Conquer chaos, catch more fish
Anglers are blessed with a near-infinite array of baits, lines, terminal tackle and other gear to help us catch fish. Problem is, even the world's most well-stocked arsenal becomes all but useless if organization crumbles and chaos rules the day.
No one appreciates that fact more than professional anglers, whose livelihoods hinge on efficient fishing. "Organization is critical to fishing success," says iconic touring bass pro Mike "Ike" Iaconelli. "Whether you're making a living from it or only fish two weeks a year, anything you can do to streamline your time on the water is going to help you catch more fish."
Indeed, the benefits begin long before you hit the water. For starters, it's easy to head for the lake when your gear is ready to go—so you're more apt to enjoy spur-of-the-moment getaways. As a bonus, well-managed gear makes you much less likely to forget key items that could spell the difference between catching fish and striking out. Conversely, the prospect of wrangling a clustered mess before wetting a line can be so overwhelming, it can be tempting not to go fishing at all.
Once on the water, having quick and easy access to everything you need for a successful trip fosters efficiency that lets you spend more time fishing effectively, and less time rummaging around in frustration.
Due to Iaconelli's intense and extended travel schedule, maintaining order requires monumental effort. "I spend a tremendous amount of time on the road," he explains. "Once I leave for the Bassmaster Classic in February until the season ends in October, my boat and truck rarely return to New Jersey. I need everything ready and organized for the entire season before I walk out the door."
To pull it all together, Iaconelli spends the winter months carefully going through his entire collection of rods, reels, lines, lures and other gear. Everything is cleaned, repaired or replaced, and then organized for speedy deployment when the season starts. Reels, for example, are cleaned and prepped to ensure flawless performance at the moment of truth. "I also spool them all with fresh line," he adds.
"This is a great time to take advantage of the variety of fishing lines available to fit different styles of fishing," he continues. For example, he now uses Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon XL for roughly 70 percent of his bass presentations. "It offers a lot of benefits," he says. "One of the most important to me is that this fluorocarbon gives everything from finesse worms to giant swimbaits better action."
Iaconelli also compulsively respools before each day of competition, and advises all anglers to refresh their reels as needed throughout the season as well.
Whether in the garage, on the road or at the lake, a workable storage system is key to organization. "Everything has its place," says Iaconelli, who keeps hardbaits and terminal tackle in utility boxes, while softbaits are housed in soft-sided duffle bags. Backup rods ride in PVC tubes mounted atop his truck.
"Everything is labeled," he notes. "I even write line sizes on my rod blanks."
Duffle bags are also color-coded according to bait style. "A typical scenario would be green for grubs and tubes, red for plastic worms, blue for creatures and swimbaits, and yellow for soft minnows and stickbaits," he says. Inside each bag, individual baits are stored in their original packaging, inside quart Ziploc bags organized by bait color. Iaconelli keeps up to 24 packs of a given color inside each Ziploc.
Fellow bass pro Ott DeFoe takes a similar tack. "I use a combination of bags and boxes for soft plastics," he says. "Straight baits such as Havoc Bottom Hoppers go in 3700 series utility boxes, out of the bag, to preserve their shape and action. Creatures, grubs and other designs are stored in Ziplocs, in their original bags."
In both cases, DeFoe carries plenty of baits—typically close to 50 per color. "I generally keep eight colors of each bait with me, because with that range I can adapt to most water conditions," he says.
In the boat, bags are stowed in storage compartments standing up, for easy identification and accessibility. In the truck or garage, 12- to 20-quart, hard-sided plastic containers house each style of softbait. "I have one bin for Havoc Pit Bosses, one for PowerBait Power Hawgs, and so forth," he explains.
Indeed, larger bins and trunks are great repositories for bulk storage at home and on the road. Well-traveled walleye stalker Scott Glorvigen stocks small utilities with everything from Flicker Shads to bottom bouncers and Berkley Gulp! Heads! Minnow Jiggheads, then stows the utilities inside larger trunks.
Taking inventory of your tackle also helps highlight holes in the lineup. Iaconelli recommends gearing up for the lakes and situations you plan to fish in the year ahead. "I look at my tournament schedule, research the lakes so I know what presentations I'll need to fish, and stock up accordingly," he says.
Along with time-tested favorites, he keeps an eye on new and trending products for inclusion in his repertoire. "For me, two baits to watch in 2015 are the Berkley Havoc Back Slide and 3½-inch Devil Spear Jr. The Back Slide's heavy tail helps it slide backward on the fall, while the smaller version of the Devil Spear is a super-versatile bait. I flip it a lot, but also fish it as a trailer on jigs and vibration baits. It's also great for dropshot rigging, and should be a factor for smallmouths."
For his part, DeFoe expects Havoc's new Money Maker to make a splash at a number of tournaments, including the Bassmaster Classic. "Lake Hartwell has spotted bass, and the Havoc Money Maker is a great dropshot bait, so it's going to be a player at the Classic," he says. "The 4½-inch bait also shines for wacky- and shaky-head applications, so I'm sure we'll see it have an impact at events around the country."
Both Iaconelli and DeFoe note that great products to help you keep gear ready for action include the beefed up Berkley Line Stripper, which rips 2- to 80-pound-test line off reels at a blistering pace of 300 yards per minute; Berkley's Portable Line Spooling Station; Berkley Rod Armor, which makes organizing garages and rod lockers infinitely easier; the adjustable Berkley Cinch, for bundling rods, securing schooling rigs and countless other marshaling duties; and various Berkley Bait Containers, for keeping Gulp! and Gulp! Alive! stockpiles stoked and ready to fish.