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If you’re just getting into fishing, whether it be freshwater or saltwater, it can be a little confusing as to what you should have in your tackle box. Obviously, you need some fishing lures and tackle, but what else?
To help get you on the right track, I’ve compiled a list of 15 items that every saltwater angler should have in their tackle box. It doesn’t matter what type of fishing you plan on doing, these items are a must!
Ultimate Checklist of Tackle Box Essentials (Freshwater and Saltwater)
1. Extra Fishing Line
I find that a lot of newbies overlook the need to pack an extra spool of fishing line in their tackle boxes. I’m not sure if it’s because they figure that since their reels already line on them, why bother with bringing more line?
Assuming everything goes as planned, there really isn’t a need to bring additional fishing line. However, if you’ve been fishing for any amount of time, then you know that as soon as you don’t bring something, that’s when you are going to need it.
There’s nothing worse than having to cut your fishing trip short because you need more fishing line and you didn’t bring any.
Why would you need more fishing line? There are several reasons!
One – You hook into the fish of a lifetime and you can’t stop it from spooling almost all of your line, only to break it off on a dock piling, bridge, or some other type of underwater structure. You not only lost your fish but now you don’t have any more line on your reel.
Two – Have you ever heard of a bird’s nest? If not, you’ll soon find out! It’s when you cast your fishing reel and the line gets tangled all up and looks like a bird could be nesting in it. Unless you are a skilled fisherman, chances are you’re going to need to cut and replace the line.
Three – You have bad fishing line and never even knew it. Even if you recently put brand new fishing line on your reel, at some point between then and you going fishing, it could have gotten a small nick in it, causing it to snap either while casting it or fighting a fish. There are a number of ways that fishing lines can become compromised and you won’t have a clue until it’s too late.
2. Backup Rod and Reel
I know that a rod and reel isn’t something that you can pack in a tackle box but I decided to include it anyway because bringing an extra rod and reel is something that often gets overlooked.
Just like with the fishing line, there are a number of things that could cause you to need another fishing reel so that you don’t have to cut your trip short and pack up and go home.
You never know when a fish might pull your rod and reel into the water (yes this happened to me before), or snap your rod like a twig while you’re fighting it.
Heck, I’ve even had my rod snap by simply just casting it out!
The point is, it never hurts to have an extra rod and reel on hand just in case.
3. Fishing Pliers
A good quality set of fishing pliers is a must for every angler of every skill level!
While it might be tempting to toss that old pair of pliers that you have lying around your garage, you’ll want to get a quality set of fishing pliers that are specifically made for fishing.
Also, if you plan on using braided fishing line, I would make sure that your pliers have a cutter made for cutting braid.
Regardless if you plan on fishing in freshwater or saltwater, I recommend that you opt for a pair of pliers made from aluminum, so that you won’t have to worry about them corroding due to the elements.
The pliers that I use and recommend are made by Madbite. I’ve had them for years and they haven’t failed me yet.
4. Fishing Regulations Ruler
With so many rules and regulations when it comes to which fish you can and can’t keep, it’s a good idea to keep a fishing regulations ruler for your location in your tackle box at all times.
While I’m sure there are some who know every rule and regulation for the area and type of fish that they are targeting, most fishermen (including myself) don’t.
The last thing that you want to do is get caught by the authorities with too small/big of a fish, too many fish, or a fish that you are not supposed to keep.
Not only can you get ticketed, but they could also confiscate all of your fishing gear.
These regulations rulers are only a few bucks, but could potentially save you hundreds of dollars.
5. Pocket Knife
Every tackle box should have a small pocket knife! I know that most anglers keep a filet knife handy and while it could be used in a pinch for other things, filet knives should be used only to clean your fish.
This is where a pocket knife comes in a handy! You can use it for cutting bait, fishing lines, and other needs you never knew you had until you have them.
No need to get super fancy here! This knife is meant to stay in your tackle box and not in your pocket.
As long as it’s a decent quality, you should get plenty of years of use out of it.
Leatherman makes a good knife at a reasonable price. You can find the exact one that I use here on Amazon.com.
6. Fish Stringer
I’m not sure why, but a lot of people overlook this tiny piece of fishing gear when they’re stocking their tackle boxes.
If you like to keep your catch, then it’s a good idea to keep a fish stringer in your tackle box.
