Confusion? Paralysed by choice? That’s a common complaint among anglers choosing a new tackle box.
In this post, our resident fishing guide Shawn Chapin cuts through the marketing spin and uses his first hand fishing experience to pick the best tackle box on the market in across several categories: hard body tackle boxes, soft body tackle boxes/tackle bags and rolling tackle boxes.
For those is a hurry, we’ve listed out top fishing tackle boxes across each category below:
- Best hard body tackle box: Plano 7771-01 Guide Series Tackle System (click here to buy)
- Best soft body tackle box: Plano 3500 Guide Series Tackle Bag (click here to buy)
- Best wheeled tackle box: Elkton Outdoors Rolling Fishing Tackle Box (click here to buy)
Read on to get Shawn’s full thoughts on all the fishing tackle boxes reviewed and his method for choosing the correct tackle box based on your style of fishing.
Hard Tackle Boxes
When I was a kid it became pretty apparent that hard body tackle boxes had a specific role to fill. How you may ask? Well, living in the lake filled northwoods of Wisconsin, I fished constantly by riding my bicycle from one lake to the next all day long.
Riding a bike with a big hard body tackle box either in hand or by hanging off the handlebars of my bike made it pretty apparent that hard tackle boxes are suited towards being placed in a boat and aren’t built with on the move shore fishing in mind.
- Great for boats
- Great for keeping in vehicles
- Durable and long lasting
- Great tackle storage options
Size: 21″ wide X 12″ deep X 12″ tall
The Plano Guide Series box isn’t new for 2021 and has been on the market for quite a long time, I had this same tackle box almost 20 years ago as a kid, and it most certainly got put through the ringer, which is why it’s on this list. If it can handle a 12-13 year old me, it can handle anything.
This box features the Plano 4 system, with 4 individually snap lock boxes or (trays) as Plano calls them, that can be removed whenever. This is great for separating lures based on function, crankbaits in one, topwater lures in one, jigs in the other, and so on.
It also features a spinnerbait storage area for a decent selection of spinnerbaits, and a clear top compartment with plenty of storage space for items such as terminal tackle.
Plano tackle boxes come with a limited lifetime warranty, and even though they are incredibly tough, if you do manage to break one, you might be covered.
Size: 10″3/4 High, 18″ Length, 9’1/2 deep.
The Plano Angled Tackle System is great for keeping things organised with all your lure trays visible and close to hand. they slide in and out on a 15 degree angle (gravity keeps them in place) but can be fastened with a pull up cover when in transit. The DuraView covers on all compartments allow you to see the lures inside., while the latches and carry handle are very solid.
This box is very well made and many people use it not only as a tackle box but also to carry a comprehensive first aid kit.
For fishermen and women, it is an ideal choice with plenty of storage compartments on top of and beside the large trays for your hooks, swivels, sinkers and more.
Size: 16 x 9 x 8.25 inches
The Flambeau Outdoors 3 Tray tackle box is great for anglers who want to travel light, or for kids.
The three fold out trays will be familiar to many anglers, and it has smaller tray slots on the top tray, and they grow in size as you get to the bottom.
The adjustable dividers are also removable for many of the compartments, making it modular for any lure shape, length, or size needed to fit.
The top features a hinged compartment for terminal tackle storage, and the bottom has a ton of space for such a small box, making it great for items like bags of soft plastics, pliers or forceps, and other tools and items like bobbers.
Soft Tackle Boxes – backpack and shoulder strap
Soft body tackle boxes, or tackle bags, are great for anglers on the move, particularly those fishing from shore, but also for anglers who are meeting a friend at the boat landing and want to keep things light and mobile, and for kayak anglers as well (although sometimes a small waterproof tackle box is better for kayak fishing).
Many tackle bags feature shoulder straps which aid greatly in the mobility department, and some are even designed to be carried like a backpack.
- Variety of sizes and options from large to small
Size: 22.01 x 12.64 x 12.48 inches
Talk about a no nonsense tackle bag. The Plano Guide Series tackle bag – which comes with a shoulder strap – has a ton of storage for its size.
Made from 1680 denier fabric, this thing is super rugged and can handle anything you can dish out short of a flamethrower, and is able to hold its color and more importantly its shape for years.
It features molle webbing similar to that found on tactical gear used in the military to hold additional tools and gear, and a laser cut and molded rubber base to eliminate slipping, as well as a magnetic top to securely hold items like hooks and forceps or pliers.
Don’t forget the important parts like the 3500 sized Stowaway trays for tackle organization, Waterproof cell phone holder, license holder, and carabiner.
Plano also did a nice touch by adding oversized molded zippers for durability & easier use. I love the color too – the light brown color is great for when you are rummaging around within the bag looking for things as everything stands out better than if you have a black bag with a dark interior, such as the Spiderwire model reviewed here.
