Basics of boat packing

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Andy Crawford

One of the most time-consuming tasks a professional angler undertakes is also one of the most important — boat packing. You can’t take every rod and every piece of tackle you own for every tournament, so you have to have a method for anticipating your needs and then packing accordingly.

When you go from one event to the next, you have to step back and think about the phases you expect the fish to be in. That depends on what part of the country you’ll be in, but I’ll have some seasonal idea of the types of patterns I’ll want to implement.

The type of fishery also tells me a lot about what I need to take. For example, we’re in Texas this week for the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Park & Wildlife Department. A big bass place like this will take different tackle than a Lake Hartwell or Lanier, so I’m definitely checking my supply of big Hyabusa swimbait hooks and 17- to 20-pound Seaguar InvisX fluorocarbon and adding several of my big Phenix swimbaits rods on this one.

I’ll want to pack a mix of big baits and some baits that might fish good in heavy fishing pressure like an 8-inch Big Bite Baits finesse worm. You want to have a diverse game plan for that late spawn-postspawn period, but we’re getting close to where you could touch the edge of that deep summer pattern. If that’s going on more than I think, I need to be prepared.

I’ll go to Texas with two angles in mind — my shallow fish and my deep fish. That’s what we do in practice; we weed out ideas and try cross things off our lists. For me, more of my practice is spent eliminating options and hopefully finding fish. 

Now, I have to make this disclaimer: I’m not the most organized guy on the Bassmaster Elite Series, but I’m more organized now than I’ve ever been. One of the most helpful things I’ve done was to visit Home Depot and buy a bunch of clear plastic storage containers that fit in my boat and allow me to see the different baits within them.

These containers are great for storing packages of plastic baits because I want to have enough to be on something and be able to use it through a tournament. This system allows me to separate my plastics out so I have easy access to the tackle I’m looking for and that cuts down on time.

This is important because it allows me to respond to the things I learn in practice. As I see evidence of what the fish are doing, then I start thinking ahead toward how I want to target that depth range or type of habitat.

In addition to packing up the stuff I already had, the break after Winyah Bay gave me the opportunity to go online and order the tackle that I’ll need for the upcoming tournament and beyond. It feels good to leave home knowing you have your bases covered and you can respond to whatever you encounter.

Of course, the one thing I won’t be taking to Lake Fork is my cold season outerwear. The heavy AFTCO Hydronaut rain gear is coming out of the boat, and I’m replacing it with lighter AFTCO Anhydrous rain gear. There were definitely times this season where I appreciated having the sweat shirts and extra clothes, but thankfully, we’re getting into the time of year where it’s fairly comfortable in a pair of shorts or light pants and a light shirt. 

Honestly, I’m excited about this upcoming tournament on Lake Fork because I really enjoy the big weight events. It’s always fun catching fish, but I really enjoy catching big ones. I think the angler that wins this event will be the one who pins down the exact phase the fish are in, so he can target the big ones — and very likely, a guy’s organization and packing diligence will play a key role in all of that.