Get organized! Tackle that tackle box

OK, class. Today’s lesson is how to organize your tackle box. Stop groaning. I know you’re an experienced angler. I know you’ve got a system and stand by it. But sometimes you need a little kick in the keister to do what you know you need to do – toss out the junk and keep the good stuff handy so it’s there when you need it.

  1. General organization.  Think of it this way. You’ve got an anchor. You’ve got an anchor rope. You don’t store those two items in different places, right? Of course not. When you need your anchor, you better hope it’s connected to the anchor rope, all in the same place.

The same philosophy holds true for your fishing gear. You should keep like with like, so when you’re looking for a particular lure at a particular time, all the supporting stuff will also be handy and ready to use.

Got it? It’s simple. Now we’re ready to tackle the tackle box.

  1. Organize by species.  If all you ever fish for is striped bass, this will be simple. But the seasons change, other species are biting, so you probably also carry other species-specific baits and hooks.  

But what this means is you should keep all your like-lures together in one compartment. If you suddenly need a new one because – uh-oh – one got away…you can simply reach into the same drawer and pick out a new one.

  1. Use adjustable dividers.  Organize your baits by size and type and keep them in the same compartment.  Match the lure sizes and types and keep them together. This will organize and maximize your storage space.
  1. Separate soft plastic bait.  Keep all your soft plastic baits together, leaving them in their original packaging if possible. Avoid storing different brands, types or colors together, as they can bleed and melt together in the midsummer heat. 
  1. Small trays for hooks and small tackle.  Your tackle box probably has smaller compartments. That’s where you should store your hooks, weights, floats and other smaller tackle pieces. But use those adjustable dividers to keep them all in their own space. Again, when out on a heaving boat, with a good run going on below, you don’t want to waste time fiddling around in your tackle drawer for a certain size hook. It should be in a drawer with all other hooks of the same size.
  1. Store pliers and tools together.  Again, keep your pliers, Leatherman, line cutters or other fishing tools together. In soft-sided tackle bags, use the front compartments for tool storage. When you need them, they should be right where you put them.
  1. Keep extra line together.  Keep spools of leader or extra line together in one place. In soft-side bags, use the side pockets. 
  1. Label, label, label.  Yes, you have a system. You know that the weights are in the third compartment from the left, second row down. But does anyone else on board know that?  Do yourself and crew a favor and start labeling your compartments and drawers. Tackle organization is possible without labeling, but is much more efficient with. Knowing where all your stuff is at a glance is a time and effort saver.
  1. Edit the contents.  This is also called trim the fat. Or cleaning house. Over the years, the contents of your tackle box just grows like weeds … you buy new stuff every year (and toss it in the box) or people give you new stuff (and you toss it in the box) … and pretty soon your box is overflowing with gear.

The winter offseason is the perfect time to empty your tackle box, lay everything out so you can see it all at once, and start tossing the stuff you don’t need, will never need, is old and rusting, and is just duplicative. Do you really need two dozen swimming plugs in shocking pink? Maybe three will do. OK, four.

You don’t have to toss everything that’s extra or duplicative. Give stuff away to friends, Sell it on Craig’s List. Pass it on to your kids. If you haven’t used some piece of gear in a year or two, do you really need it at all?

It’s a great feeling to clean out the tackle box, editing its contents down to just the stuff that you regularly use. You’ll be ready for next season as a lean, mean, fish-fighting machine!