18 Essential Items for Your Tackle Box

Few things are more fun than a day on the water, catching fish and enjoying the great outdoors. Fishing can be a bit unpredictable, and the best way to enjoy your trip is to make sure you’re prepared for anything.

Lines break, lures and jigs get lost, and without a tackle box stocked with essentials, your fishing trip can come to an abrupt end. Today, we’ll help get you ready with our shortlist of all the essentials you’ll want to pack on your next trip to the water.

Lures and Bait

Without lures or bait, you won’t be catching much of everything. Always pack more than you need to ensure you’ll have enough bait to last through your trip, especially if there isn’t a bait shop near where you’re fishing.

A few lures designed for the fish you’re targeting is usually more than enough. It’s a good idea to have a few styles and colors so you can switch them out to see what the fish prefer.

The best lure to use will depend almost entirely on the water conditions. The current, tide, and what the fish are interested in at that moment will all dictate the best type of bait or lures to use.

Having a decent assortment with you is an excellent way to ensure you can stay on the fish, even if they’re picky.

Extra Hooks

If your rig gets hung up on the rocks, or if you need to repair a lure, having extra hooks on hand will be critical. An assortment of different size and style hooks is the best bet, so you’ll be able to switch out hooks whenever necessary, or tie a new rig if you get cut off on the rocks.

Extra Fishing Line

Fishing line breaks all the time. Tangles happen, rock embankments can cut through your line, and fish can snap it. A spool of line is something you won’t want to leave home without.

You don’t need a full spool, 20 or 30 yards of line to tie new leaders is usually more than enough to get you by when you’re on the water. If you’re fishing with a casting rod or spin caster, where bird’s nests are much more common, you may want to bring a larger spool with you so you can respool your rod in case you need to take the nuclear approach to remove a bird’s nest.

Extra Rigs

Rigs are a helpful thing to have for everyone from the beginner to the advanced fisherman. Rigs are usually pre-tied set-ups that are specifically designed for different types of fish. Tying your rigs can be time-consuming, and it requires some advanced knot-tying knowledge.

Many terminal tackle companies make pre-tied rigs that are affordable, easy to use, and can save you time and aggravation when you’re fishing. Plus, since these rigs are proven to catch the fish they’re designed for, you don’t have to make guesses about whether or not your setup will work for you.

Sinkers and Floats

Depending on where you’re fishing, sinkers, floats, or both may be incredibly useful. Sinkers help ensure that your bait can sink to the bottom, allowing you to target fish hanging out lower in the water column. Many different freshwater and saltwater species do their feeding on the ground floor, so you’ll always want to carry an assortment of sinkers.

Floats are designed to keep your bait suspended at a certain depth, so you can target fish that are feeding higher in the water column, or on the water’s surface. Floats are especially useful for targeting freshwater species, so it’s always a good idea to have a few floats ready to go if you’re fishing a lake or pond.

Swivels and Snaps

These tiny pieces of tackle serve tons of different functions, and they can help you improve your fishing technique while also providing you with an easy way to tie more complex rigs.

Swivels are especially useful for eliminating line twist when you cast and reel in, and they also allow you to tie on leaders and rigs without needing to know a ton of different knots. Swivel snaps have even more applications, and they can be used to attach sinkers, hooks, lures, and other terminal tackle to your rig with ease.

A Knife

An all-purpose knife is another piece of equipment you’ll want at the ready. From cutting lines to filleting fish, a knife can come in handy multiple times each trip, so make sure you pack one.

Needle Nose Pliers

Fishers rely on needle nose pliers for tons of different tasks. Needle nose pliers will help you tie strong knots, attach split shot sinkers, remove hooks from fish, and tune up your lures. Many fishing companies make needle-nose pliers specially designed for fishing, but any pair will do. Just be sure to dry them before you put them back in your tackle box.

A Rag or Towel

A rag or towel will come in handy several times throughout your trip, especially if you’re working with live bait. A rag makes it easy for you to clean your hands after baiting a hook, removing a clump of seaweed from your rig, or when you need to handle an especially slippery fish.

A Hook Remover

A hook remover is a great tool to have in your tackle box, especially if you’re a newbie.

Removing a fishhook from your catch after you’ve reeled them in is easier said than done, especially if you’re dealing with an especially toothy fish who wouldn’t mind taking a bite out of your finger. Plus, not knowing how to remove a hook properly can result in an injury to yourself or the fish.

Hook removers come in a variety of styles, and they make it easy for you to quickly and harmlessly unhook your fish so you can either throw them back or keep them for dinner. If you’re just getting started, a pistol grip style hook remover will be the safest and easiest tool for you to use.

Sunscreen and a Hat

When you’re on land, there’s usually plenty of shade to protect you from the sun. There’s nothing to protect you on the water, and if you aren’t prepared, you will go home with a nasty sunburn. Always pack sunscreen and a hat.

Bug Spray

Depending on where you’re fishing, the bugs can be absolutely obnoxious in the summer. You’ll find fewer bugs on the ocean, but if you’re fishing bays, inlets, lakes, rivers, or anywhere else for that matter, you’ll need to contend with bugs. Bug spray is an easy way to keep the bugs away and keep you comfortable during your trip.

Simple First Aid Kit

Cuts, scrapes, and other small injuries are common when you’re fishing. Since fishing can be a dirty business that involves handling bait, sharp hooks, and getting your hands dirty, some basic first aid supplies are always necessary.

Usually, a few alcohol pads, some bandages, and gauze are all you’ll need to treat common injuries you may come across when fishing.

Polarized Sunglasses

Any pair of sunglasses will be helpful on the water, but a polarized pair provides additional benefits specific to fishing. Mirrored and polarized lenses help to cut the extreme glare from the water while also allowing you to see further below the surface of the water.

Fish Stringer

A fish stringer will only set you back about a few bucks, and it’s something you’ll need if you aren’t fishing on a boat with a live well.

With a fish stringer, you can string your catches together, anchor them to a shore point, and throw them back in the water so that they’re kept alive throughout your fishing trip.

You’ll find rope stringers and metal chain stringers available, and each style does a great job of keeping your catch alive. The rope stringers are much cheaper, and they’re also easier to use.

Fishing License

Every state in the U.S. requires a fishing license to go fishing. The cost of these licenses pays for much-needed conservation efforts and upkeep of the land and waterways we all enjoy.

While you won’t necessarily get in major trouble if you’re fishing without a license, you may receive a ticket, and if you’re caught fishing without a license, you’ll have to cut your trip short. Rather than run the risk of getting in trouble, make sure you pay for a license and carry it with you every time you go fishing.

Tape Measure

If you plan on keeping the fish you catch, or if you’re looking to take accurate measurements of your catch for bragging rights, you’ll need a tape measure or measuring tape with you.

For most fish, there are size regulations that govern what you’re allowed to keep, so you’ll need to ensure that all the fish you take are large enough to be kept before you string them up or add them to your live well.

Fish Scale

You’ve just reeled in a monster bass that fought like hell it’s entire way onto the boat. It has to be 10, 12 pounds, easy! But how can you be sure? Without a fish scale, you’ll have no way of knowing how big the fish you caught was.

But, with a small, inexpensive fish scale, you’ll be able to quickly and accurately weigh your fish. Beyond the bragging rights implications, you’ll need an accurate weight on your fish in case you just reeled in a record holder in your area.