Tackle trays cradle most of the valuable terminal tackle an angler owns. This often-ignored accessory might be simple in its design, but its purpose and evolution contribute greatly to angler success. Even when they’re tucked away, plastic trays — like wallets — serve a vitally important use.
Each fishing trip, those trays become instrumental when storing and rigging tackle. Plus, soft tackle bags and boat storage compartments necessitate the use of hard boxes.
So even if fishermen pay little attention to their tackle storage, those plastic containers need to be tough and protect against the elements, yet be versatile enough to handle different gear. Today’s tackle trays have come a long way from warped and off-color plastic holders that allow saltwater intrusion to rust out hooks. Take advantage of what’s available.
Standard tackle trays that hold all your choice plugs are no longer basic. Trays can be double-layered, double-sided, deep, shallow, even grooved to help tack hooks in place. The latches themselves are bulked up to prevent damage. Plano’s ProLatch and Flambeau’s Tuff Tainer models both offer security, so gear stays in place, and the tray doesn’t burst open when dropped on the deck.
Sometimes the tackle tray itself doubles as a tackle box — the line between hard tackle box and tackle tray is increasingly blurry. For instance, Plano builds handles onto its Satchel StowAway ($8.99). The next step up is Plano’s Flex ’N Go Satchel ($32.99): One side is fixed, with a deep bin, adjustable compartments and lid; the other side holds two clip-on utility boxes. That deep bin offers space for line spools, pliers and possibly even a reel to go along with your terminal tackle on the other side.
Hi-Seas introduced a tray at this year’s ICAST show with removable dividers to adjust inside compartments to different sizes. Straight-length wire, crimps, sleeves, lures, pliers and other terminal tackle all have a home. Other tackle makers offer comparable terminal-tackle holders that are just as versatile, like Plano’s 3600-size Waterproof StowAway ($6.99).
Clear, colored trays might gain popularity too, with Flambeau’s new blue and pink Tuff Tainer models ($8.61) aimed at kids. I don’t think I’ll use that pink color much, but a blue tackle tray definitely stands out amid other models. That blue box is an easy pick for my most productive lures so I can easily locate it among others.
Waterproof or Washdown?
Some trays make it easier than ever to keep your tackle free of corrosion. In the past, it was often a toss-up whether that favorite lure would emerge from your tackle box rust-free or corroded. Don’t gamble anymore.
Flambeau’s Waterproof Ultimate Tuff Tainer Series boxes ($8.99) incorporate a watertight seal and three tight latches, as well as removable dividers. Similarly, Plano’s Waterproof Stowaway boxes ($9.99) include a Dri-Loc O-ring seal and three cam-action latches. Both boxes utilize the airtight seal to keep water away from lures and gear.
“[The boxes] do a great job of keeping water out,” says Mark Davis, a Flambeau pro staffer and host of the BigWater Adventures TV show. “But they also can keep water in. Imagine snipping a topwater off your leader and placing it back in there — that plug’s still wet with salt water.”
That’s where Flambeau’s Zerust technology helps, says Davis. Zerust protects metals from rust and corrosion via a harmless vapor by forming a protective layer around hooks, swivels and wire. Most Flambeau tackle trays already come with proprietary blue dividers that integrate the Zerust technology. Even better, Flambeau sells plastabs ($6.12), capsules ($9.75), tabs ($7.94) and dividers ($2.50) individually so you can add the protective technology to any of your tackle trays.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Plano concedes that water will enter its series of Hydro-Flo boxes ($7.79) no matter how hard one tries to prevent it. Small ports in the trays allow wet baits to dry naturally to prevent oxidation and rust, while also extending the life of synthetic soft plastics. Hydro-Flo boxes include traditional utility boxes for lures, as well as spinnerbait boxes.
“All my new baits and lures go into the waterproof stowaways before they’re ever used,” says Capt. Mike Frenette, of Venice, Louisiana, and a Plano pro staffer. “Once they’re fished, I’ll pack them in the Hydro-Flo boxes with other used baits. I can rinse the Hydro-Flo boxes with fresh water — without having to take any tackle out of the boxes — before packing ’em away.”
For the many odd-shaped pieces of gear and tackle that don’t fit into an average tackle tray, manufacturers thought outside the box to produce trays for specific needs.
Davis uses umbrella or “Alabama” rigs to create simple dredges for trolling, especially when he’s on location filming a TV show. The rigs use artificials, not natural baits, he says, but they’re still highly effective.
Flambeau’s Umbrella Rig Storage System ($5.05) features three long compartments for a couple of rigs, plus adjustable dividers for extra tackle storage. Each box is infused with patent-pending Zerust.
Now a standard in most inshore tackle boxes, scent-impregnated soft baits such as Berkley Gulp! and Z-Man Scented BaitZ are a hassle to store once pulled from their original packaging. Plano’s Liqua Bait Locker systems contain the liquids and other nasty odors, says Frenette. Specifically, the Deep Liqua Bait Locker ($20.99) and Liqua Bait Wallet ($6.99) hold the juices via a DriLoc Seal, plus they lengthen the lifespan of the baits.
To handle your fluoro and mono leaders, Plano’s Leader Spool Box ($10.99) holds spools 5 inches in diameter and 1 inch wide. Rubber line guides in the lower half of the box feed line outside the box. Though the spool box features a carrying handle, many anglers mount the box to their boat console for easy access.
Offshore Trolling Lures
Massive offshore lures such as poppers, lipped plugs, and trolling plugs and skirts for wahoo, billfish, and tuna are some of the hardest baits to store. Flambeau’s Maximizer ($122.22) and Plano’s Big Game System ($94.99) answer the need. Each massive bait-storage box features two racks, holding 40-plus lures vertically.
Prepping a bunch of wind-on leaders, kingfish rigs and dropper-loop rigs the night before an offshore trip saves valuable time on the water. But getting those rigs to the boat without tangles is a struggle. Flambeau’s Terminal Tackle File Satchel ($30.99) is equipped with eight open-core boxes and three Zerust dividers to organize pre-made leaders. Stickers are available to label each box.
Spoons and other “iron” can beat up and break down a plastic box from sheer weight, especially if strewn around loosely. Plano’s Extra Large Spoon Box ($31.99) is specifically meant to handle the mass, holding 66 spoons up to 5 inches long. Foam tightly secures the weedless and trebled spoons, plus a clear lid allows you to locate and quickly access spoons.
No longer are there any excuses to have a mess of rusty hooks, tackle strewn throughout the boat, or a disorganized garage. Chances are there’s a tray for whatever piece of tackle you’re trying to store.