools, pliers, and so on. Once you have things organized, you'll soon get used to where everything is. You'll almost be able to find what you need blindfolded. It makes fishing so much more fun when you don't have to spend time struggling to locate items. Separate compartments also keep items like leaders, hooks, and lures from getting tangled together.
Think about how many compartments you need and what sizes, then choose something with at least 50% more space. A keen angler can never have enough tackle! You'll also want to keep wet, damaged, or dirty items away from those that are clean and dry.
Material: Plastic is popular for construction because it's light and strong. Beware of cheap tackle boxes, which can be fragile.
Latches and hinges: Check the latches and hinges (if the box has them). Nice chunky ones will be easier to open and close and probably more durable.
Trays: Many tackle box trays are shallow. Nothing wrong with that, but if you have big lures or spare spools, you need something deeper. Combination boxes with lift-out trays can offer this flexibility.
Removable trays and bait racks can be more convenient than opening and closing fixed drawers. On the other hand, fixed units are less likely to get knocked over and their contents spilled. It depends where and how you fish.
Lids: Clear lids make it easy to see the contents.
Never leave wet items or tangled line in your box. Cleaning and sorting your gear when you get home is much quicker and easier than coming back to it after it's been "brewing" for a few days. It also means you're ready to go at short notice.
Store different colors of soft plastic bait separately. The color can sometimes bleed. (Small reclosable plastic bags are a good idea.) Some dyes are also corrosive, so keep them away from coated or painted lures.
Separate small items into respective groups as much as possible. Keeping different-size hooks or swivels together soon gets frustrating.
Label lids and drawers. This will save you an awful lot of time that you could spend fishing!
Consider using more than one tackle box. If you fish both freshwater and saltwater, you might want to have a single tackle bag but different sets of tackle boxes so you can change quickly from one to the other without having to carry everything.
Q. What are tackle box subscriptions?
A. Rather than go to the store for fishing tackle consumables, you can have them mailed to you once a month. Boxes usually contain a mixture of items: bait, lures, hooks, flies, or floats, depending on the type. Most boxes are aimed at either a species (bass, trout, or shark, for example) or style of fishing (such as fly fishing, inshore saltwater fishing, or ice fishing). On the plus side, it's a convenient option if you don't have a fishing tackle store nearby, and a subscription can save you money. On the minus side, you might not have use for all the items in a particular box.
Q. What does "terminal tackle" mean?
A. Terminal tackle is anything attached on or near the end of your line -- hooks, lures, swivels, bobbers, and leaders. A lot of these are small, often low-cost items, but they're vitally important, so always invest in quality. The last thing you want is a lure that disintegrates after five minutes in the water or a hook that breaks when you finally catch that "big one."
Tackle boxes we recommend
Best of the best: Plano 7771 Guide Series Tackle System
Our take: Much more than just a box, this is a really well-thought-out tackle organizing system.
What we like: Plano invented the molded plastic tackle box in 1952, and you can see that this example was designed by people who really understand fishing. There's a place for everything you can think of, and the pull-out trays and bait racks are superb.
What we dislike: Very little. It's not light, and it doesn't have the most comfortable handle.
Best bang for your buck: Wakeman Fishing Single Tray Tackle Box
Our take: A great little tackle kit that's ideal for the beginner, in a durable box that will be useful for years.
What we like: Sturdy unit with numerous compartments and a separate tray for added versatility. Many tackle box kits have dozens of small, cheap parts to pad out the quantity. This has plenty of really useful gear. Outstanding value.
What we dislike: Some of the tackle could be better, but much is consumable so you'll soon change it anyway.
Our take: A high-quality tackle bag that's tough, versatile, and surprisingly affordable.
What we like: You can carry it, throw it over your shoulder, or clip it around your waist. It has plenty of pockets and places for attaching extra gear. Made of durable 600D nylon, it has strong zips and plastic clips that won't rust. Comes in several colors/patterns, with or without tackle trays.
What we dislike: Not as large as it might appear in photos, so check size before ordering. Not waterproof. It will shrug off a shower but not immersion.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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