There are hundreds of lures and techniques that can catch fish. But when fishing from the bank, you can’t carry them all. Unless you want to be carrying around 50 pounds of gear all over the water – you’ll need to hone in. You have to focus on the lures and tackle that are flexible to cover many situations and only carry one or two types of even your favorite baits.
This article will breakdown how to get everything you need into one tackle box or bag since you won’t want to carry anything more. This will include secondary storage to go within your box and I’ll give examples of what’s in my tackle box. You should fill with your own favorite baits, but you can use mine as a good baseline for the types of lures to include. Note that I am primarily a bass fisherman, so it will focus on those baits. But you can vary yours for any fish species you’re after!
Tackle Box vs. Backpack
The first thing I will advocate before telling you what to put in your tackle box is to actually switch out the box for a backpack. Tackle boxes work great to store baits at home or on a boat. But when you’re shore fishing, it’s so much easier to throw on a backpack and not have to carry anything extra in your hands.
And where do you put a tackle box? If you’re sitting on the edge of a lake there aren’t always great places to sit a tackle box down. You forget where you sit it and kick it over. If you’re really unlucky it could slide off the bank into the water. You have to pick it up and put it down each time you move. Or just put on a backpack and your baits are on you at all times.
There are many backpack options available in various price ranges, and most even have dedicated pouches for cameras, pliers, water bottles, and other necessities. So if you have the ability, spend some cash on a backpack and it will prevent a lot of headaches down the line. My recommendation for a backpack is this Plano Series A Backpack– which is slightly smaller than the one you see in these pictures. Because honestly this large one makes my back hurt and I don’t use all the space it provides.
As you will see in the pictures throughout, I use a backpack. But the tips and guidelines will help you no matter what type of tackle storage you have. Just know where I have tackle bags because they fit in a backpack easily, you may have to use hard containers or whatever fits into your tackle box. Which is another good reason to use backpacks – you can keep soft plastics in bags instead of assorting them in hard cases. And soft plastics always keep better in their original packaging.
Limit all your hard baits to one large utility box
I only carry two large utility boxes in my bank fishing tackle bag and one of them contains all of the hard baits I’ll use for bank fishing. So first find the largest utility box that will fit inside your tackle box or bag – in most cases this comes with it when you purchase.
Mine has a total of 12 compartments, so I know I’m limited to 24 hard baits – 2 per compartment. You can do more or less depending on size but this is a good baseline. Be sure you don’t overload compartments and have hooks tangled – I’ve made this mistake and it leads to damage and frustration when pulling out lures. Plus, 24 hard baits is more than enough for bank fishing.
The key is making sure you’ll have a hard bait for every occasion. I break my utility box down into thirds – one third for topwater, one third for shallow water (topwater to 4 feet), one third for anything deeper. Then within those sections you’ll want every size and action you need. So your topwater should have a popping style bait – large for bass/small for panfish. Then also have a large walking style bait and a smaller wobbling bait. Make sure everything is varied and you don’t have two baits that require the same situation to use.
Then think that way for each section. Have wide wobbling crankbaits and small wobbling ones. I include a chatterbait and swim jig in my hard bait box along with a couple crankbaits that have rattles, some that are silent. I also keep one crankbait in panfish colors, one in shad colors, and one in crawdad. The key is to have every option available to you. And for each one to have a purpose – no duplicates.
Below are all of the hard baits I keep in my bank fishing box. You’ll see I have some multiples in baits I use often – but I don’t keep any two baits that serve the exact same purpose. Everything should serve a specific situation. Think water depth, color, action and size. If it’s 50 degrees, windy, and the water is muddy I will use “x” bait.
My recommendation for a utility box is the Plano Edge Utility Box.
One utility box for terminal tackle
The second large utility box is going to be for all your terminal tackle. Offhand, this may sound easy. But start thinking of every size hook and weight you need for every technique and you’ll probably soon realize it’s a lot more than you think.
Most manufacturers make utility storage boxes with smaller compartments meant for terminal tackle – I highly recommend buying one. Terminal tackle comes in a variety of sizes so having multiple compartments with smaller size will be helpful for smaller weights and hooks.
We’ll divide this box as well – ⅓ free hooks, ⅓ weights, and the rest jig-heads or other terminal tackle needs. That sounds like a lot of hooks – but you’ll need many different sizes. Bass themselves require large hooks for long worms, or short hooks for drop shotting. Then panfish and crappie need small hooks, you’ll need large octopus hooks for catfishing. You see how this easily starts to take up ⅓ in itself.