Fish stringers are used for when you don’t have a cooler handy to put your fish in after you catch them.
You simply slide the stringer through the fish’s gills as you catch them and secure one end of the line to something on land and the fish go into the water, keeping them alive and fresh until you are ready to call it a day.
They also make stringers that have hook running along a steel chain. For this type of stringer, you simply hook the fish through their bottom lip.
In my opinion, these are unnecessary, not to mention bulky, causing them to take up a lot of space in your tackle box.
A small pair of scissors is another little piece of gear that I always like to keep in my tackle box.
They can come in handy for a number of things including cutting baits, fishing lures, fishing line, and other things.
Again, nothing too fancy!
A small to medium size pair of scissors should do just fine.
8. Hooks and Sinkers
Having an assortment of hooks and sinkers is a must for any tackle box! However, you can go overboard here if you’re not careful.
Before you go out and start buying all kinds of different sizes and styles of hooks and sinkers, you first need to figure out what type of fishing you plan on doing.
If all you plan on doing is bass fishing, then you probably are not going to need heavier sinkers that are meant for bottom fishing.
Also, saltwater fishing is going to require different sizes and material than freshwater fishing will.
Once you have an idea of the type of fishing that you’ll primarily be doing, then go out and buy a few different sizes and weight of hooks and sinkers to start with.
Once you start going fishing, you’ll soon figure out exactly what you’ll need more of.
If you love to do all types of fishing, including saltwater and freshwater fishing, my advice is to buy two separate tackle boxes and designate one for saltwater and one for freshwater.
9. Assortment of Lures
No tackle box would be complete without a good selection of fishing lures!
While you don’t have to go crazy when you’re first starting out, there are a few different types of lures that you need.
Soft Baits – There are a number of different types of soft plastic baits on the market. A few that you may have heard of include plastic worms, grubs, lizards, jerk baits, paddle tails, and so on.
If freshwater fishing is your thing, you definitely need to have a couple of different colors of plastics worms.
If you plan on doing some saltwater fishing, then choose jerk baits and paddle tails.
Hard Baits – Hard baits include topwater plugs, rattletraps, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits. If you are just starting out, I would opt for a topwater plug and a spinnerbait, especially if you are bass fishing. The cool thing about most hard baits is that most fish ( freshwater or saltwater) will strike the same bait.
Gold Spoon – One lure that is often overlooked by anglers of all skill levels is a golden spoon. While technically a hard bait, these shiny lures will catch most any type of fish.
Spoons come in all shapes and sizes and even offer weedless versions.
Spoons are by far my favorite all-time fishing lure and for good reason…they catch fish!
10. Bug Spray and Sunscreen
There is nothing worse than arriving at your favorite fishing spot only to be eaten alive by mosquitos, or no-see-ums. It’s even worse if the fish are biting!
One way to ensure that you are protected is to buy a small travel size bottle of insect repellant and keep it in your tackle box.
It’s easy to forget the bug spray on the counter, but chances are you’re going to remember your tackle box.
Sunscreen is another item that I like to keep in my tackle box.
Even if you apply sunscreen before you leave the house, it’s going to be less effective as the day goes on.
The last thing that you want is a bad sunburn to start the work week off with!
Again, a small travel size spray on sunblock should sufficient. If you can find a bug spray/sunblock combo, that’s even better.
You never know when you might need it but it’s sure nice to know its there for whenever you do.
Leave the raincoat at home! As long as you have a good poncho packed in your tackle box, you should be covered (pun intended).
No need to get fancy here! A five dollar poncho that you can find at most gas stations will do the trick.
Remember, it’s for unexpected weather! If you know ahead of time that it’s more than likely going to rain, then I would bring a raincoat.
If you like to get out on the water during the pre-dawn hours or stay fishing long after the sun goes down, then you absolutely need a headlamp.
Sure you can get by with a small flashlight or even one of those battery operated lanterns, but you are limited to what you can do with either one of those.
It’s been my experience that a headlamp works best!
Not only are they much smaller than the two options that I previously mentioned, but they free your hands, allowing you to do what you need with complete use of your hands.
13. Cheap Polarized Sunglasses
Since you more than likely already have a good pair of polarized sunglasses, this is one item that you may not have thought of.
It’s always a good idea to have a backup pair of sunglasses, especially if you plan on being out on the water in the hot sun fishing all day long.
