By Lawrence Euteneier
I think one of the toughest things about living without sight is not being able to gaze adoringly at all my beautiful lures. Mind you, I’ve saved tons of money due to my built-in immunity to temptation at fishing tackle stores and shows. From purely a practical perspective though, keeping different sized hooks, weights, lines, soft plastic baits and crankbaits sorted can be over-whelming for anyone. What follows are practical solutions that I’ve come up with after years of trial and error.
First off, most of my suggestions are premised on ones being able to print and read the 26 grade one braille characters. I’m not a huge braille reader myself, having only learned the skill in my 20s while attending university, But I do find it handy for labelling things like CDs, cleaning products, and of course, fishing tackle. It’s not hard to learn (six hours) and even easier to produce with a simple slate and styleless and a role of dymo tape. You can purchase the braille dymo tape gun which goes quicker than the “by-hand” method, but I personally prefer to use the “Jumbo” braille for labelling boxes, which is easier to read on the water with cold fingers.
Tackle Boxes versus Treys
When I could still see enough to read fishing magazines in my teens, large multi-level tackle boxes were in style. Monster double-tiered affairs that would open up to unveil tier upon tier of lures in all their colourful glory. I purchased a seven tier box myself and used it for years. However, due to the large foot-print these puppies took up in a boat when opened, they eventually fell out of favour with fishers. While the seduction of multi-level tackle boxes their offering instant access to the entire collection, they provide few possibilities for labelling and clustering by theme.
Most fishers have now adopted the individual tackle trey organizers which can be easily carried in soft-sider tackle bags, or milk crates, and stored inside boat hatches. The down side to individual tackle trey style boxes is that they all feel the same from the outside, and unless you use braille labels, your going to have to open each one until you find what you want. For those with some sight, different coloured trey clasps are available for creating your own colour-coded identification system.
I’ve become a big fan of the trey style boxes from Plano, namely their 3700 series Pro Latch Boxes. My favourite is the thinnest unit, (3701), size. The trey offers sufficient rows and dividers to hold a variety of baits, but is shallow enough to discourage stuffing more than two lures in any one compartment. Their thin size also means more of them can be carried in one soft tackle carry-on bag, and more thin treys is better than fewer deep treys, from an organizing perspective.
I place braille labels along the front and side edges of each Plano trey in the same general locations so that no matter how I stack them, their labels can be easily scanned. Before applying the labels use some very light grit sandpaper to take the gloss finish off the area where the label is to be adhered to ensure a durable bond. Avoid touching the sticky side of the label so the glue isn’t compromised by the oil on your fingers when you peel back the covering.
I organize my crankbaits around themes based on species of fish and fishing technique. For example, for Bass I have a trey made up specifically of floating / suspending jerk baits, another of shallow diving minnow baits, a third of deeper diving cranks, and so on. I experimented with creating braille charts describing what each lure is and where it can be found in the trey, but the fact that the lures themselves have no individual labels and the information on the legends themselves are permanent, has led me to use other methods.
I PLACE THE cranks from brightest to darkest from left to right in each trey. I figure this evolution mirrors my own fishing style, which is to start off with bright coloured lures with the sun’s appearance, then switch to natural colours during the day, and finish with dark colours as the sun sets. Of course, water clarity and weather will influence my choices, but at least the theme can be repeated in all my different treys.
The method I employ to label individual baits is to attach removable braille labels to the eye of each bait. I’ve experimented with aluminium braille clothing label tags attached with small safety pins, but since I have yet to acquire a “Checkered” lure, and since no one seems to be wearing chartreuse coloured clothing, I’ve gone to making my own braille tags. Pre-made aluminium tags are also expensive.
Most lure manufacturers have developed a more-or-less universally adopted colour identifier code that can be found on most company website and the lure packaging itself. A list of the Rapala colour codes is appended to the end of this article. These codes offer one, two or three letters that describe the colour of the lure, and are generally simple to learn as they are used by the retailers to track and order stock.
You can create braille labels using clear dymo tape and adhere it directly to the diving bill of larger cranks. Or, use stiffer clear-plastic packaging, such as that often used by big-box stores to over-size merchandize to deter shop-lifting. Cut into strips and then braille using a hand-held slate and styless. Cut out the labels, poke a whole in the corner, and attach to the eye of lures with small safety pins. I use to use line snaps made for quick changes of lures on the line, (basically a swivel snap without the swivel), but they are expensive and made for securely attaching lures to line, and not for quick on/off applications. Small brass safety pins on the other hand are easy to use and cheep. You can also attach two or more identical lures such as in-line spinners to a larger sized single safety pin and braille tag.
