12 Things Every Angler Should Carry

There are certain indispensable items that every angler should always bring along, even when fishing on someone else’s boat. You can’t count on your buddies, or charter boat crews for that matter, to always have everything. So here’s a list of essentials that help make the most of your day on the water and easily stow in a backpack or tackle bag:

From assembling leaders to removing hooks from fish, and various other tasks in between, a good pair of pliers with cutters capable of trimming braid are a must. Rather than sharing pliers with others, every angler should carry his or her own and keep them handy to minimize down time.

A cutting blade, a small screwdriver, a file, they all come in handy more often than you think. And what better way to carry them than in a compact multi-tool pocket knife. Just be sure you pick one that’s stainless steel and keep the blade and pullout tools clean and lubed to prevent seizing.

Three or four 25-yard spools of leader material cover the diameters or breaking strengths you are most likely to need. For instance, I mostly use 20-pound leader when I target redfish or seatrout, but I also bring along 15-, 30- and 50-pound. The 15-pound comes in handy when the water is clear and the fish are skittish. And with the 30- and 50-pound, I’m covered if I run into snook or tarpon. In addition, I always carry a small spool of 45-pound multi-strand wire and a few sleeves for crimping, should wire leaders be suddenly required.

Finding out at the last minute that no one on the boat has the hook styles and sizes to match your tackle or the target species makes fishing more challenging than it has to be. Pack an assortment to cover various fishing situations, including potential plans B and C.

Swivels are also required terminal tackle. Pack some of different sizes, along with a few split rings, in case you need to attach swivels to spoons or other artificials.

Your sunglasses breaking or falling overboard seriously hinders your fishing, so why not carry a spare? I prefer sunglasses with interchangeable lenses, so I pack two sets of extra lenses in different colors that allow me to switch according to the light conditions. But I also carry a second frame because I learned the hard way that accidents happen.

It takes only a gust of wind or an unexpected turn on a moving boat for you to lose your cap or hat, yet few anglers think to carry a spare. Remember a hat does more than keep the sun off your face, it also blocks glare that hampers your vision. So play it safe and pack an extra one.

Showers and choppy seas occur even when the weather forecast says otherwise, but rain gear spares you from spending long hours wet and cold. Many brands offer quality packable rain jackets and pants that are lightweight and take up little room in your bag.

A few Ziplocs or similar resealable bags stash away easily and always come in handy. They keep cell phones, wallets and other personal items neat and dry, and let you bring home a few fillets without stinking up the cooler. Opt for the freezer type (heavier duty) in gallon and quart sizes.

Aside from being an important aid for navigation and safe boating, binoculars bring into view bird activity, baitfish scattering or flipping on the surface, fish busting and other important details that may otherwise escape an angler’s eyes. A pair with 10×42 objective-lens size extend the field of vision considerably yet remain small and light. The nitrogen-filled kind with coated optics costs a little more, but the lenses don’t fog and they don’t have issues with water intrusion.

Not only does a cell phone let you call for help in an emergency (if within range), but the built-in camera allows you to take pictures or record video so you’ll have evidence to back up your fish tales. In addition, a range of apps puts fishing regulations, weather, tides, charts and other valuable information at your fingertips.

Unless you live under a rock, you are well aware of the need for sunblock. Keep a lip balm and a small tube or bottle of 30 or higher SPF sunscreen in your tackle bag or backpack, and check them after every trip so you know to replace them before you run out.