From Anniston Star:
By Charles Johnson

The recent pleasant weather has anglers thinking about hitting the lake. For some, it may have been a few months since the old bass boat has seen the sunlight. However, now might be a good time for some early spring cleaning and organizing some fishing tackle.

Nothing is more frustrating to anglers than being on the lake and digging through a boat load of lures to find the perfect one. It’s not that you don’t have it. It’s just not handy and precious fishing time is slipping by. Anglers can take a little time now to get all of their fishing tackle prepared and properly organized.

Professional tournament anglers have learned a few tricks over the years to keep their tackle at the ready. The pros carry a ton of lures, baits and gear, but not all of it in their boat. They don’t like to waste valuable fishing time digging around in boat lockers for one lure.

Leave some behind

Most anglers know the season, lake and water they will be fishing. Certain times of the season may dictate the general types of lures that will be needed.

It is a sure bet that a winter trip to a mountain lake with water temperatures in the 45 degree range, topwater lures are probably not on the menu.

“I don’t carry all of my lures in my boat,” said B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Aaron Martens of Leeds. “I’ll leave some of my baits in my truck or back at the hotel.”

Martens said he usually has an idea of what the fish will be hitting before a tournament begins. He won’t carry a 100 crankbaits in his boat. He generally narrows his selection down to a couple of lures in a few proven colors. This applies to hard baits. For soft plastics he will have on hand enough for a day’s fishing.

Over the years, Martens has learned not to take every lure he owns out on the water. He said a couple of things can happen. One, you get to searching through all the lures looking for a special bait. Two, you waste fishing time looking for lures that are not where you thought they were.

Lure storage boxes

Martens has taken some ribbing from fellow competitors about his obsession with tackle organization. They may razz him if they want, but Martens won two Elite events and AOY in 2015. His tackle prep must be working for him.

In tournament situations Martens has to be efficient in every aspect of the game. A critical area is tackle organization. One way he does this is with modular style plastic storage boxes. There are many different style and types of plastic storage boxes available to anglers at any level.

“For some lures I’ll have smaller boxes inside larger boxes,” Martens said. “This makes it much quicker for me to select a specific box for a lure.”

All of Martens tackle storage boxes are labeled. He knows exactly what lures and colors are in each box. The modular box system works great for Martens. He can place the right boxes in his boat for each trip. If there is something he needs, he can always go back to his truck.

One example of Martens’ storage system is with terminal tackle. He will put tungsten weights in a small box. Hooks in another and jig heads in another.

The smaller boxes are placed inside a larger box. During a tournament, Martens only has to grab one box and everything is handy.

Martens stores soft plastic lures by type and shape. With this system he has to only grab one box when searching for specific bait. Some anglers place the small bags inside larger bags. But, Martens said it can take extra time digging through all of those bags, especially during a tournament.

Some of the newer storage boxes, like the ones made by Plano, have shallower compartments. The slimmer boxes are about one inch deep, perfect for crankbaits. With the thinner sections, single baits can be placed in each slot. This will prevent lures form tangling.

“By tournament time, I have narrowed down my lure selections,” Martens said. “I only grab the tackle boxes I need so I have the lures I need usually in one compartment.”

Anglers can devise their own tackle storage system to fit their style and type of fishing. Martens said the more tackle you carry in your boat the more time it takes to find the lure you want. Also, the extra weight can decrease boat performance.

Gear up, gear down

Rods and reels are another factor in the tackle planning situation. Having too many rod and reel combos on the deck can cause interference during a tournament. It is wise to have just a couple of extra rods rigged and ready, as too many can get tangled and clutter the front deck.

“I like to keep only a couple of rods rigged on the deck,” said Martens. “If you get too many you begin to think of a different bait instead of concentrating on fishing.”

Martens may take 30 or more rods to a tournament, but when the competition begins, he has only five or six rods on the deck. He does keep other rods rigged but in the rod locker. The rods he knows he won’t be using he will leave in his truck or hotel room.

Depending on the lake and the fish, Martens may use exclusively baitcasting or spinning gear. In some situations he will have both types rigged and on deck. Generally he will have another rod rigged and ready with the same type lure he is fishing.

“I’ll arrange my rods and my tackle where I can have quick access,” Martens said. “The lure boxes I’m most likely to use in a tournament will be on top.”

Martens is obsessed with his lures and tackle. He will spend hours before each event organizing and arranging his tackle. He has a system that works for him. The only changes he will make is to be more efficient on the water in grabbing the exact lure he wants.

Charles Johnson is The Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles