Mike F. asks:
Hey Joel - I was wondering what your preferred method of ice tackle organization is when you are fishing out of a portable? Do you find a tackle bag is the way to go or some other method? I can't seem to find anything that I'm satisfied with when it comes to having what I need easily accessible and transportable.
Great question Mike, and it’s a doozy. I think I’ll qualify everything first by saying that I don’t think anyone has found the “perfect” storage solution for all baits, tackle, and accessories. There’s a lot of ways to skin that fish, and what works for some will be horrible for others. In my situation, I’m fishing for constantly changing species in a variety of environments, so I need to have literally everything ready, then be able to pick and choose just a few items as needed to carry on my person and out onto the ice.
For that reason, I’m about diversification and nested storage when it comes to my ice gear. In a way, I run my program like those little Russian dolls that fit into one another. I break my storage into 3 categories:
I’ve got totes, tackle bags, small hard-boxes, line boxes, and a Ziploc bags even come into play. The big totes never hit the ice, and I use what’s in them to stock the tackle storage solutions that make their way out there with me. Looking at it from the surface, it would seem a hodge-podge of whatever I have laying around and thrown into the back of the truck. That said, these solutions have evolved over time to serve all kinds of needs from fun family trips, to filming forays, and everything in between.
I’ve also learned to keep items in their original packaging as long as possible. While it’s a space-waster, and it sure is fun to tear open packages to fill tackle boxes, the cardboard and plastic these baits come in can be the best way to keep them looking great. It’s the basis for my system, and also the reason I have nested storage that I keep dipping into from time to time. My entire philosophy is about taking a good variety but low volume of what you’ll need out on the ice, then keeping backups extremely handy for re-stocking. Here’s how I stay on top of everything:
Home, Truck, or At Camp:
Basecamp Tote – This one’s big, and rarely makes it onto the ice with me. It’s designed to be my rescue kit that lives in the back of a truck or at a lodge, but not something that I carry around full-time. I can dip into it as needed on a long trip, and depending on the transport situation, I may take a handful of items from it and put onto the next solution. Here’s just a few of the items it holds:
Auger kit, including replacement blades
Extra transducer/replacement Marcum battery
Extra Hoodies and Hats
Bait Pucks, pliers, and snips
Heater accessories and a lighter
Lure Tote – This is a smaller tote that has nothing but lures in it. Again, I keep this one at camp, and only use it to replenish lost items or hot baits I might need. It’ll come with on a long trip, but most often it lives in my garage and is used as a buffer inventory from which to fill tackle boxes when needed. When I use up a popular color or lure in the tote, I know it’s time to buy more.
On-Ice Soft Goods Bag – This bag is filled with ziplocs of tackle and some odds/ends:
Soft Plastics – I keep these in their original baggies and keep like sizes, shapes, and colors in a quart sized Ziploc freezer bag – these are tougher and stand up for a few years.
Panfish Tackle – I have select baits, tungsten and lead both, separated into bait type in original packaging, stuffed into Ziploc quart bags
Walleye Tackle – I have select baits, one bag per size, multiple colors per bag in Ziploc quart bags. Jigging Raps in the package are a big part of the selection here, as Jigging Raps are easily damaged on long transport trips.
Bobbers, Sinkers, bare hooks and anything else needed to rig a tip-up or dead-line have their own mini tackle box that lives in the soft goods back.
On-Ice Hard Goods Bag – This can be any small tackle bag that holds the Plano 3500 or 3600 sized small boxes – as well as a few snips, pliers, and other small accessories
Box 1 – Rippin Raps of various shapes and colors – these hold up well to travel as they’re not as heavy.
Box 2 – Slab Raps and UL Rippin Raps.
Box 3 – Spoons of various shapes and sizes – These will get beat up, you’ll lose chips and chunks of paint, and you’ll have to be OK with it. These are high use, constantly replenished items.
Box 4 – Swiss Army Box – Jigging Raps are the number one bait that gets damaged while in transport, but I do have a few out of the package and ready to rock in this box. Oddballs also go in here, along with extra baits the didn’t fit in the first three boxes!
Small Utility Box – Panfish – I’ve got one side of this filled with vertical panfish jigs, the other side, a mix of horizontal lead and tungsten baits.
Medium Utility Box – Walleyes/Perch/Crappies – This box has some plastics and bare hooks in the clear plastic flip lids, along with spoons in the memory foam. I do have a few Teardrop jigs in the clips, but this is a minimalist walleye box that has the very best of the best only inside.
Like I said, it’s far from perfect, but it works great for how I fish. Every year I refine it and get a bit better!