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Tackle Box Checklist

tackle box checklist

When fishing season starts, it’s time to decide what to pack in your tackle box. If you don't have one already, your first order of business will be to buy a high quality fishing tackle box. You can choose to purchase either a traditional hard tackle box or a newer style of soft tackle box. Your exact needs will vary depending on the type of fish you’re planning on catching. For example, the gear to catch freshwater trout is going to be different from what you need to go offshore marlin fishing. However, there are some items that should be in your tackle box year-in and year-out regardless of the type of fishing. In this article, we’ll go over our top picks for must-have tackle box items.

Extra Hooks

tackle box checklist
You’ll want to keep plenty of extra hooks in your tackle box. You should make sure you have several different types and sizes for catching various species of fish. If you're an avid fly fisher, you may also consider carrying extra fly tying hooks

You will find many hooks are measured within the ‘aught’ system. Hooks measured by the ‘aught’ system are designated with a slash symbol. When using this system, larger hooks will have a higher number assigned. A size “8/0” hook will be larger than a “6/0”.

However, with plain numbers, the inverse is true: a plain 8 is smaller than a plain 4. It’s very important to keep a diverse set of hooks that can accommodate any fish you would want to catch.

Extra Line

tackle box checklist
When you go fishing, you can almost always plan on your line getting broken. If you’re going after large fish or fishing in harsh conditions, this is especially true. There are three kinds of fishing line: braided, monofilament, and fluorocarbon. The type of line you need depends on the fish you are looking to catch.


Hook and bait alone are not going to sink very deep into the water. To catch fish that swim at greater depths, you’ll need fishing sinkers to add weight to your line.

Sinkers are sometimes made from lead, but these are increasingly being banned due to environmental concerns. Today, sinkers made of tungsten, brass, and steel are more common.

Swivels are important because they will prevent twisting in your line. They also help keep the sinker above your bait in the water.


tackle box checklist
Floaters, often called bobbers, are brightly colored plastic balls that are attached to your line. They are designed to be pulled underwater when a fish takes your bait. Floaters give you an obvious visual indication that you have a bite. This can be handy in rough waters or when fishing for smaller game. Floaters typically clip onto your line. But, anything that floats in water can be used as a makeshift bobber. For example, some people use wine corks as bobbers. It is important to keep in mind that some of these improvised floaters may be difficult to see in the water.


tackle box checklist
Live bait is generally preferred by most fishermen that you’ll meet. But, there are places where live bait is either unsuitable or outright prohibited. For that reason, it’s always good to have fishing lures or plastic worms in your tackle box. Lures can come in a wide variety of shapes and colors -- it will just take some practice to figure out which work best for you.

One good way to choose your lures is to look at the color of the water. The darker the water, the brighter your lure should be. This way, it will be easier for the fish to see. In clear water, look for a lure that is more natural in color.


tackle box checklist
A good multi-tool will come in handy for a number of different jobs while fishing. It can be used to remove hooks, cut line, or even aid with minor boat repairs. No good tackle box is complete without a multi-tool.

A knife is also a great thing to keep in your box. There will be many times when you have no choice but to cut your line. That is when a small pocket knife could be easier to use than a multi-tool. Better yet, some anglers keep a set of nail clippers in their pocket for quickly cutting their line.

First Aid Kit

tackle box checklist
It’s important to be safe when you’re out on the water. It is a good idea to keep the bare essentials in a small first aid kit. In your tackle box, you should have some bandages, gauze, tape, and Neosporin. Be sure that this is all stored in some kind of waterproof bag!

Also, make sure that you have some kind of sunblock in your tackle box. You’ll probably be out in the sun for hours, so it’s important to minimize exposure to harsh UV rays. There’s nothing fun about going home with a sunburn. You should apply sunscreen before you go out on the water, and then re-apply it throughout your day.


tackle box checklist
Sunglasses can protect your eyes from the sun, but they also reduce the reflective glare coming off the water. This will allow you to see deeper into the water. A good pair of sunglasses could make all the difference in what you bring home on the boat!


tackle box checklist
If you’re having a good day out, you’ll probably want to stay until around sunset. Alternatively, some fish may bite more at night. Either way, you should have a headlamp in your tackle box to help when the light gets low.


There are very few places that won’t require a fishing license. To avoid fines, you’ll need to have that fishing license with you. Fishing licenses are generally much cheaper than the fine you will pay for not having one as well. In addition to keeping your fishing license in your tackle box, we suggest taking a picture of the license -- just in case. When it comes to licensing, better safe than sorry!

Measuring Tapes, Scales and Rulers

tackle box checklist
For conservation purposes, you often cannot keep fish that are too large or too small. Although sometimes an annoyance, this law does well to conserve species for future fishermen. To be sure that you can legally keep your catch, you should pack some measuring tape in your tackle box.

It's also a good idea to carry a fish scale with you for weighing your fish.

Fillet Knife

tackle box checklist
A fillet knife is a fantastic tool to have in your tackle box. Bleeding a fish is also easier in the water, and a fillet knife can be used for that purpose. If you’re just fishing for catch and release, you can make do without the fillet knife. But if you plan on cooking your catch, a sharp fillet knife is a must-have.