Size: 18.5 x 17 x 8.5 inches
Weight: 7 pounds
The Nomad is a full featured tackle bag with several unique features.
It has an LED light system that allows you to see into the backpack or your work area if you’re fishing at night or in deep shade.
It also features a zippered fold down working area that functions like a mini table giving you a solid surface to prepare rigs, organise tackle or prepare lunch.
The Wild River Tek Nomad also comes with 4 PT 3600 storage boxes and has a padded sunglasses storage container on the top and a rain cover that can protect the bag when you are fishing in wet conditions.
It is a popular and safe choice for those who want this style of tackle bag.
Size: 15.75 x 10.8 x 8.2
Land-based anglers who are relatively mobile love the Spiderwire Wolf Tackle Bag – it is comfortable to wear with a padded shoulder strap and has enough space to store a few lure trays, reels and food and water for an extended day trip.
The internal dividers in the Spiderwire Wolf Tackle Bag are adjustable and it comes with holders for pliers and other tools as well plenty of pockets.
I think it is pretty good value and quality wise it is made by the same manufacturer as the Spiderwire range of lines and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
The only criticism of the Spiderwire Wolf Tackle Bag is that it is black in color, which tends to attract and transmit heat. This is an issue when you are fishing in hot sunny conditions and you’ve got your lunch stored inside it. It’s not a deal breaker, but more something to remember – if you buy this bag, be careful to find a shady place to put in on the lake shore or river bank or other favourite fishing spot.
Size: 16.4 x 13.9 x 10.2 inches
This is another great tackle bag for a bargain price. It is made from heavy duty water resistant fabric and its main compartment holds up to eight utility boxes, which are included with the bag.
The front pocket is ideal for holding your wallet or car keys (best of all there is a hard shell pocket for your sunglasses to stop them getting crushed) and it comes with a couple of exterior tool holders and accessory loops.
The Okeechobee Fats Deluxe is double stitched and well constructed according to a US design.
Rolling Tackle Boxes
Wheeled tackle boxes are great for long trips. Going to Alaska for trophy pike? Florida for Tarpon? Australia for Murray Cod or barramundi? Well, if you are you might want to consider getting a wheeled tackle box. It’s much easier to travel with one of these either in the back of your vehicle or when boarding a plane.
- Great storage space
- Easy to travel with
- Easy to cart around with the wheels
- Usually come with a higher price than alternatives
Size: 15.7 x 18.5 x 9.6 inches
The Elkton outdoors rolling tackle box is light (for this type of box), compact, waterproof, and incredibly durable, giving it one of the slots on this post.
This box has 5 3600 sized trays to fit a ton of lures in it, and a padded and adjustable top storage compartment for anything from your cell phone to terminal tackle and other gear.
The roller box is designed to roll with up to 26 plus pounds worth of gear in it, that’s a ton of baits! It also features 4 rod holders to allow you to carry everything with one hand and leaving the other free to carry your case of beer.
The Elkton Rolling Tackle box can also be carried a few different ways, either by using the pull out handle and wheels, but for off-road carrying it features two backpack style straps to allow you to carry it on your back.
Size: 19” tall, 16” wide and 10” deep
The Recon comes with a 12- month guarantee, so right off the bat you know it’s going to be reliable and durable.
The recon is designed with the ultimate with corrosion resistance in mind, for both fresh and saltwater. The zippers are corrosion resistant, and the box itself is made from a breathable polyester material.
The pack is fairly large at 19” tall, 16” wide and 10” deep, can come with 5 3650 sizes tackle trays, and allows for the use of any 3600 sized tray as well.
Along with the large size it also features quick access pockets and the overall design allows for great organization and fast access so you spend less time fumbling around for gear and lures and more time fishing.
The Recon also allows for back carrying via to adjustable and padded straps, allowing you to carry it comfortably around varying terrain.
The best tackle boxes we reviewed in detail
Best hard tackle box
The Plano Guide Series takes the prize here. This box has stood the test of time having been around in various forms for a few decades. The combination of rugged design, versatility in storage options and lifetime warranty make this a clear top choice in this catergory.
Best soft tackle box/tackle bag
The Plano 3500 Series Guide Bag is our pick.
While it might not have all the frills and gadgets that some fishing tackle boxes do, this thing is rugged and truly built to last, it’s the hard working man of the tackle world, it looks cool, and it means business, it doesn’t have time for nonsense, it can carry a ton of your gear and lures and get tossed down a cliff face and ask for more. As anglers many of us are practical, and that’s really what this tackle box design is all about, quick access, plentiful storage, and a rugged design that’s second to none.
Best rolling tackle box
The fact that this tackle box is waterproof yet light, compact and durable make it a strong contender.
