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When it comes to fishing, there is thousands and thousands of different things you can stick in a tackle box. The problem for most people, especially me, is what the heck should I bring that fits in such a small box, and still catch the most fish possible. There is however, a few essentials that EVERY angler needs to have stocked in their box before they go to make the fishing day a good one. Below are 16 must have things you will want to make sure hit your tackle storage, before you hit the lake.

There are a couple of things you really need to consider before you read through this, and that is that some tackle really does depend on what type of fish you are wanting to catch that day. Most of us don’t have a tackle box for bass, and a different box for trout, and so on. You don’t want to fill up your box with catfish gear if you are going to go out on the lake for trout. You also may want to take different gear if you are fishing off a boat or the shore.

So, what are we waiting for, lets dive right in, and see what the heck we really need to have in our box!

1. Fishing Line

It is essential that you have extra fishing line in your box for when things go wrong. Even if you have a freshly spooled reel, there is always a chance that you can get something snagged and lose your whole rigging, and need extra line. If you happen to get a knot in your line, you may have to pull all of it off to the point where you could only cast a few feet, and if you only have one rod with you, it will be time to go home. Always remember that line does go bad, so it will be important to change it out once a year. A good idea would be to take the line you have in your tackle box and re-spool a reel with it and put new stuff as your backup in your box.

2. Tools

There are a few must have tools in your tackle box that you should always have with you. I am not saying that you are going to want to take your reel apart on the side of the lake, but if you drop your reel in the sand or dust and it starts to crunch when you reel, you may have to take a few screws off and clean it out. Having knowledge of at least how a reel works will help you out and normally it is not extremely hard to take spool off so you can get a look at the bearings. Here are a couple of items that I suggest you ALWAYS have:

  • Pliers – You never know when you will have to dig a hook out of a fish, or even worse, a finger, so you always want to have a pair of needle nose pliers on hand to get a better grip on stuff.
  • Screw Driver – You might have to work on your reel out on the lake, so a screw driver can save the life of your reel if you get dirt or sand in it. Screw drivers are also good for digging holes.
  • Surgical Clamps – I love surgical clamps for removing hooks from a fishes mouth because you can clamp onto the hook and gently work the hook out. These are definitely a must have in a tackle box and they are relatively cheap.

I carry a Gerber multi tool in my box as well as surgical clamps for getting hooks out of the fishes mouth, so I don’t hurt them as much as possible. This tool takes up very little room in your box or bag and could be a life saver out fishing. Most of these fishing tools are only a few bucks at a hardware store, so for under 10 bucks, you will have tools that can really save your fishing trip.

3. Hooks

Always, I mean always have spare hooks. It is going to be a good idea to bring more than one pack of hooks with you because depending on where you are fishing, or how much fish you are catching, you might have to change them out or put new ones on relatively often.

It is a good idea to have more than one size of hook in your box each trip. Fish can break your line, and rocks and weed can snap line off in a heartbeat, and you could go through a pack of hooks in just a couple of hours depending on where you fish.

4. Weights

The only time you wont use a weight is if you are using lures exclusively, or doing a fly line whacky rig for bass, so it is going to be a good idea to have a bunch of extra weight on hand. This is one item in your box that you should have a lot of because weights can fall off, or get snagged, and they get lost a lot.

It is also good practice to carry several different weight amounts with you. If the water is very deep, or other conditions make it so your line isn’t sinking as fast as you want, you may have to move up to a different size weight instead of having 6 weights on your line. Three different weight sizes will ensure that you can get your bait to the bottom, and not have to use more than one weight at a time on your line which will save your fishing line and gear.

5. Lures

Every angler should have at least a few lures in their tackle box in case they lose all their bait, or just want to change things up for awhile. Fish are very picky, and might not bite on bait at all one day, and will only want to bite on faster moving lures.

It is a good idea to have a few of each type of lure you like because the fish might only want to bite top water lures, and only a certain color on any given day. Always have enough lures in case a fish bites your line, or you let it sink and it gets snagged on a rock or tree. 

6. Bait

Whether it is night crawlers, Powerbait, Salmon eggs, or plastic worms, make sure you carry enough bait with you to re-set your rig every other cast. Bait is extremely easy to lose if you cast too hard, or a you catch a fish. If you are using plastic worms, they will get shredded each time you have to fix it or a fish bites, so they are only good for so long. Never stick to just one bait when fishing because what works one day, might not work the next.

