Maybe it's the effectiveness of the outdoor industry's marketing of lures, but terminal tackle rarely gets the credit it deserves. Case in point -- many anglers would rather spend five dollars on a crankbait than drop the same amount of cash on ball bearing swivels. Unfortunately, not having an adequate selection of terminal tackle can leave you unprepared and unable to properly fish specific presentations. The following is a look at some top terminal tackle picks for your freshwater fishing tackle box.
In many respects terminal tackle components are the most underrated pieces of fishing equipment.
You can't catch fish without hooks (unless you fancy fishing with a net or a spear). It's best to stock up on a variety of hook sizes and styles for various fishing conditions. Circle hooks seem to be sweeping the livebait realm these days. This is largely due to their high rate of quality hook-ups that occur in the corner of a fish's mouth, away from its stomach. Try these new hooks out this season if you haven't already. You'll also want to have some octopus and bait holder style hooks for finesse livebait offerings like leeches or worms. Having a variety of off-set hooks will let you fish soft-plastic baits in a Texas-rig fashion. Carrying replacement treble hooks for crankbaits and minnowbaits is also good practice. Lastly, I find it's always a good idea to carry a few weedless hooks.
To take your hook inventory to the next level, add a few specialty models to your box. In the last few years I've grown very fond of shank-weighted hooks like the Butt Dragger by Daiichi Bleeding Bait Hooks. These are great hooks to use to present soft-plastic jerkbaits. Lightly-weighted shank hooks can also be excellent when fishing wacky-rigged stickbaits. Another great hook with an innovative design is the StandOut Hook which makes drop-shot rigging as easy as tying one knot. Slip-on snell hooks are also great to have to add to a jig presentation to help hook light-biting fish.
As important as having a variety of hooks is, carrying an array of sinkers in different styles and weights. This keeps you well stocked to fish various conditions, like current, water depth, and bottom composition.
Carrying a good selection of split shot weights is important. Although basic, these weights can be used with so many fishing presentations it'd be foolish not to carry them.
Adding worm weights to your box is also wise, consider screw-in or peg models for their easy application. Tube weights in various sizes are also handy for fishing these hallow plastics. Walking or walleye sinkers are a classic when it comes to presenting livebait and should be standard in any tackle box. Look for Lindy's No-Snagg Slip Sinkers for the next generation of walking sinkers that, if you fish them right, are virtually snag-proof. Of course, if planning on fishing specialty rigs, carry the right sinkers, whether Carolina or drop-shot weights. Keel-style trolling weights will also help you fish rigs at a certain depth when trolling. Bottom bouncer rigs are prefect for getting lures to hug the bottom on trolling runs.
Jigheads could be considered a hybrid of sinkers and hooks, as they're simply weighted hooks. It's best to carry a wide range of jighead styles and weighs. Round jigheads are often used for fishing grub or twister tail plastics. Tube jigheads are a must if you regularly fish tubes and darter heads are great for swimming plastic minnow baits. Some specialty jigheads come with blades for added attraction, while other come with weed guards to protect hooks from snagging in heavy vegetation areas. It's worth nothing that you get what you pay for with respect to the quality of hooks on jigheads. Always buy a quality hook if your budget allows it.
Snaps, Swivels, and Split Rings
Its always best to go with quality ball bearing swivels -- their higher price pays off in the end.
Snaps and swivels are simple pieces of fishing gear that should be included in every angler's tacklebox. Swivels keep line from twisting, which can really pay off when vertically jigging or fishing lures that spin, such as tube or airplane jigs. It's best to go with a quality ball bearing swivel. The price might seem steep but they're worth the investment.
Snaps are designed to let anglers easily change baits. These units open and then lock shut to keep baits clamped on. The simplicity of using snaps is particularly handy when fishing with novices who aren't used to retying every time they change baits. Some anglers will also use snaps to give baits (like jerkbaits) more freedom when retrieved, as tying line directly to a lure's eye can limit its action. Anglers can also buy swivels and snaps together.
If you regularly fish minnowbaits, jerkbaits and crankbaits it's good to carry extra split rings for on-the-water adjustments. If after big predators, consider replacing factory split rings with higher quality ones to beef up the lure's overall strength. Carry a pair of split-ring pliers to make changes a simple process.
The above noted snaps and swivels can be used to tie your own leaders. You can choose to use either single- or seven-strand wire and make sure you carry crimp sleeves as well as crimp pliers. Many anglers using jigs for toothy critters will wrap seven-strand wire directly to the bait itself and then place a swivel at the other end. Of course, you can purchase leaders -- coated wire or titanium are two popular leader options. Pack a few leaders in your box so you're always ready to take on toothy trophies.
Float fishing can be a dynamite tactic for various species and wise anglers will always carry a few floats. Oval and pencil floats in a few sizes are good general choices. Make sure you also carry plenty of bobber stops when using slip floats. If you fish at night or during low light conditions, consider buying a few lighted bobbers and carry some spare batteries for the units too.
Some pieces of terminal tackle are somewhat stand alone products. Here's a list of some other components to carry in your tackle box:
Plastic beads can add color to a live bait presentation as well as protect a knot from wear and tear from a sliding sinker. Glass beads are a critical component of Carolina-rigs, emitting clicking sound when the rig is moved along bottom.
Fish formula or scent products are popular with some anglers and never used by others. Scent can make a difference when fishing is tough, so it's worth carrying at least one bottle.
Although not true terminal tackle, a hook file should be in every tackle box to touch up points and keep them sharp. Also worth carrying is an eye cleaner. if you fish with painted jigs a lot. Otherwise you'll likely end up using, and dulling, a hook from another bait to remove the paint from the jig eye.
In many respects terminal tackle components are the most underrated pieces of fishing equipment. They are often the primary (hook) or secondary (snap) connection to a fish. Equally important are items like sinkers or floats that allow us to fish a bait with precision. Without carrying an adequate selection of terminal tackle, you're limiting yourself as an angler. So the next time you're walking the isles of a bait shop, take some time to stock up your terminal tackle collection.