Just as a good mechanic can accomplish nearly any task with the basic tools, so can the angler catch fish with the basic baits. Know the essentials and master them, then worry about over-loading your tackle box with specialty lures and baits. Besides, experience says that when all is said and done, you will be returning to the basic baits much more often, and much sooner than you first realize.

BoatUS ANGLER: Bait and Tackle

Building The Perfect Tacklebox

Black and white drawing of a tacklebox

Walk the aisles of tackle at a sporting goods store and it's easy to get overwhelmed by what's on the shelves. But it doesn't have to be this way. You don't have to have a tackle box so large it could double as luggage.

As an angler, no matter what the skill level, you need to simply ask yourself 'What do I need to catch the fish I'm going after?' This eliminates a lot of unneeded stuff from the start, and then you can fine-tune your choices.

Think of the species you fish for and then think of your tackle box as a toolbox. Just as there are basic tools needed for nearly any job, so are there basic lures and terminal tackle needed for your favorite fish. Pick lures, baits and terminal tackle that will allow you to fish from water's top to bottom and you should be on the right track.

  • Hooks: Pick up an assortment of hooks for live bait. Hooks come in three different types: single, double and treble. They also range in size: For hooks listed as straight numbers, the larger the number, the smaller the hook. Hooks with the designation “/0” are larger than the straight numbered hooks and increase in size as the numbers increase. The smaller hooks are great for smaller game like Bluegill and Crappie, while the larger hooks are designated for larger fish like Bass and Walleye.
  • Sinkers: You want to carry some sinkers to provide casting weight, which will help lighter bait to sink to the bottom. Sinkers are usually made of steel or lead and come in several different types. Split shot sinkers are small round sinkers that you can pinch onto your line with your fingers or a pair of pliers. Dipsey sinkers are shaped like a bell and are used when you need more weight than a split shot. Slip sinkers have the ability to move up and down the line as needed.
  • Bobbers: Bobbers come as either a slip type or clip – on, which is either long shaped or the common ball shape you may have seen. Bobbers float on the water and help to keep your bait suspended as well as indicate whether you've gotten a bite.
  • Lures: Artificial lures are a great alternative to live bait. These types of lures come in many shapes and sizes and are usually made of plastic. The different shapes and sizes resemble live species and you can find just about any bait for whatever you're fishing for.
  • Swivels and Extra Line: Pick up some swivels to prevent your line from tangling as well as some extra line in case it breaks or you have to cut it.
  • Miscellaneous: A pair of needle nose pliers is good to have for pinching sinkers and cutting fishing line. Be sure to include a filet knife if you plan to filet your fish on the spot. A utility knife is also a great multipurpose tool to have in your tackle box. Don't forget a small first aid kit in case you cut yourself or have to remove a hook.

Just as a good mechanic can accomplish nearly any task with the basic tools, so can the angler catch fish with the basic baits. Know the essentials and master them, then worry about over-loading your tackle box with specialty lures and baits. Besides, experience says that when all is said and done, you will be returning to the basic baits much more often, and much sooner than you first realize.

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