Feeling lighter going into 2024

During the recent offseason, I lost some weight to get in shape for the 2024 Bassmaster Elite Series season. But I’m not talking about my waistline; I’m talking about the thousands of pounds of tackle I’ve been hauling across the country for the last few years. Basically, I’ve been carrying way too much tackle, and it became an organizational nightmare. 

To give you some idea of how excessive my tackle had become, consider this scenario: When I needed a piece of tackle from my truck, I would open the back door of my camper shell, crawl into the truck and literally wade through lures. This process could take up to a half an hour of rummaging around through clutter to find a jig in a haystack. 

The amount of time I wasted looking for stuff was frustrating. Even more maddening was not being able to find the exact lures I needed. I ended up buying more of them at tackle shops, only to find the ones I already owned when I got home. I had doubles and triples of everything by year’s end, which only compounded the problem. 

I know some of you reading this can relate. As tournament anglers we have a bad habit of raiding local tackle shops for the hot lure of the week. We can’t help it; it’s in our DNA. After a few years, this bad habit can compound into heaping piles of repetitive tackle that we carry as security blankets. 

By the final two events of last season, I finally had enough. When I got home, I unpacked my entire truck and boat and committed about two months to a complete tackle cleanse. I started with my shop, then my truck and finally my boat. Since I finished the cleanse, I feel like a 1,000-pound weight has been lifted off of me. I feel so much lighter and organized; I can’t wait to get on with the Elite season now that my tackle is down to a true fighting weight. I bet the gas mileage in my truck will even improve with the amount of stuff I culled. 

With that experience behind me, I thought I’d share few things I learned during the total cleansing process. If you are due for a large-scale tackle cleanse, here are a few tips that might help.

First, I carried way too many soft plastics. This was amplified by the fact that I carried way too many colors of these plastics. Here are two hard rules I developed during the cleanout that helped tremendously. One, if I had not used it in the last three years, I removed it. Two, I reduced color choices down to about four or five basic colors and called it good. But more on colors in a minute.

By applying these two rules to soft plastics, I eliminated literally several hundred pounds of plastics in the form of lizards, ribbontail worms, soft plastic jerkbaits and soft plastic stick baits. The amount of space I created from culling soft plastics in the boat and truck was mind boggling. 

Next, I removed as much tackle from packaging as I could. Companies will often take small items and put them in big packaging. A perfect example is treble hooks. I used to carry all my spare hooks in the truck in new packages in a huge tote. I took all the hooks out of the packaging and put them in a SPRO 3600 flat box. I did the same thing with worm hooks, flipping hooks, drop-shot hooks and wacky rig hooks – removed them from packages and put them all in one 3600 box. With this one adjustment, I went from carrying huge 120-quart totes to just two flat 3600 boxes. 

I used this same method to greatly reduce bulk in hard baits in the truck. Not only did I remove crankbaits and jerkbaits from the packages, I also clipped the hooks off them. While that might seem a bit extreme, the ease of shuffling through dozens of hookless hard baits is unexplainable. They don’t get hung up with each other making it a breeze to find the right ones fast. Plus, I am a hook freak. In cranking tournaments, I’ll replace my hooks a couple times a day. So, putting a fresh pair of hooks on a bait is a confidence thing for me. Removing packaging and hooks from hard baits reduced another pair of giant totes down to just a few 3600 deep dish boxes that hold all the extra hard baits I need. The only things I still keep in the clam packages are topwater frogs and soft plastic swimbaits to keep the tails straight. 

Another place I found wasted space was my weight boxes in the boat. For some reason I was carrying far too many weights. I had 20 to 40 weights of each size, including big tungsten punching weights. I was carrying enough tungsten to supply half the tournament field with weights. Last year I used the same 1/4-ounce weight the whole season! So, I drastically reduced all my weights down to about five or six of each size and even less for the big punching tungstens, and they all fit into one box. 

I also made a big reduction in bulk in the boat with jigs and spinnerbaits. Between the two, I used to carry hundreds of skirted baits that took up a bunch of room. Now I just have a box of different jig heads (heads only) — flipping, casting, swimming, finesse and football — all in one box. Instead of carrying two dozen of each style in each size, I just carry a few sizes of each one. In another box, I have spinnerbait heads and frames in the usual sizes and blades in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some of the frames already have blades on them, but now I mostly make custom spinnerbaits as I need them in practice. I keep all my jig and spinnerbait skirts in Ziploc bags, organized by color.

Getting back to cutting colors, the trick is to pick your favorite color in a family of colors, especially with soft plastics. For instance, I used to carry far too many versions of dark plastics: plum, plum apple, plumberry, plum Mardi Gras, junebug, black with blue flake, blue with black flake, blueberry – you get the point. Just pick one dark color and go with it. Blueberry or plum are my go-tos for dark colors, and I cut the rest of the dark colors loose. For each type of plastic, I also pick a green pumpkin, a watermelon-ish, a black blue/green pumpkin laminate and maybe something bluegill-ish. In all, I cut about 40 colors down to five. 

Same thing goes for jig and spinnerbait skirt colors. I used to carry dozens of colors. Now it’s just green pumpkin with a bit of orange, black and blue, peanut butter and jelly, something bream-ish, white and white and chartreuse. Those skirt colors cover 90% of my jig and spinnerbait usage. 

Finally, I’ll add a few more tips. Never use cardboard boxes for lure storage. They seem easy, cheap and convenient at the time, but they eventually turn into rotting bug havens with no structure. I used to just toss my stray lures in boxes here and there. When I did my big cleansing, I realized just what a mistake that was. Instead, invest in durable stackable tote boxes from Home Depot. They are so much easier to manage and will keep your stuff dry, secure and bug free for a long time. I also invested in a good label maker, and I went label crazy on all my tackleboxes and totes. I put multiple labels on the same box so I can read from a couple different angles.

I have literally reduced all my tackle in the truck down by at least 50%. Instead of 20 to 30 boxes of junk, I have eight totes of weapons (tackle) ready for battle. The reduction in my boat has cut the weight of my tackle by about 50% as well. With that, I might even gain a couple miles an hour out on the water.