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Bass Pro Shops Tackle Bag
Product Review by Joseph D. Cornwall


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Thirty some odd years ago when I first got hooked on fly fishing I was, as so many are, immediately struck by the shear quantity of stuff associated with the sport.  All those doo-dad's hanging from a cool looking vest made fly fishing seem important, a business not to be taken lightly.  This early exposure evolved into what must be a text book obsessive/compulsive disorder, leading to the thousands of gizmos, gadgets, spools and boxes that litter my life today. I know, deep down inside, that if I go fishing without one thing, that surely will be the item that would have made the day if only I had it at hand.

Three years ago my wife bought me a Father's Day gift, a canoe.  It is a beautiful sand-colored Mad River Malecite that my wife only half-jokingly calls "the other woman".  It became apparent to me at the outset that paddling and fly vests were not compatible.  All those fly boxes and dangling gizmo's - so handy on the stream - clanked in front of me and bounced painfully into my ribs.  Left to the bottom of the canoe the vest soon became a sponge.  There had to be a better answer. 

Various chest and fanny packs were examined and dismissed.  Bags designed specifically to the task, complete with hooks to hang on the gunwale, seemed overly expensive and limiting.  In his land-mark 1968 warm water fly fishing book Tom Nixon espouses use of a hardware fisher's tackle box.  This, at last, seemed the right approach.  My old hip-roof Plano was brought from retirement and proved the direction of Mr. Nixon's advice fundamentally sound - but it turned out that sound became the problem.  Simply put, the Plano made way too much noise scraping the bottom of the Kevlar boat.  In addition to practicality I needed quiet.  

A walk through the fishing tackle section of Bass Pro (or Cabela's, or Wal-Mart, for that matter) revealed dozens upon dozens of soft sided tackle bags designed to be used with snap top adjustable plastic boxes.  Perfect for the plastic worms, jigs, pigs and spinners of the hardware crowd but never had I seen a fly fisher with such a set-up.  Too bad.  It turns out that these bags are as ideal a solution for a canoe or boat bound fly flinger as they are for those who prefer a spinning or casting rod.

The bag pictured here, a Bass Pro Extreme Qualifier 360,  has weathered some significant airline miles, having seen action from Minnesota to Texas, Florida to Oregon.  Four seasons of abuse and still it retains its essential functionality.  Make no mistake; it is far from perfect.  Letís examine some weaknesses before we sing praises again.

A significant disadvantage of any soft bag is its water resistance.  While the Bass Pro bag is tough, it is not waterproof.  Water in the bottom of the boat, an unexpected dunking, or a driving rain will soak the contents.  This, of course, requires careful unpacking and drying to prevent rust.   

The front mesh pocket was an early casualty.  While it seems an ideal place for nippers, forceps and other such constant use items, the mesh is easily cut by these typically sharp metal tools.  And the elastic holders found there tend not to hold so well which means, when coupled with the inevitable hole in the mesh, lost items.  A little care must be taken to secure your doodads. 

On the plus side, I canít imagine needing more space. This bag holds a dozen spools of tippet material, bug spray, pork rind baits, extra reel spools and dozens upon dozens of flies, lures and baits.  All this and it is lightweight, even when fully loaded.  When I purchased mine it even came with a full complement of Plano 360 plastic boxes, which are ideal for large bass bugs, fly rod spinner baits and other outsized hawg snacks.

The bottom line?  Bass Pro has a winner here.  I am sure that there are many versions of this product from scores of manufacturers.  While I wish for better water resistance and an improved tool caddy, the comparative cost of bags from upscale manufacturers places these niceties at a four or five-fold increase.  For $30, I canít imagine a better investment for the fully equipped smallmouth fanatic.

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