A little bit of everything

Whether I’m on the water competing or just fun fishing, the worst feeling in the world is to not have the bait I need. If that happens during a tournament, it can cost me big time. I avoid this dilemma by packing my boat with a little bit of everything.

When I leave New Jersey to fish the Bassmaster Elite Series, I often compete in two or three events before returning home months later. Even though I know what lakes I’ll be fishing and what baits will likely be players, I have to be prepared for any situation that might crop up.

To be sure I have everything I need, I follow my golden rule: pack three baits of each size in three essential colors in every lure category.

Hard baits

For example, the first Elite tournaments this season take place on Toledo Bend Reservoir and Lake Fork. I believe Berkley’s Dime series crankbaits will appeal to those Texas bass, and they should be in a prespawn mode. The Dime Series comes in sizes 4, 6, 10 and 15. I’ll have all four sizes in my boat to cover shallow to deep water.

I will pack nine crankbaits in each size. I’ll break them down into three different color categories so I can adjust to the conditions and what the bass are eating. Three baits will be a natural shad pattern. Three will be a chartreuse-based color. And three will be a reddish crawfish color.

You can’t have just one crankbait in a given color because you’ll be in trouble if you break it off. Backup baits are essential.

I do the same thing with my other hard baits. That includes Berkley’s Stunna. This jerkbait comes in a shallow and deep model. I’ll pack nine of each size and break them down into three colors. The same is true of Berkley’s 1/4- and 1/2-ounce War Pig lipless cranks and my topwater baits.

Most of my hard baits will be stored in Flambeau’s new waterproof Tuff Tainer Slim boxes. This thinner box maximizes my storage space. It has a rubber gasket and a three-sided locking system that makes it watertight. It’s also made from a patented Zerust plastic that keeps my hooks rust free.

Soft baits

My golden rule also applies to Berkley PowerBait MaxScent soft baits. I carry three pouches worth of each bait in three different colors. To make things more organized, I put three packages of the same color soft bait into one pouch.

With Berkley’s Bottom Hopper Worm, I’ll pack some type of green pumpkin, a dark color like black and blue and a light, translucent color for clear water.

That leaves me with three pouches in different colors for each bait. I arrange my soft baits like a filing cabinet in Flambeau’s Double Deep utility boxes.

This system gives me enough baits in a particular color to get me through two days of fishing. That’s enough time to call Tackle Warehouse and have them overnight more baits if I need them.

Heavy baits

I store hard baits and soft baits in my boat’s front deck lockers. Heavier baits, including jigs, spinnerbaits and weights go into rear deck lockers. That’s important for the boat’s performance. If you weigh down the front of the boat, you sacrifice top-end speed and gas mileage.

I apply the golden rule to my heavy baits. For example, I love the compact yet powerful Molix Muscle Ant spinnerbait. I pack nine 3/8- and nine 1/2-ouncers in three different colors. Chartreuse and white works anywhere. For dirty water I go with solid chartreuse with a bright orange blade. A translucent metalflake skirt does the job in clear water. 

Flambeau’s Blade Krate tacklebox keeps my spinnerbaits super organized. It has rows that let you file packaged or unpackaged spinnerbaits like a filing cabinet.

Bright labels

To help me find what I need quickly, I put brightly colored duct tape on the top and sides of each tacklebox. I’m talking hot pink, bright yellow and orange. Then I write the contents of the box on the tape with a black Sharpie in large, bold letters. When I open a hatch and look down, I can read the labels from a mile away.

That’s critical. I don’t have time to waste even five minutes searching for a bait during a tournament.

After I’ve finished packing my boat with the golden rule in mind, I’m confident I have everything I need to contend with whatever conditions I have to grapple with. I know I have the right stuff.

You can learn more about my bass fishing strategies at www.mikeiaconelli.com or www.youtube.com/c/goingike.