Lighten Your Load & Catch More Fish with These 7 Tackle Box Essentials
Different situations call for drastically different baits. This can cause problems for anglers working on a budget, or anglers severely lacking in storage space. Personally, I carry 5 tackle boxes, and I still come up short when it comes to bait.
However, if I was told I could only carry one tackle box, I feel like I know what I would need. The assortment, of course, varies by locale but can be adapted to fit basically any environment. By the end of this article, I hope to leave you with a list of essentials for your tackle boxes or bass fishing bags that can lighten your load and add to your livewells!
The very first thing I am sure to bring along on any fishing trip is a quantity of extra-wide gap (EWG) bass hooks. Size is something often debated between fishermen, but I find that 2/0 tends to be the sweet spot. The reason I choose EWG is that it allows for a wider range of mouth sizes to clamp down on the bait, meaning more hookups and less frustration. I tend to use Gamakatsu, but any old brand will work just the same.
Be sure before you even leave the house that your hooks are super sharp, to the point that they readily scratch the surface of your nail with little to no pressure. This ensures that you can penetrate even the toughest of mouths, and drastically improves your hook up ratio.
The second item going in my essentials tackle box or is a pack of stick baits. The most popular brand tends to be Yamamoto Senkos, but I find that any soft plastic of similar appearance tends to get the job done.
These baits are extremely versatile and can be fished in numerous ways. The most popular way is to throw it weightless towards cover, and allow the bait to fall freely on a slackline. Done correctly, your line should peel out in no time! However, don’t let this lead you to believe that it’s the ONLY way to fish a stick bait.
You can also add a bullet sinker and fish it like any other soft plastic, leave it weightless and fish it like a jerkbait, rip it in half and thread it onto a jig head Ned-rig style, etc. The possibilities are limitless!
Thirdly, I’m going to include a pack of soft plastic crawdads. Big bass in my area feed primarily – almost exclusively – on live crawfish. Slow-moving and packed full of protein, they provide a relatively painless and hearty meal, one that almost can’t be turned up. As with the Senkos, there are numerous ways to fish these.
Thread them onto a jig and hop them along the bottom for lunkers, texas rig them and fish them like a worm, or leave them weightless and skim them across the surface for explosive topwater action.
The fourth thing getting packed into my tackle bag is a Fred Arbogast Hula Popper. They’ve been around for almost 90 years now, and for good reason, too – they are one of the best bass fishing lures of all time!
Cast it out and allow the bait to sit unmoved for a few moments. After resting, pop your rod slightly and the bait’s concave mouth creates a disturbance in the water, resulting in an audible “ploink” that bass can’t resist.
During the spring, this is often the only bait I bring with me on a trip, as it simply never fails to produce. The best places to cast this are shallow flats lacking in vegetation.
In the fifth spot, I pack a few Arkie or Booyah-style jigs in green pumpkin and blue/black color combinations (you can experiment with different colors). I’m honestly not sure what they’re supposed to mimic without a trailer, but they’ve been winning tournaments for decades.
Throw a crawdad on it and hop it around. Rip a swimbait in half and thread the tail end on, and swim it through the lake. Add the back half of a Senko and let it sit. No matter what you thread on, the undulating rubber skirt tends to entice even the most lethargic bass into a strike.
Unlike the other baits mentioned, however, the strikes on a jig tend to be soft and, oftentimes, unnoticeable. Be sure to watch your line closely, and set the hook HARD to ensure you get past the built-in fiber weed guard.
Sixth, I’ll pack a 2-4 inch minnow-shaped silver crankbait, regarded by many seasoned anglers as some of the best crankbaits for largemouth bass. Personally, I’ve had limited success with hard baits, but the silver/minnow combination seems to work just about anywhere, and at any time!
A slow retrieve resembles a calm baitfish, while a quicker cadence lends towards a stressed/wounded minnow separated from the pack. Be sure to throw in a few pops and jerks to really sell the wounded part, and big bass will be slamming it regardless.
Finally, I would pack a spinnerbait, preferably one with a smaller (3/8ths oz) profile. Arguably the most effective bait on the market, spinners allow you to cover a lot of water, and bass just love them.
If nothing else in the box is working, the spinner tends to do wonders. By zooming through the lake, the spinnerbait allows you to locate where the fish are holding, even if it’s only to target them with other lures.
Used correctly, it’ll fill your livewell before the midday heat kicks in, leaving you plenty of time to clean the haul and watch others get frantic. From ponds and creeks, all the way up to the oceans, it’s hard to top a small spinner.
Now, this definitely isn’t the end-all-be-all of lists, but it’s for sure all the baits I wouldn’t be caught dead without. Any time I leave the house, you can bet I have multiples of everything listed, and that I’ll throw one of these first.
Your experience might differ, but this list tends to cover all bodies of water I’ve ever visited and all points in the water column where bass are holding. So, get out there and catch some fish!
Good luck and tight lines!
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