You just never know when your expensive pair of Costas will fall off your head and into the water.
This actually happened to me once!
Not only did I lose an expensive pair of sunglasses, but I was forced to fish virtually blind all day long since I happened to be sight fishing for redfish that day.
From that day on, I’ve always kept a cheap $15 pair of polarized sunglasses in my tackle box.
14. First Aid Kit
When you’re dealing with pointed hooks, knives, and fish fins that poke all day long, accidents are bound to happen.
It’s always a good idea to keep a small first-aid kit in your tackle box!
I like to have a few band-aids, a small bottle of liquid band-aid, tweezers, and alcohol wipes all packed in a good Ziploc sandwich bag.
Oh, and don’t forget some type of headache/pain medication such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen. A bad headache can really put a damper on an otherwise awesome day of fishing.
These few items should be enough for the minor accidents that you might encounter.
15. Super Glue
I always keep a tube of super glue handy in my tackle box! Not only can it be used to temporarily repair all sorts of things, including fishing rods and reels, lures, knives, sunglasses and so on, but it can also be used to seal a bad cut in a pinch.
Did you know that’s how super glue was invented? It was originally meant as another option for stitching up major surgeries and it can still work to buy you some time until you can reach a hospital.
Another useful item for your tackle box that you have not thought of is paracord. This highly versatile string can be used for a number of different things, including tying down fishing gear, a stringer, a tourniquet, etc.
I keep about a 5 ft piece of paracord in my tackle box sealed in a Ziploc sandwich bag.
I’m also usually wearing a paracord bracelet, so if I need more, I have it.
17. Extra Contact Lenses
If you don’t wear contacts or glasses, you more than likely wouldn’t think of contact lenses as an essential item for your tackle box. However, if you do wear contact lenses, then you may know why I decided to include them on this list.
On more than one occasion, I’ve lost a contact lens while out fishing. After the first time of going blind all day, not to mention coming home with a bad headache from wearing only one contact, I started keeping a backup pair in my tackle box.
18. Lens Cleaning Wipes
If you wear glasses, whether it be prescription or sunglasses when fishing, you need to pack a few lens cleaning wipes in your tackle box.
At some point, you’re bound to get water, dirt, or some other type of debris on them.
Have you ever tried cleaning sunglasses with the tail of your shirt after being on the water all day?
If not, I’ll give you a heads up…all you’re going to get is a nice big smudge!
A few lens cleaning wipes will ensure that you have clean glasses all day long.
19. Face Mask
You won’t need one all of the time, but when you do, you’ll sure be glad that you packed an extra one in your tackle box.
I’m talking about a face mask to protect your face from the glaring sun on those hot summer days.
After spending several hours in the hot sun, sunscreen dramatically loses its sun protective qualities, which can leave you exposed to the harmful rays of the sun.
Sure you can reapply, but if you’re wanting to catch fish, this might not be a good idea! The chemicals left behind on your hands can get on your fishing line and bait, which can spook the fish.
A good face mask can prevent this!
Most face masks come in a one-size-fits-all size, which in my opinion is a bunch of bull, especially if you have a big head as I do.
However, there is one brand that I’ve found that actually has size options. I use Aqua Design face masks! You can find the exact one that I use here on Amazon.com.
If you’re new to fishing, determining whether or not a fish is biting can be a little tricky.
One solution to this is to use a bobber attached to just above your leader line.
This little float will bob up and down when you are getting a bite, then fully submerge when the fish has it in its mouth, swimming off with your bait. It’s at this time when you pull on your rod and set the hook.
Bobbers come in all shapes and sizes, so I would stock at least two or three in various sizes.
I do a lot of my fishing in secluded areas, whether it be on a backwater canal, a hidden lake or a creek that might have been overlooked by other anglers.
In most cases, it’s usually someplace where there’s not a lot of people around within shouting distance.
For this reason, I always carry a whistle in my box just in case something happens and I might need to make a lot of noise to either attract someone or scare something off.
Luckily I haven’t had to use it yet, but it’s nice to know that I have it just in case!
There you have it! The 21 tackle box essentials that I feel every fisherman should have in their tackle boxes at all times.
Of course, you may not need or want to include everything that I mentioned on this list and that’s okay. The list was meant merely as a guide to help you get started.
Do you have any items that you like to have in your tackle box at all times? If so, please leave a comment below and let me know what they are.