You Can Take it With You

How to be smart about bringing your favorite tackle to exciting fishing destinations

jet airliner

jet airliner

This is a great time of year to plan serious fishing travel, particularly for those in northerly climes. And you’ll find several features on great fishing destinations in this issue. There are a lot of amazing bucket-list fishing destinations out there.

I’ve taken quite a few bucket-list trips over the years. Most of the time, unless I’ll only be trolling blue water, I end up bringing my own gear — at least several rods/reels plus various tackle (poppers, speed jigs, swimbaits, diving plugs and more).

I’ve learned the hard way that many fishing resorts/charters a) don’t provide tackle; or b) provide tackle not really right for what I want to do; or c) provide tackle that, while pretty good, still isn’t as good as my own, or might have quality reels that lack full spools or were rode hard and put away wet.

I’ve heard some horror stories about anglers waiting months to take a trip, and then being disappointed in the gear available once they arrived.

I think bringing your own gear helps ensure that your time and money are well spent.

Still, you do have to get your tackle there. If you’re headed to a U.S. hot spot, it might pay to send it ahead, but sending internationally can mount up to many hundreds of dollars in a hurry.

Way back in 2007, I wrote an editorial entitled “Wanted: A Fisherman-Friendly Airline.” That was shortly after a Delta agent in LA kept me standing at the counter until she finally located a tape measure and, finding the rod tube I was checking 2 inches over the allotted length at that time, nailed me for another $100.

I spent some time recently researching baggage regulations on the websites of most major domestic and a few international carriers. Often those regs were ambiguous, incomplete and/or confusing, and in some cases I had to speak with airline agents to make sense of them.

But the good news is that domestic airlines have gotten pretty good for traveling anglers: Almost all (including Jet Blue) allow a fishing-rod tube and a tackle bag to count as one checked item (though some require the combined weight to be no more than 50 pounds).

This means you can check one bag with personal effects, a heavy tackle bag and rod tube as two pieces, so your charges will likely range from $0 (Southwest) to $50 or $60.

Be aware that most have limits on length (generally 91 to 126 inches) and might specify a maximum diameter (3 inches on Southwest).

I suspect the regs were not written by anglers, since most specify “two rods and one reel.” (Copa allows you one “spool.”) What’s up with that? American is one of the few that has rewritten that weird “industry-standard” rule; it specifies no limits on how many sticks might be in your rod tube nor how many reels in your tackle bag.

However, in many trips over many years, I’ve never had an agent open a rod tube, and agents from airlines I spoke with told me that’s highly unlikely.

But if your destination precludes you traveling on a U.S.-based carrier, look out. Most foreign-based airlines are not _your friend if you're an angler with gear. As best I could determine, checking that one personal bag, tackle bag and rod case could cost you up to $600 round trip (Air France). In fact, when I asked a Lufthansa agent about the "one fishing rod" provision, he said counter agents _would open a rod tube to check — and would charge you $150 (each way) per rod! (By the way, Lufthansa charges the same amount to take a surfboard as one fishing rod.) Emirates will nick you $700 round trip for a rod tube longer than 62 linear inches.

So caveat emptor big time if taking fishing gear overseas on foreign carriers.

The takeaway I think is that unless you know exactly what tackle you’ll have available on the other end when you arrive at a great fishing destination, it’s worth bringing yours, and if you’re smart about it, you can do can probably so without undue expense or hassle.