Weights are a little more straight forward – I keep two main sizes throughout. ⅛ for lighter applications and ¼ for heavier. I also keep ½ ounce egg sinkers in case I want to catfish or bottom fish for other larger species that live in deep water. After that, I try to keep some bullet sinkers, egg sinkers, and dropshot weights (which can be used for a lot of things beside dropshots).
The last ⅓ can be a little more customizable to the types of jig-heads and terminal tackle you like using. Shakyheads, football jigheads, swinging heads, and NED heads are all in mine because they’re what I like using. But if you like swimbaits, you should have swimbait jigs or underspins. If you use grubs, put ball heads in. Just remember that you’re only putting in what you need. If I want to throw a grub – I usually just switch to a swim jig (in my hardbait box) or use a bullet weight with an offset hook. So I don’t waste space in my box for ball or darter head jigs.
Also consider other things you may need like snaps and swivels, they should have compartments as well. I use carolina keepers and bobber stops often, so you’ll find those in mine. But if you use swivels often they should be in yours.
Again, below is a picture of everything I have in my terminal tackle box now. They change sometimes as I try out a new technique or find I don’t use an old one, but overall it has stayed the same for years. I am more geared towards bass fishing, but have found it works for any species I want to target.
One bag/box for worm/creature baits
Now that we have the hard boxes settled, lets talk about soft plastic storage. Whether you’re a bass fisherman or fish for any other freshwater fish you’ll need soft plastics. I keep my soft plastics to two bags, one for worm/creature type baits and one for anything else. This is the best soft plastic bag you can purchase.
Depending on the bag size you have or what you can fit in your box, you’re likely to find about 20 is your max capacity. So how do you narrow the hundreds of different worm and creature plastics down to 20? Very similarly to how we did with hard plastics.
Worm baits v. creature baits
The first good breakdown is to get about half worms and half creature style baits in your soft plastics. If you prefer one over the other, certainly lean that way, but starting out a 50/50 split is good.
Worms come in surprising variety of styles and sizes. From 10 inches to 4 inches, with paddle tails, straight tails, ribbontails, it goes on.
We’ll discuss more in the “color” section – but you’ll want multiple of each color for style of worms – at least 3. So that means you get about 3 styles or sizes of worms to take – not really a lot. So think about the techniques you’ll be using and every you could need. If you don’t fish deeper for big bass – you might not need the big 10 inch ribbontail worms. Or if you don’t like finesse fishing styles like ned rigs or stickbaits – don’t even include them.
If you don’t know or have enough experience – I recommend getting finesse style worms like a trick worm, a stickbait style like a senko, and a worm with more action like a paddle tail or ribbontail. They will all work in a variety of situations and be a good base to build from as you find the kinds that you like and what work well for you.
Whereas every worm style bait is mimicking a worm and has the same basic shape, you’ll find creature baits come in a variety of different looks. Beaver styles, craw styles, and lizards just to name a few.
Again, you’re going to have about 3 to choose from since you’ll want different colors so try and focus on having 3 different creature types that you like or match your waters. A craw style is likely to be mandatory here, and you may decide that you want all 3 to be some type of craw style – just in different sizes with different actions.
If you’re beginning and don’t have experience yet – I recommend one smaller style craw bait, one larger one, and then picking a third creature style from your local selection. This will give you flexibility in size for craw baits which are usually the most used, but also give you the option to go to something different if worms and craws don’t work in your lakes. I really like including baby brush hogs for my different creature style bait and find they work when other baits don’t.
You’ll want to think about color because it’s usually one of the first considerations of picking a soft plastic. Zoom makes about 10 different color variations of green pumpkin and unfortunately you aren’t going to be able to have them all. But generally, if you aren’t catching them with green pumpkin candy, switching to green pumpkin purple flake isn’t going to save your day.
So again – focus on just having one color from each family of colors. Have one or two natural colors for clearer situations like a green pumpkin or watermelon. Having one with flakes and one without it is my preferred method. Then have one dark color for muddy water, like a junebug or black/blue flake. Then one light color for super clear water or when you want to change it up on fish, like a white or bubblegum.
Then spread this across every type of bait we discussed earlier. If you want to experiment more, try mixing up your color within each bait type. For example, get a green pumpkin trick worm, a watermelon craw type bait, and a motor oil stickbait. If you find one of the colors works really well for you, then you can always change your future soft plastics to that color. That’s how I landed on watermelon red flake as my favorite soft plastic color. I bought a baby brush hog in the color and had so much success I started buying everything in it.
