August 21, 2018
It was almost cobia time in Northeast Florida, and my friend Roger Beale was inspecting a jig at his workbench. Roger had a clear tackle tray full of jigs, with a second tray full of every sized swivel he might need to build his leader. His sons were planning a trip, and Roger was making all the rigs they would need.
I noticed another two dozen trays stacked on shelves, each labeled. Lipped divers. Connections. Butterfly Jigs. All immediately recognizable. “The boys are old enough to fish without me,” Roger said. “When they leave early, all I have to do is look in a certain spot to make sure they have all the safety equipment, as well as checking our tackle inventory. We have a deal. If every piece of tackle is back where it goes, and I can't find a single grain of salt, they can take the boat without me again.
“The trays on the shelves will always be stocked with the materials we need for making the rigs we need to fish the current season. Our cobia rods have been up in the ceiling rod racks all winter. Now that it's spring, the cobia rods come down into the racks. The rods in the floor racks are the ones we're currently using. Each rod has a specific holder, and it better have been wiped down with an oily rag before it goes back in the holder.”
Roger's ceiling and wall racks are simple: store-bought rod racks from West Marine, mounted on 1 X 2 No.1 spruce boards. The boards were sanded, stained and triple-coated with polyurethane. The boards set the racks low enough to keep reels and rods from rubbing on the walls and ceiling.
Like Roger, I'm a fanatic for having all the leaders we'll need on my boat built well in advance. For me the best way to store mono is to keep all the spools on pegs on the walls, and then keep trays with every sized crimp imaginable in the compartments along with a label showing what size it is.
Boat builders are getting better at integrating tackle tray holders, but I have yet to see one that stays dry, especially during a good wash down at the end of the day.
There's no doubt in my mind that if you unload your trays and bags at the end of the day, and spray a very light coat of oil, such as Q MAX Salt or WD40, on the trays before storing them in a predetermined location, your tackle stays more organized than if you leave it on the boat between trips. It only makes sense you are far more apt to keep yourself in stock on 6/0 non-offset circle hooks if they are in the same place in your tackle room every day.
Clear tackle trays with bags designed to carry them have become the norm. Whether you carve out a coat closet, corner of the garage, or are lucky enough to have a room dedicated to nothing but tackle, organization is the key. Get shelving that matches your trays, and enough PVC rod racks to keep each rod in one. If you are fortunate to have a solidly installed bench, I highly recommend a good vise, no matter what kind of fishing you do, but for the blue water enthusiast a bench swager is the only way to crimp a heavy leader. I'll bet you I've hand crimped a thousand leaders. And even after more than 30 years of practice, I test each one with the heaviest pull I can muster. Sure enough, every so often I'll put maximum pressure on a leader, only to have it slip. FS
First published Florida Sportsman June 2018