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November 28, 2012

Goody Bags

Soft-Sided Tackle-Storage Systems Make Carrying Gear a Snap

soft tackle boxes

Photo by Adriane E. Gray

Do you remember your first tackle box? I remember mine. It was a battered, old, Army-green metal box passed down from my father. It had a single metal latch on the lid, a thin, bent-wire handle and three rickety, fold-out trays. It wasn’t pretty — but it served me well, toting what few lures I owned safely back and forth to the water.

Things have a way of changing over time, though. Today, metal boxes are a thing of the past. And while the hard-shell, molded-plastic tackle box that took its place is still used by many anglers, fishermen are turning more often to soft-sided tackle-storage systems.

There are many compelling reasons why.

Soft and Pliable

Soft-sided tackle systems emerged about 20 years ago, almost by accident, says Jesse Simpkins, vice president of sales and marketing at Plano.


tackle box insert
The heart of a soft-sided tackle storage system is the utility box, such as this Hydro-Flo StowAway box from Plano.

“People were using duffle bags back then and simply throwing in utility boxes,” he says. “It was good in one sense because these bags could be more easily stuffed into boat compartments. But they were loose, with no structure and no ­specialized room for anything else. So we started devising more-structured bags to hold tackle.”

It didn’t take long for manufacturers to discover that the very nature of these soft bags allowed for great creativity. Whether the tackle “box” was constructed of Cordura or other pliable material, features such as exterior pockets, cords that could attach to pliers, innovative built-in handles and shoulder straps were much easier to engineer.

“There was much more allowance for design creativity,” Simpkins says, “but you had to be more technically savvy when working with these materials.”

More than anything, soft tackle bags greatly enhanced storage capacity, says Greg Stotesbury, sales manager at AFTCO, which began selling its popular Angler’s Bag several years back. “Hard boxes have a fixed amount of capacity, but soft bags allow some over-stuffing,” he says.

That’s because of the AFTCO product’s flexible, yet durable, 600-denier Cordura construction. The bag features a molded, waterproof EVA base and rustproof zippers, and it is designed to hold three 3700-size utility boxes — yet there’s still extra room for spare reels or a rain jacket.

And although the waterproof ­characteristics of a hard-shell tackle box are tough to beat, manufacturers have made great strides with soft-sided products. Plano uses a patented process in the dying of the exterior fabric of its Hydro-Flo line of bags that renders them 100 percent waterproof, Simpkins says.

“But if water does get in for whatever reason, the base is cored with drainage holes, so the water pours out,” he says. What’s more, that base is built up and actually keeps your belongings three inches off the ground. “So if there’s any water in the bottom of the boat, the gear in your bag will stay dry.”