Large Spoons and Cranks
ON large spoons and cranks, I’ll apply information direct to the lure. Avoid applying labels to the sides of lures, as even though you can buy clear dymo tape, you don’t want to affect the lure’s appearance to the fish. Thus, only my largest spoons and cranks are labelled directly, with the braille going on to the backs of the cranks and the under-side of the spoons.
Soft Plastic Baits
The packaging soft plastics come in is of a sufficient quality that one feels bad throwing out the packaging. They are usually made of a plastic stiff enough to braille on directly using a slate and styleless with the braille applied on the strip on the outside of the zip-lock, or use clear mailing labels to create more comprehensive labels to be applied directly to the package. One can then organize these packages in a deep 3730 size Plano trey by theme, (style of bait, application, colour, etc.). I keep my plastic baits at home organized in this fashion. This size Plano trey is large, (3.75” deep), and unless you have lots of on-board storage space in your own boat, transporting 3-4 of these treys in your tackle bag can pretty much fill the bag.
Others have dumped their plastics directly into plastic treys, but where do you then apply the braille identifier? As well, Plano recommends not storing plastic baits in direct contact with their plastic treys as the chemical reaction will cause the trey, lid and dividers to warp, an issue common with most all plastic treys.
I’ve gone with the soft wallet organizers, available in a variety of sizes. Plano makes quality in-expensive wallet binders, (Worm Wrap), with clear plastic zip-lock sleeves, ideal for organizing spinnerbaits and other single-hook baits like jigs or worm harnesses. On the inside of the binder flaps are located zipper pouches ideal for storing weights or hooks. Additional / replacement sleeves can be purchased for the BPS wallets. I normally leave the baits in their original packaging; that way I can easily slip the entire package of my chosen plastic out of the wallet for convenient access when fishing. However, sometimes fitting the original plastic pouch into the sleeve can be troublesome.
Plano also makes small soft zipper bags, (SpeedBags), without sleeves intended to organize plastic baits in their original pouches which I actually prefer over the sleeve bags for storing plastics. I organize each wallet around a specific style of bait, and then add the baits into the wallet using my lightest to darkest theme. Braille labels can be applied directly to each pouch. Hooks and weights and other terminal tackle associated with fishing the baits can then be left in their original packaging, brailed, and inserted into each bag accordingly. I then attach a cheep plastic key tag label to the handle of the bag with a braille label on the tag to identify each bag’s contents. Dymo labels applied directly to the bag will fall off over time.
Both Berkley and Plano have now come out with new storage containers to hold and organize your Gulp baits. Many fishers find the original plastic buckets that Gulp Alive come in leek once you remove the seal. This can be prevented by cutting a whole through the seal instead of removing the seal altogether, but this still leaves the fisher with a collection of large plastic buckets that are still prone to leek if lids aren’t properly secured. I’ve tried recycling smaller plastic peanut butter containers, but even these leek. Plastic Tupperware with the lock-down lids are excellent, but not always available in the sizes and lengths preferred. Zip-lock baggies work well for short trips where room is an issue.
Really, Gulp Alive have simply inherited many of the same problems fishers have with storing live bait such as worms and minnows, minus the mortality issues resulting from oxygen depletion or heat. A little tip, don’t cut your Gulp juice with water as the juice contains a very important preservative without which the Gulp Alive baits will rot and omit an odour similar to dead minnows.
When it comes to storing spinnerbaits, I’ve tried it all. From simply bending the split ring holding the largest blade down to meet the point of the hook and linking it there behind the barb for safe storage, to spinnerbait boxes that hang your baits in a row, to Plano’s spinnerbait box with the individual hard plastic sleeves. In the end however, I’ve gone with the soft Plano wallet with sleeves. One small wallet organized from lightest to darkest with braille labels on each sleeve, and 1-3 spinnerbaits slipped inside each sleeve. I’ve started a second wallet for chatter and buzz baits. If I get new bait, I can always add it to an existing sleeve, or introduce a new sleeve into the mix at the appropriate colour point in the progression.
Spinners and Spoons
I store my spinners and spoons in, what else, Plano treys. Organized by size pretty much gives me the species specific themes I’m looking for. Colour ranges from gold, brass and copper for stained, silver and white for clear sunny days, and darker colours for cloudy days. Large safety pins with a colour identifying tag will allow you to attach together the lures with the same finish. With the largest blade baits, apply a braille tag directly to the inside of the blade. Just be sure to clean and dry the surface with Windex prior to applying the label.