Add in the rod holders, range of trays and compartments and the backup backpack-style carry straps for rough terrain and the Elkton is the standout tackle box in the wheeled category.
Choosing the best tackle box – FAQs
What kind of tackle box is best? Hard vs Soft Tackle boxes
You need to consider the kind of fishing you do most often to choose a tackle box. Summarised below are some considerations:
I walk several kilometres upriver before I start fishing: a soft tackle box of the backpack variety (such as the Wild River Tackle Tek Nomad) is the clear choice here. A box is annoying to carry that kind of distance and a soft tackle box with a shoulder strap can tend to rub a bit and easily snags on small trees and shrubs. A wheeled box is obviously out of the question.
I drive to the spot and start fishing: A hard bodied tackle box such as the Plano 7771-01 Guide Series Tackle System is the best choice here. The trays slide out easier than in a soft box and if you have a couple of boxes they stack readily and fit neatly in the trunk of your car. They are better for keeping lures organised so the trebles on your crankbaits don’t get tangled up in your spinner baits!
My fishing spot is 500m or so from the nearest parking spot: A hard tackle box would do here, but if you are needed to cart a lot of gear then you are looking at one of the large boxes on the market. In that case that handle is going to start to hurt your hand, and a wheeled tackle box or a soft tackle box might be better.
Wheeled boxes come into there own if you are fishing in an urban area, such as at the end of a pier or rockwall in a harbor, where there is a solid pavement right to the fishing spot. The Elkton Outdoors Rolling Fishing Tackle Box is a great choice.
But if you have to walk over dirt, grass or broken ground to get to the water, you are better off with a soft body tackle box.
The backpack variety is fine, but this sort of scenario is where the shoulder strap model of box such as the Plano 3500 Guide Series Tackle Bag come in handy. Carrying the box off the shoulder doesn’t bounce the lure trays around as much as a backpack and is quite convenient for these short trips between car and water.
Which is better? Pull-out compartments or removable ones?
Removable containers – especially those with adjustable dividers – are great as they give you more flexibility. For example, you can slide them out and take them into your workshop to mend lures, attach new trebles etcetera and then slide them back in. You can also have different trays that you slide in for different types of fishing. For example, you could have soft plastics trays and spinnerbait trays and jig trays. The cantilevered trays are fine too, but there is more that can go wrong and they aren’t removable.
What is the best tackle box for boat fishing?
Hard bodied tackles boxes such as Plano 7771-01 Guide Series Tackle System are best for boats in most cases. They are a bit more compact for the amount they can carry and can be stowed more easily in hatches without any straps or harnesses to get in the way. Same applies for kayak fishing where a hard box – or even just a lure tray – is better to conserve space.
What is the best saltwater tackle box?
For frequent salt water use you really want to avoid zips as even the best ones can corrode. So that means a hard tackle box. I really like the Plano Angled Tackle System for fishing in saltwater, particularly from a boat. The angle trays help in terms of keeping things organised – you can see at a glance what lures are in which tray. Good if you happen to have a bad memory for where you have put stuff! There is a pull up cover that stops these trays flying out and it slides away when the box is in use. This box is very rugged – we’ve heard of it falling out of a pickup truck going 50 miles an hour and not breaking!
Tackle boxes range from small ones about the size a lunch box to medium sized models that are a bit bigger than a shoe box right through to large tackle boxes that are about the size of a small suitcase.
Think about home much room you have in your car or boat before choosing a size.
The other big consideration is how much storage various tackle boxes and tackle bags/tackle backpacks offer. And does it have storage compartments or just bulk storage. Are their mesh pockets on the outside of the box or tackle bag? How large is each storage compartment and are they big enough for the various crankbaits, jerkbaits and other lures and gear you want to take with you.
This depends on the overall quality of the tackle box – how thick is the material? Are the metal components corrision resistant? And how simple is the design? And is it backed by a warranty or lifetime guarantee. Is the material waterproof if you fish in wet areas?
Tackle boxes range from a few bucks for the most basic multi-compartment Plano tackle tray through to more than $100 for the largest tackle backpacks or hard boxes and rolling models.
Best tackle box for kayak fishing
With kayak fishing you have usually got a crate that contains the bulk of spare tackle, your food and other gear and also serves as a rod holder while you are in transit to your favourite fishing spot. So what you need for a tackle box is something small and waterproof – we recommend the Plano Stowaway range. It’s easy to get three or so in this size and keep them in your pockets or under/behind your seat.
Final say on fishing tackle boxes
Whether you’re traveling, fishing from a boat, or walking the edge of a river, you can find a tackle box that best suits your needs. This list of our best tackle boxes is only the tip of the iceberg, and in the modern fishing world there are no shortage of options available to us. Pick a tackle box that best suits your needs on the water, fill it up, and go fishing!