7. Knife and Finger Nail Clippers

A knife is essential for fishing in many ways, and can be a very handy item in so many situations. A small pocket knife can be a real life saver when you need something sharp, and can be used in other ways than just fishing. Finger nail clippers are usually very sharp and are a good way to cut line, and sometimes even braid. Here are couple of useful ways a knife or finger nail clippers can help you while fishing:

  • Cutting Line – Finger nail clippers AND a knife are great for cutting fishing line, as well as for getting those pesky knots off hooks and lures.
  • Wood Slivers – A knife will be a life saver if you get a sliver while out fishing, but please make sure it is clean and sharp!
  • Protection – You never know what you will run into out there fishing, so a pocket knife might actually save your life if you stumble on a wild animal out there.
  • Fires – If you end up getting stuck out fishing, or get lost, you can use a knife to shave sticks into kindling to start a fire to keep warm for the night.

A knife is a must have in your box, and can take up a very small amount of room for as useful as they are. You don’t have to get a big buck knife, a small folding knife will work just fine, but make sure you keep it sharp, so check it before you go out. Finger nail clippers are great for cutting line, and getting knots off swivels and lures.

8. Swivels

Swivels are an awesome tool to keep in your arsenal because they can keep you from having to tie knots on your line, or having to remove line from your spool. Once you tie a swivel on, you can use it for lots of different rigs when fishing. You can also take the hooks, or lures off and slip the end of the swivel through your hook loop on your rod keeping your line tight while you travel. It is good practice to carry a few different sizes of swivels.

9. Floats

Floats, or “Bobbers” are good to have in your tackle box because if you attach beads to them you can throw your line out and jerk it back in, and you might have fish that will start to circle and chase it. Having a couple of floats in your tackle box are also good, if you just want to sit and relax by the water for a bit. They come in all different shapes and sizes and don’t take up much real estate in your box.

10. Bandages

You never know when you might have an accident fishing, it happens. It is always good practice to carry a first aid kit in your vehicle, but if you are miles away from it at the lake, having some bandages can keep you from getting a nasty infection, or worse. Keep some smaller, and a few medium size bandages in your tackle box in case you poke your finger on a hook, or possibly slice your finger with a knife or on a fishes mouth.

11. Matches

Matches are a MUST HAVE in your tackle box, and preferably the water proof kind. You never know when you might get lost, or get your car stuck in the mud and have to wait it out for the night, so having matches is going to keep you warm and also signal rescuers if you get lost. Make sure you check them every so often in case they have gotten wet, or are just old so you know they will work if you need them to.

12. Compass

If you are fishing anywhere secluded, or off the beaten path, it is a good idea to invest in a small pocket compass. Most of them are pretty inexpensive to get, and is another life saver if you are some place new, or unfamiliar. 

13. Flash Light

Get a small pocket flash light to put in your tackle box in case you lose track of time fishing and it gets dark. You can pick up a small LED flash light for a few bucks that is super bright and will get you back to your vehicle. They are making brighter flash lights now, so even a very small one will help light up the path so you don’t step in a hole and possibly hurt yourself while trying to get back to your car.

14. Gloves

Depending on what you are fishing for, it might be good to always keep a pair of gloves in your tackle box. Just because you are going fishing for trout or bass, doesn’t mean you wont catch a catfish, or something else that you might not want to stick your bare hand into. Gloves lay flat and can tuck away nicely in the bottom of your box taking up very little room.

15. Fishing License

I know what you’re thinking, fishing license? In the mix of getting all your gear ready, getting up in the morning, making coffee and loading the car up to go, you are going to forget something. Keeping your fishing license in your tackle box will ensure that no matter when or where you go, you have it at all times. Do NOT ever fish without a license because this WILL get you a ticket! Fish and game are out there watching you, even if you can’t see them, and they will stop and ask to check your license.

16. Scale

If you have room for it, a scale is a valuable tool to have, especially if when you land a big whopper. If you ever are with your buddies, or by yourself and catch a monster bass, you really will want to know the weight and length of it. This item can be a lot of fun to show your friends and family how well you did. 

Conclusion

Setting up your tackle box can be a challenging one because you never really know what you should take. Even if you have some of what is on the list above, your fishing experience is going to be a lot better than not having them at all. The most important thing to remember is that you want to at least put stuff in your box that will keep you safe at all times because you really never know what might happen out there. Matches, knife, bandages and flash light are the top four things you can carry because they can be used for so many other things than just fishing, and are small enough to keep around without not getting to bring other tackle. A rule of thumb is safety first, fun second, so keep that in mind before you start loading your tackle box up with bait and hooks, and I guarantee you will thank me for it.