Hooks, Weights and Swivels
I can’t say enough about stacking jars from Plano. These handy plastic jars use the bottom of the jar on top as a lid for the one below, and so on, with one lid to top off the stack. Add as many to the tower as you like. I place a braille label on the top lid to indicate the theme, (e.g. “Bait”, “Round”, “Arbour”, etc), and labels on the side of each jar to indicate the different sizes. I’ve tried recycling vitamin bottles and such, but their accumulation can quickly over-whelm a tackle bag, and one is left with a bag of jars that can make quickly finding an item a challenge. Stacking jars can be lined up in a side pocket making organizing a dream.
For longer hooks I keep the hooks in their original packaging, label the packaging with braille, and place the packages in the Plano SpeedBags with the plastics for which their intended to be used. For my drop-shot hooks and other finesse hooks, I use a large fly box. You can fit quite an assortment into one box, and the points of the hooks themselves are kept from banging around and losing their sticky-sharpness.
I have several soft-sided tackle bags of different sizes I use depending on the species of fish I’m pursuing. While it may not take long to add or remove the Plano treys, I find having the specific tools for each species in the appropriate bag helps ensure I have just the right gear with me and nothing else. Keeping the size and number of storage containers to a minimum is the key to keeping the tackle bag from bulging. Storing hooks, weights, swivels, etc. in their original packaging in the main tackle bag can result in time spent wasted looking for a specific item among countless others of the same size and shape. I’ve find that the fewer individually packaged items I carry in my tackle bag, the less likely I’ll lose track of a package or have it blow off the boat during a dash to the next “sure thing”. Thus, larger cluster packaging organized on different themes means more efficient access to the tackle I need and fewer lost items.
At home I have a stack of similarly sized Plano treys that I use to organize my hooks, jigs, and terminal tackle. I don’t normally take these treys with me fishing, but use them to store surplus items for re-stocking prior to each trip. This way I can still have access to a variety of tackle choices, but don’t need to haul around everything that comes in the package from the manufacturer.
Again, Plano comes through to the rescue. I organize my jigs according to theme and colour in Plano treys the same way I organize crankbaits. Light to dark from left to right, light weight to heavy from top to bottom. For the tackle bag when on the move, I use a slightly different method as nothing weighs down a tackle bag like a trey of jigs. Again, with the soft-sided Plano wallets with sleeves, I have a number of different sleeves labelled bright, natural and dark, and in each I put an assortment of different sized flipping jigs. I then repeat the series for football jigs and Arkey jigs. I’m not that fussy about sorting each specific colour into its own sleeve as I figure as long as I get the general shade right, I’m fine. Different sized jigs in the same colour family can be kept in their original packaging and added to the sleeves. A second wallet for jig trailers organized by colour, lightest to darkest, and I’m good to go.
All too often I’ve heard of fishers who have left behind at dock side a tackle bag or box. Loading or unloading prior to launching or after the boat has been trailered is generally done either quickly, at the beginning of the day, or sluggishly, at the end. Haste and fatigue can result in memory lapses, making it difficult to keep track of multiple items of baggage. Thus, I use the largest tackle bag required to contain all the gear I’ll need for the day. I have another waterproof bag for my personal gear, (rain gear, sun protection, lunch, beverages, etc.) and I wrap my rods into one bundle. Three items into the boat at the beginning of the day, and three things out at the end. I’m wearing my PDF at launch and load times, so forgetting it is never an issue, and my guide dog Maestro makes double sure he’s never left behind.
Wet tackle rusts quickly and most storage containers aren’t waterproof. Even if they are, one needs to be sure that you don’t re-store lures that are wet.
I’ve installed thin foam strips on the top of each console for holding wet lures until they dry. At the end of a day’s fishing, I collect the lures I was using from the console and replace them in my containers. If it rained during the day, I open the treys in my workshop to make sure everything has a chance to dry.
If the lures on the console are the only tackle that is wet at the end of the day, I toss everything into a zip-lock baggie, and when I get home I lay the lures out on a shelf just above my desk to dry prior to re-stocking the treys and wallets. Being able to touch and smell the different lures over the next few days stirs powerful memories and stimulates the brain to come up with new ideas on how I’ll catch MORE AND BIGGER fish next time out. I guess in a way they serve as my tactile photographs.