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Fishing Tackle on a Budget

Gearing up for fishing after a few winter months on the shelf is one of my favorite times of year. You start seeing new boats and crappie turning up on Facebook pages, and you start looking at the fishing instead of the hunting sections of your favorite outfitters. Coincidentally, it’s a good time to snag deep discounts on any hunting gear that needs replacing or upgrading to be ready for next season. I usually look for bigger ticket items like parkas, rain gear or waders under “End of Season” sales. Sometimes you get a real peach of a deal with a little patience and homework.

If you fish like we do, you probably went deep into the fall fishing season and put your gear up late one night in a hurry and haven’t touched it since. February is a great month to start dragging out tackle boxes, bags and re-spool your reels. You can decide right now if you need to add a rod or reel and start budgeting to roll new gear into the mix without the burden of last minute purchasing later when the bite is on. If you’re broke like me, you know how simple trips to the lake can chew through your spending cash in a hurry all summer long.
Carefully planning out your gear purchases early in the year or even at the end of the previous seasons can take the money sting out of fishing. Buy your license on the very first day eligible to get the full value, or even look into a lifetime in your area.  I still fish with pretty basic gear and use as few rods as possible to get the job done. Even staying lean and mean in the gear department requires a little planning and maintenance to avoid surprises and wallet shock later on.
Since I use my spinning rods for double duty, I compromise on the line selection to skip the “one for crappie, one for bass and one for trout” mentality. The “country boy” mindset holds kinda true, the “one zebco 33 with 10lb can do it all” thought process. I don’t play it quite that simple, but i do average out my needs, especially with line selection. I use super thin braids with 8-10lb test on light spinning tackle. I can go panfish with ultralight tackle and not feel too bulky, and still have plenty of power to catch bass under most circumstances.
I have a simple tackle bag that holds five or six 3600 boxes. I have maybe 15 total boxes that are rigged for everything from live bait panfishing to top-water bass. I even have three or four dedicated specifically to saltwater fishing and can go from redfish back to crappie in few seconds by changing boxes. This is another super cheap way to organize your tackle and not drop hundreds on bags and boxes for every occasion. 3600 boxes are cheap, especially when on sale and make for a nicely organized tackle stash when stacked up. I’ve had my bag for five years with no end in sight for it. Finding a good sized well optioned bag for your needs can and will save you money in the long run. I gave $50 for mine with a gift card, and honestly didn’t even know how much i needed it at the time. It has simple end pockets for quick access and enough pockets inside to hold the basics along with the 3600s. Do your homework and find one that fits your style of fishing, then start looking for sales on the right size storage boxes that fit inside.
I’ve enjoyed fishing my whole life, and it took many years to get into a multi-rod/reel combo state of mind. A carryover from the one combo days is my tendency to zero in on one setup for all occasions. Of course there is no such thing, but you can get plenty close enough. Even though I have a few spares these days, i still run basically a two rig show almost every time i fish. In my case i prefer lighter tackle, deferring to “it’s more fun on lighter tackle” instead of bringing a sledgehammer to a bream bed. For me 2500 sized spinning reels and light-medium rods cover virtually every need i have. The lone exceptions are heavy bass topwater or inshore saltwater fishing, which really do call for heavier artillery. If all my stuff went up in smoke today, I’d buy two 6’6″ light/medium rods with 2500 reels and one 7’+ rod with a 4000 reel and be done with it. In fact, I’ve already sold all of my baitcasters, save one old ambassadeur 6500 with a bait clicker that i still like to catfish with. I use fairly light tackle for crappie and bream, even bass baits up to 3/8 oz fair well in relatively open water. The truth is, if you fish enough, you’re going to buy gear, and a bunch of it.  But with some consideration, you can minimize the amount of gear you need to own, get more efficient use out of what you do have and save money when replacing and upgrading gear.

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