One bag/box for all other soft plastics
With your worms and creatures set, you’ll have one other bag or box to contain any other soft plastic you might need. So this will include swimbaits, flukes, grubs, frogs, or trailers.
Because there are so many options available for other soft plastics this is where you’re likely not going to have all of the color options that you have with worms and craws. But generally, swimbaits and the like don’t need so many color combinations so it works well to have more styles here and less color options.
Also, it’s likely that there are some soft plastic types you just won’t use because you don’t have the terminal tackle or want to use it. I don’t use grubs hardly ever, so I just don’t put grubs in my other soft plastic storage. Instead, I have multiple colored flukes because I use them much more often when I’m bank fishing. I didn’t have frog hooks for a long time, so I never kept soft plastic frogs.
For a beginner, I would recommend focusing more on grub, swimbait, and fluke style baits. These are great for a variety of different fish and can be fished in lots of different situations. Focus on light colors that mimic bait fish like white and silver and keep a few natural colors like green pumpkin as well.
Potential differences you could have
You’ll see my worm/creature bag is much bigger than my “other” bag. This is because I find those techniques are more successful when bank fishing. But you could be different, so adjust accordingly based on what you have success with and what you want to throw. Fishing is a personal choice, and if you just don’t like fishing with worms then don’t buy a bunch. Buy a lot of different size, type, and colors of swimbaits and make that your focus. Just remember to also keep your terminal tackle the same so you have everything needed to fish your chosen style. Don’t have multiple sizes of worm hooks if you only have one type of worm.
The examples for soft plastics I included from my box are also based on bass fishing, but can be mimicked into any kind of fish. Crappie baits could be broken down into worms, grubs, and other small creature types. Or if you’re fishing walleye, put your focus into multiple types of bait-mimicking soft plastics and limit your worms instead.
The important part is to make sure you don’t have duplicate baits and you’re covering all the bases you could need. One color for every level of water clarity. Multiple types of imitations that can work in different situations. Big baits for when you want to catch big fish, small ones for when the fishing is tough and you need to finesse. That mindset is the most important thing to hone in on for setting up a bank fishing tackle box effectively.
Miscellaneous items you need to have in a tackle box
That will make up the bulk of your fishing bag and what you’ll be fishing with, but here are some extra things you may want to throw into miscellaneous pockets or pouches your bag or tackle box may have.
Probably the most important thing to keep is a good pair of needle nose pliers that also have a cutting edge. These are useful for bending hooks as needed, removing hooks from fish, cutting line after you re-tie, and much more. They’re an essentially for any tackle box or bag if you’re bank fishing. You’ll see below I currently have a pair of surgical scissors which get the job done.
When I was just beginning fishing I didn’t carry a scale when bank fishing. Then one day I caught (what I thought at the time) was a giant bass. I took pictures, but oh if I had a scale to know how much it weighed.
Thankfully that experience taught me to carry a scale at all times and when I caught bigger fish later I had it so I could prove to myself and others the actual size of it. Nothing is worse than catching the fish of a lifetime and not knowing how much it weighs. If you do purchase a digital scale, also remember replacement batteries. Maybe the only thing worse than not having a scale, is having a scale that doesn’t work…
Fish smell and are covered in a mucus layer that protects them and helps them swim in the water. You don’t really want it on your hands and then your pole when you start fishing again. Also if you catch a catfish, having something to protect you from its sting is important. A rag will serve many purposes and is just always a handy tool to have. When my wife is done with kitchen towels they go straight to my tackle bag.
In addition to your soft plastics, you’ll likely want some more “natural” baits like live worms, stink bait, corn, bread, and the variety of things that could catch fish from the bank depending on what you’re targeting. Make sure you have pockets in your tackle box or bag where these things can safely fit so you aren’t carrying any live or natural bait when it could just fit in your bag. Just remember some things like nightcrawlers will keep better in a cooler, so you may want to have them in a cooler in your car before transferring to a bag.
A final thing you may want to keep with you are scents, dyes, and other attractants. Be VERY careful with these. You may notice a chartreuse colored side on my tackle bag. It smelled like garlic for months no matter how I washed it. You do not want these to spill out – so make sure they are closed and don’t store them anywhere where temperatures will fluctuate wildly causing spillage. I recommend JJ’s Magic.
Hopefully you now have a good idea of how to organize your bank fishing tackle so that you have everything you need when you hit your local lake. Again, remember that you’ll want to limit everything or else it will weight far too much to be useful. But you want to also keep everything you may need for a situation. I believe following the guide laid out and using my bag as inspiration will lead you to great success.