Just for Beginners
Tackling Tackle: Building the Contents of Your Tackle Box
When I think of fishing, I inevitably picture a rod and reel, a brightly colored lure or wriggling nightcrawler dangling from the end of a thin blue line, and a battered old red plastic box filled to overflowing with all manners of gadgets, whatchamacallits, and doohickies. Fishing, like many sports, has its own particular equipment that is specifically designed to promote success. And just like other sports, sorting out what gear to use for the current conditions and for the tasks at hand can be daunting at first.
Experience is the best teacher, and only the individual knows what works best for him or her. But since every angler has to begin somewhere, this article will present some general advice for the novice on building a the basic arsenal that will become a tackle box.
The Tackle Box
Tackle boxes come in many sizes, shapes, and materials. Many fishermen actually have two tackle boxes, a large one to organize and store all the fishing tackle when not in use, and a smaller, more portable version to hold only the tackle needed while actually fishing.
The type of tackle box you'll need will depend largely on the type of fishing you'll be doing, and your personal preferences. Some anglers use cigar boxes, or sewing boxes, or even their hats to store their tackle. Often though, particularly when your tackle collection begins to grow, there really is no substitute for a box made specifically to handle this type of equipment.
There are a few main types of tailor-made tackle boxes. Wooden boxes are natural and nostalgic, but they are often heavy and may need a lot of care. Most anglers opt for a plastic or aluminum box that is water and weather resistant. The plastic versions have the advantage of being less expensive and lighter, but can be prone to breakage if not properly cared for (ultraviolet radiation, in concert with the constant barrage of water and repeated use, can cause some cheaper plastic to degrade).
Most modern tackle boxes are designed to accommodate specialty boxes that fit inside the main compartment, such as fly boxes and worm boxes, or come already fitted with a wide range of internal and external compartments. It's easy to go overboard when buying a tackle box since there are so many options available, but keep in mind that the more you spend on the box, the less you can spend on the gear inside. A good rule of thumb is to purchase a tackle box that can accommodate a growth in your collection without sacrificing portability or organization.
The most basic and important piece of equipment inhabiting your tackle box is the hook. Hooks come in all shapes and sizes, and most are designed to be used for certain fish or certain conditions. Generally, the tackle box should contain a wide-selection of hooks suited to the type of fishing you're doing. This helps the angler modify her gear as necessary to account for current conditions or goals, as well as prevent an outing from ending prematurely because gear has been lost to underwater obstructions or a particularly lucky fish.
Dealers and locals are the best sources for finding the appropriate hook types for your type of fishing, but there are some generalizations that can be made about this essential piece of equipment. For example, hooks come in sizes from 30 (the smallest) to 1, and 1/0 to 16/0 (the largest). Generally, the smaller the fish, the smaller the needed hook. Since freshwater fish are often smaller than saltwater fish, sizes 30 through 1 are primarily used in freshwater fishing.
Second, hooks are designed for use in particular situations. This design is sometimes called the hook's "pattern." For example, weedless hooks, which have a piece of wire loosely closing the gap of a hook, are sometimes used to prevent snags in heavily vegetated waters. Similarly, the type of point and barb a hook uses suits it to the type of fish being sought. The best way to choose a hook is to study up on the type of fish you're after.
A good place to start in building a collection of all-purpose hooks for freshwater bait-fishing is a good selection of Round Bend or Limerick hooks in sizes 6 - 1. For saltwater fishing a generalization is more difficult, but a selection of stainless steel or well-finished Aberdeens or O'Shaugnessys in 1/0 to 10/0 is a good start.
Floats and Bobbers
Floats or bobbers are very sensitive pieces of equipment that indicate when you've got a bite. They're sometimes easier to watch than the end of the pole, particularly for kids, and they can truly pay off if you're fishing more than one rod at a time. These devices float on the surface of the water, and are most often used to suspend a bait at a specific depth.
Floats come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and materials. Floats are usually long and thin, tipped with bright color to make them more visible. Bobbers are often more compact, made of cork or plastic, and usually spherical. As with hooks, you'll have to determine what type of fishing you'll be doing in order to pick the types of floats that will work best for you.
Bobbers work best on relatively still water. Many floats are specifically designed and suited to turbulent or windy conditions. For the novice or weekend angler looking for the basic setup, a few plastic ball bobbers with spring loaded clips and a selection of rudimentary Balsa and/or Peacock floats should meet the requirements.
Weights, also called sinkers, are used to further refine an angler's control over his success. Weights can be used to present baits in a consistent or anticipated manner, either by forcing a bait to sink to the bottom (bottom-fishing) or steadying a bait in moving water. There are many different sizes and designs of weights, of course, each suited to particular uses.
The most common and recognizable is split-shot (called also buck shot or swan shot), and is a round piece of lead or other malleable metal split halfway through. The opposing sides may be widened and then clamped onto a line to add weight. A good selection of split-shot in sizes SSG, AA, BB, and No. 1 is invaluable, both for actually weighting lines and for securing other gear (often larger specialty weights) in position.
These specialty weights are often designed to react differently depending on the types of conditions in which they are being used. For example, disk weights are often used in quick moving water to stabilize stationary baits, while barrel weights used in the same conditions allow the bait to move with the current. Some weights provide other functions as well, from preventing line tangling to increasing the ease and distance of a cast.
A few bombs (teardrop-shaped sinkers) are a must, as well as a generous selection of split shot. Weights used in freshwater and saltwater fishing are specialized, so be sure to consider the type of fishing you'll be concentrating on before filling the box with a lot of elegant hunks of metal.
Terminal TackleTerminal tackle actually refers to the gear, including the hook or lure, that is attached to the end of the main fishing line. This can include crimps, swivels, beads, leaders, lines, spoons, spinners, jigs, plugs, and a huge assortment of other equipment that falls under the general designation of tackle. The beginning tackle box should contain some or all of the following gear, but will, again, be largely dependent on the type of fishing you'll be doing.
First, crimps (small sleeves of metal which clamp down on a doubled-back line) are primarily used to join lines to swivels. Swivels, metal devices which allow two arms to rotate 360 degrees from a primary axis, are extremely important in terminal rigs because they help prevent the line from twisting, and also provide a convenient and easy way to modify the rig. Beads, simple plastic balls that slide onto the line, are generally used to help protect knots. These items cost very little, so a good selection can be available in even the sparsest collection of gear.
For fish that are large, strong, or have sharp teeth, leaders are absolutely essential. A leader is a single strand of solid wire, braided wire, or strong nylon, used between the bait or lure and the actual line. The line itself may be monofilament (the most common type - strong, but weakened by repeated use and exposure), braided (usually Dacron, with no degradation over time as with monofilament), and wire (limited usefulness except for sea-fishing). Extra leaders and replacement line should be a standard accessory in any tackle box.
Spoons, spinners, jigs, and plugs are types of lures. Generally speaking, a good selection of lures is important to any tackle box, but take time in establishing your collection. A few basic lures that come highly recommended by locals or other experts is the best place to start. From there additional purchases can be based on your experience.
Of course, the tackle box doesn't just hold replacement equipment. Steve Hall of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department suggests the following items as must-haves for the new tackle box:
The Essential Essential
Most importantly, Steve reminds seasoned and beginning anglers alike to
always carry their fishing license and regulations. And what better place than
in the tackle box? While you may forget your wallet in the rush to get to your
favorite stream, lake, or other fishing spot, it's usually a safe bet you'll be
taking along your well-stocked tackle box.
Copyright, 2001 - Brent Gagermeier