Hard-core walleye anglers are accessory freaks. Like it or not, they have to be. No other style of fishing requires the sheer volume and variety of tackle, gear and equipment required to be consistently successful on the wide range of walleye waters the pros and the angling-afflicted are forced to fish over the course of a season.
Beyond the basics of rods and reels and lures, walleye anglers will typically stock their boats with items such as marker buoys, planer boards, bottom bouncers, diving planers, drift socks, nets, bait containers, lights, pliers and foul weather gear including pants, jackets, hats and gloves. By the time two or three anglers on the same boat come so equipped, it’s easy to explain the popularity of 20-foot-plus walleye craft these days.
What goes aboard must be stowed aboard, or else the angler and his fishing partner will find themselves tripping over tackle boxes and slipping on side-planers while having trouble finding what they need when they need to find it. Finding a place for everything and putting everything in its place, as the saying goes, is a skill that takes experience, organization and consistency.
It also benefits from some creative gadgetry.
Goodbye 5-gallon buckets! There is now a better way to store bottom bouncers.
“When you fish both bait and artificials, you need to be able to accommodate both, and all the rigs and containers that go along with them,” said walleye pro Mark Martin. “And when you fish in all the conditions, at all the various sites, in a variety of seasons for walleyes, you need to have a lot of gear. Or should I say, you need to have a lot of gear and have it accessible so you can get to what you need.”
Three of the handiest aftermarket organizers Martin has found for his fishing gear and bait come from the same Minnesota-based manufacturer.
“Take for example bottom bouncers,” said the former PWT champion. “They can be a pain as they tangle in your tackle box or slide all over your boat. Up until now, the best way to keep bouncers neat was in a 5-gallon bucket!
“The folks at JNB Originals are obviously walleye fishermen, and they are willing to listen to anglers’ ideas. They came up with a Bottom Bouncer Tamer made out of a canvas-like material that holds and separates bouncers by weight and color that you can roll up and shut with a Velcro strap. It keeps them dry, organized, untangled and accessible.”
The “canvas-like” material used in the Bouncer Tamer ($14) is actually polyester fabric, in a weight used for the popular, rugged “Top Gun” boat covers.
Another critical angling accessory that has given walleye fishermen fits when it comes time to stash it is the in-line planer board. Too large for most tackle boxes and susceptible to crushing underfoot when left on deck, the plastic boards are a pain in the neck when placed anywhere but in the water, where they work wonders on finicky fish.
Using a combination of polyester fabric and a vinyl-encapsulated polyester mesh, Martin’s Planerboard Tamer ($22) from JNB holds four boards separately yet side-by-side in a holster that is self draining and accessible from its location, bolted to the side of his boat’s center console.
Up to four planerboards, all in one place and out of the way, yet within easy reach.
The same mesh material used in the JNB Planerboard Tamer to make it self-draining is the secret behind Martin’s favorite recent find for keeping bait lively.
“When left in conventional coolers, leeches tend to be sluggish until they are tempered to their surroundings,” Martin explained. “This can mean up to 20 minutes of down time waiting for your leech to acclimate itself to the water temperature and become active.
“By putting your leeches in a mesh bag and placing them in your livewell or hanging them over the side in the bag, in a minnow bucket, or the bag itself, the leeches get tempered to the water temperature they will be fished in, and become active right away when you put them on your hook, instead of balling up,” he said. “The bag also makes it a whole lot easier to pass the bait around in the boat!”
Martin commented that since using the JNB Leech Bag ($11) to store his favorite walleye bait while on the water, the leeches stay alive longer in his boat’s baitwell and that the mesh seems to keep the baits cleaner.
The Leech Bag acclimates the bait to ambient water conditions ahead of time.
The Tracy, Minnesota-based container-maker has also developed a mesh minnow bag (Minnow Tamer, $22) based on the Leech Bag principal, and is playing around with a tool-tamer-type product similar to the planerboard scabbard, designed for holding pliers, sunglasses, hook files, hook removers, and other anglers’ tools.
Cargo Netting, Cell Phones and Soft Drinks
Speaking of mesh, more and more fishing boat manufacturers are offering stretchable cargo netting as an on-deck storage option this season. Lund offers netting on both sides of the forward deck for storing everything from planerboards to PFDs, and several boat makers offer expandable net pockets adjacent to the helm of their fishing models.
In the aftermarket marketplace, Boat Mates offers a line of portable mesh storage devices. The organizers ($6-$27) are designed to attach to non-porous surfaces with suction cup, but can be permanently—and securely—bolted to any bulkhead. Boat Mates also offers a handy cockpit organizer that holds pliers, hook file, cell phone, GPS, lures and other accessories, and a Cell Phone Caddy that can hold, but not protect from the elements, a GPS and cell phone.
For the latter, Cell Safe makes a waterproof compartment made of shock-absorbent, ABS plastic with a cushioned foam interior to conform to the shape of a phone or GPS. The Cell Safe ($25) seals with an o-ring, floats, comes with a belt loop, fits in most cup-holders and can be mounted with Velcro or screws.
A portable cup-holder that’s popular among anglers who’ve used it is offered by Cabela’s in the model 1805 Suction Cup Holder ($8). The super-strong suction cup adheres to fiberglass, aluminum or glass, so you can put it just about anywhere there’s a flat, non-porous surface or bulkhead. For quaffing colas and coffee while aboard boats rigged with the popular Roberts-, Berkley- or Attwood-style rail-mount or horizontal-mount rod holders, anglers can use No-Spill drink holders ($8-$13 from Cabela’s), placing the holders’ specially designed brackets in the mounts meant for rods.
The simple addition of accessory holders can spell the difference between chaos and order, especially when unhooking fish and changing rigs.
Some walleye anglers customize their craft by adding entire lockers where needed in locations where none exist, using aftermarket utility hatches and liners. Cabela’s “D-I-Y” gear storage offerings include vacuum-formed liners ($20-$40) that can be used for dry storage or drilled and fitted for use as livewells or baitwells. The liners fit matching waterproof hatches ($37-$69) that are lockable and come in ivory, white or grey. Tempress offers a similar assortment of high quality at comparable prices.
Plano peddles portable dry storage boxes in a variety of sizes in their current Marine Box lineup of waterproof containers, and the sturdy boxes are cropping up on plenty of fishing boats. With o-ring seals and top access storage trays, the Plano boxes ($9-$11) are great for storing maps, car keys, charts, boat documents, cameras, cell phones, safety gear and other items that need extra protection.
Foul weather gear, extra outerwear, extra PFDs and other items that you want to keep dry can be placed in Plano’s popular water-resistant marine bags. Made of heavy PVC material with a molded hard bottom, large corrosion-resistant-zippered openings, the bags ($20 and $25) have soft-grip handles and because they are “soft-sided,” depending on their contents the bags can conform in shape to be stashed just about anywhere there’s room aboard a walleye boat.
A Tight Ship
Walleye anglers accumulate lots of gear. It's just what we do. But all that gear can get in the way of a successful day on the water if it's scattered about the boat, or worse yet, not where you thought it was. All of the items mentioned, as well as myriad others like them, can help a walleye angler maintain order in the boat. And an organized boat is safer, easier to fish from, and usually winds up with more fish in it.