How many times have you driven over a bridge or by a pond and thought to yourself, “Man, that looks awfully fishy, sure wish I had my fishing tackle?" Yea - don’t do that! There is no reason that you should not be ready to fish at all times. In fact, even as a professional angler, some of my favorite catches have been those that occurred when I wasn’t on a fishing trip per se, just out and about and spotting a good place to fish. The key of course is being prepared and I’m always prepared to fish.
That does not mean I always have a pile of tackle with me. What it does mean is that I have a rod and reel and a very small selection of lures that have been carefully chosen for their extreme versatility. My goal when choosing them is to be able to address basically any species or type of water in my travel range while being able to efficiently present said lures on a single rod. That requires that the rod, reel and line are also chosen with equal concern for versatility such that I have a matched system. I rarely end up with exactly what I would like to have to fish, but I’m always in the ballpark.
My home range species could include trout, bass, walleye, pike, panfish, white bass, crappie and a few others. It could include running water from tiny creeks to full blown rivers or standing water ranging reclaimed gravel quarries and park ponds to reservoirs covering thousands of acres. That’s a lot of variety; hence it takes a lot of thought to address it all with a single rod and a few lures. It’s important to note that I don’t carry a bunch of “spares” like I do on a real fishing trip. I carry enough to fish for an hour and realize that if I lose something and don’t have a back-up on hand, it’s not a problem because again, these are not fishing trips, they are quick bonus stops.
Here around La Cueva del Fishful, we preach to choose your lure first, then the appropriate line, then the rod, then the reel such that the tackle is chosen to match the lure. In keeping with that strategy, it is important to choose the lures for the travel box first. So, let’s look at the lures in my travel box first.
Jigs are the most versatile lures of all by a large margin, so I carry a selection of jigheads, typically two of each size in 1/16th, 1/8th, 1/4 and 1/2oz. They are all basic unpainted ball heads. I then carry 2.5” tubes, 2” and 3” grubs and 3” straight tailed minnows, all Powerbait products. Again, I carry two of each in a single color. The tubes are green pumpkin, the grubs are smoke and the minnow shad colored. That selection alone will catch me fish most of the time. I also carry a black 1/8” marabou jig for trout waters where Powerbait scented plastics are not legal.
I carry singles for hard baits and they include a Berkley Cutter 90+ jerkbait, a Rat-L-Trap lipless crankbait, a #5 Flicker Shad and a small Bullet Pop popper. All of those are in natural colors. I also carry two 7” Power Worms in black and two 5” Power Jerk Shads in smoke color, along with a single 4/0 EWG Fusion 19 worm hook and a few split-shot to fish around weeds. Lastly, I carry two flies; a #16 Hare’s Ear nymph and a #14 Partridge Soft Hackle wet fly. To fish those, I trail them behind the popper in fly-and-bubble style. Incidentally, the popper also works great as a bobber in a pinch.
To accommodate all of that, I carry two small spools of monofilament leader; 6# and 10# test. I also carry a 3’ piece of 30# Pro-Spec Fluorocarbon for a bite tippet for pike. That way I can tailor my leader to my lure while keeping my running line the same. Speaking of running line, I have 10# Trilene Braid spooled for that. It is extremely versatile, cast-able and durable - strong enough to deal with aquatic weeds or respectable-sized fish, yet supple enough to cast the small jigs.
After all that, the rod and reel are easy to choose. I carry a 6’6” St Croix Triumph Travel 3-piece spinning rod in medium power, fast action. It will easily handle my range of lure weights and presentations and is durable and affordable. Since it’s 3-piece, it stows easily in the cab of my Tundra and even comes with its own soft case. I pair it with a size 20 Abu Garcia Revo Elite Max spinning reel, again for both durability and affordability.
The last three things I carry are my polarized sunglasses, a small pair of pliers with side cutters which serve lots of purposes and a small hand towel. It serves to keep fishy or wet hands off what will most likely be non-fishing clothes. Remember, this is not a fishing trip - we’re just out and about.
Equipped thusly, I never have to lament when I pass a fishy spot in my travels. I can make a few casts, perhaps catch a fish or two and be on my way better off for it!