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Skill Builder: Tackle Box Basics

Getting started on the hobby of a lifetime.

By Danno Wise

Whether you are looking to enter the world of fishing or hoping to introduce a friend or youngster to this traditional outdoor pastime, stocking an initial tackle box can be a bit daunting. After all, the tackle box, more than any other piece of angling equipment, is the endearing symbol of a fisherman. It represents the treasure trove of toys fishermen hold so dear. So, how can you ensure your box is full of treasure, not trash?

A good rule of thumb, especially for beginners, is to "keep it basic." Tackle stores and their expansive selections can be overwhelming. However, a few basics transcend all types of fishing and should be considered musts for fishing fresh or saltwater. These are the blocks upon which to build your tackle box.

Hooks

There is no more basic piece of tackle than the fishing hook, so this is a logical starting point. Hooks come in a wide array of sizes, colors and styles. For a basic tackle box, it is best to be broad and general.

Hooks are sized along an odd, two-sided scale. Standard numbers are on one side of the scale. Larger numbers designate smaller hooks. For example, a size 8 hook is smaller than a size 2.

On the other side numbers are represented in a "fractional-type," with the second number always being 0 – or "aught" as it's commonly pronounced. The scale goes the other way on this side, meaning the larger the number, the larger the hook.

An assortment of bronze "j" hooks ranging in size from 12 to 2 will cover most general freshwater applications where natural baits are used. "Worm hooks" – a j-hook with a specially designed neck for rigging artificial worms - in sizes 2/0 and 4/0 will fill that need. For saltwater fishing, tinned or stainless steel j-hooks in sizes 2/0 to 6 will handle most situations.

Sinkers

It is best to buy a few sinkers in a handful of configurations. Pyramid sinkers in 1- and 2-ounce weight will handle most bottom fishing situations where a current is present. An assortment of egg sinkers ranging in size from 1/8- to 3/4-ounce will serve you well for bottom fishing in still waters. A same-size selection of "bullet weights" will ensure you're prepared for fishing artificial worms. An assortment of split shot sinkers should also be added.

Floats

Traditional freshwater bobbers – those red and white spheres so often depicted in angling lore – certainly should be part of any basic tackle box. Two or three different sizes will be enough to cover everything from perch to catfish.

Bobbers are not, however, appropriate for saltwater fishing – primarily because the metal clips used to attach the bobber to the line quickly rust and fail. Instead, saltwater fishermen typically use a "popping cork" – a conical-shaped float with a cupped face. A 4-inch weighted popping cork is a good all-around choice.

Artificial Lures

For a basic box, it is best to choose lures that are easy to use and productive under a variety of conditions. Many of these lures can be used in both fresh and saltwater, provided they are fitted with corrosion-resistant hooks.

Lipped, minnow-imitating plugs are simple-to-use surface plugs and effective in both fresh and saltwater. Spinnerbaits are perhaps the easiest of all artificial lures to employ – simply cast and retrieve. A spoon is another easy-to-use lure that can be used in both water types. Freshwater fishermen should also pick up a pack of 6-inch worms in basic colors. Saltwater fishermen should grab some 3 1/2-inch shad tails and a couple of 1/4-ounce jig heads to thread them on.

These basic bits of terminal tackle and artificial lures will be plenty to get you started catching fish. As you gain experience, you'll get a better feel for what type of tackle you need. And it doesn't hurt to experiment with new lures and baits. After all, filling a tackle box is part of the fun of fishing!

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