Classic style tackle boxes are a thing of the past for many anglers. Not only are they big and clunky, but they aren’t convenient at all for the modern bank fisherman. A box has lots of wasted space, doesn’t hold much gear, yet somehow weighs a load. Besides, nobody enjoys lugging a tackle box around bumping and banging into every rock and tree in your path.
The solution is a fishing backpack. The top backpacks today can hold all your tackle, tools, and gear, while freeing your hands to hold your rod combos. Imagine how much easier it will be to negotiate your way through rough terrain to reach your fishing spots. Shore fishing becomes more enjoyable, and makes it easy to grab your tackle and hop in a friend’s boat on a moment’s notice.
Fishing backpacks are a relatively recent addition to the tackle storage space. They were introduced specifically with bank fishing in mind, whether ponds, streams, or rivers. Thanks to this there are some very specific advantages to a tackle backpack vs tackle boxes or tackle bags.
Shore Fishermen – Bank anglers can perhaps benefit the most from a fishing backpack. A backpack allows you to walk hands free to all your favorite fishing holes. Your hands are free to carry a few rod and reel combos, while maintaining balance on your feet. You can even fish while wearing it.
Fly Fishermen – Fly fishing involves getting up close and personal with streams and rivers. That is no place to be fumbling with a tackle box. A small backpack or messenger bag can store all your flies and gear while you wade the waters.
Backcountry Anglers – Serious anglers making canoe and kayak trips into the backcountry will love a fishing backpack. A backpack just for fishing gear make portages and hikes much easier.
Co-Anglers – Not much is more annoying for a boater in a tournament than a co-angler bringing a tackle bag that more resembles a piece of luggage. A backpack makes a co-angler more efficient while making their boater draw happy.
Our Score is based on experience and a composite score from multiple top retailers.
Plano Box Sizes
3600 Dimensions: 11″L x 7.25″W x 1.75″H (21 Compartments)
3650 Dimensions: 11″L x 7.25″W x 1.75″H (20 Compartments)
3500 Dimensions: 9.13″L x 5″W x 1.25″H (9 Compartments)
Fishing Tackle Backpack Features
There are a handful of features to keep in mind when selecting a backpack for hauling tackle. Compare the bag features to how and where you fish most often.
Tray Storage – The best tackle backpacks have large compartments perfectly sized for 2-4 utility boxes. This makes it a fast change from your boat to your bank fishing setup.
Gear Storage – On top of the tray storage some packs have an open gear storage compartment. Use your imagination for what can be used here, soft plastics, extra line, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Cary Weight – All that storage is awesome, but think about if you can actually carry all that tackle. Think about where you fish and if you need to haul that much gear.
Build Quality – We took care to pick out only the top backpacks. They cost more than the knockoffs online, but that’s because they are quality made.
Special Features – We’ll cover this in depth in the reviews, but look for side pockets, fishing tool holders, and even built in lights.
The Wild River Nomad is the king daddy of tackle backpacks. The Nomad is big, it’s versatile, and earns our top recommendation as the best fishing backpack for the money. The materials are top notch, with heavy duty nylon fabric, padded shoulder straps, and good rust proof zippers (even if they are plastic).
When empty, the Nomad weighs 4 ¾ pounds, and can tip the scale over 20 pounds when fully loaded. With 5 side and back pouches, the capacity is unrivaled. With the pack being that heavy, it’s not great for fishing while wearing it, but it has a rigid base with rubber feet that can be safely set anywhere.
The Nomad include 4 Plano 3600 utility boxes, which can be used to store crankbaits, jerkbaits, jigs, and soft plastics. There are even tool holders for fishing pliers and scissors, and a lanyard for attaching a line cutter. If you own a boat and use Plano trays, all you have to do to go mobile is grab 4 trays and slide them into the pack and you’re ready to hit the hot banks.
One minor omission is the lack of a hip strap, but there is at least a small chest strap to help secure the pack to your back and make it more comfortable to carry. A couple features I love are the built in rain fly and the hard sided sunglasses holder perched at the very top of the pack.
The bottom line is if you are a serious bank fisherman and want the ultimate tackle backpack, look no further than the Wild River Nomad.
The newly redesigned Advanced Angler Backpack is a wildly popular tackle pack from Cabela’s. It looks much sleeker and urban than the outdoors styled packs from Wild River. Like most Cabela’s Advanced Angler branded products, the quality is very good, as proven by the more than 50 five star ratings (2013 version) by actual owners of the pack.
The sizing is 20”H x 12”W x 8.5”D, making it comparable to the Recon. The layout of the bag is interesting, as the three Pro-Latch 3650 size tackle trays slide out from a zippered side flap on the main compartment. The main compartment opens like a school bag, but you’ll find a half dozen lure pockets for organization.
It’s nice to see a waist strap on this backpack, which really helps in the comfort over longer hikes. Another cool feature is the slot on the side that you can slip the butts of a rod or two and strap the rods to the bag during hikes. Overall, the Advanced Angler backpack is a great option for fishermen. The versatility and quality is there, and earns our recommendation.
The Multi-Tackle backpacks from Wild River are more basic variations of the Recon and Nomad packs. This pack comes in two sizes, Large and Small. The Large can hold four 3600 tackle boxes (not included), while the small can hold two. The Large measures in at 21”H x 15”W x 6”D, and the Small is 19”H x 12.75”W x 5”D.
The shoulder straps are pretty basic, not nearly as padded as the big Wild River packs. It also lacks a rain cover. Besides that, there is tons of storage, both in the top gear compartment, and the numerous side pouches. We like that they stuck with plastic zippers so rust doesn’t need to concern you. For a better value backpack option, the Wild River Multi-Tackle Pack is worthy of your consideration.
Spiderwire makes great braided fishing line and some stylish polarized sunglasses, but I bet you didn’t know they offer a tackle backpack. It’s actually a very popular and highly rated backpack, with dozens of five star reviews found on various shops online.
The first thing you’ll notice is the distinctive Spiderwire styling on the pack. The all black nylon bag with lime green trim looks great. Looks aside, it does work well for fishing. The pack comes with 3 medium tackle trays, which slip in via the zippered flap on the back. An interesting thing is the “cooler” compartment that sits just above the tray compartment, which be useful for a daylong outing.
There are two other large side pouches for story in soft plastics, baits, or even extra reels. You should be able to get 20lbs or more of gear into this backpack. With that much capacity it’s great to see thick shoulder straps, and a waist strap. The Spiderwire Tackle Backpack is a great choice for young anglers who want the convenience of a backpack and still look cool.
For those of us who don’t need the massive capacity of the Nomad, we have the little brother in the Wild River Recon tackle backpack. When comparing the Wild River Nomad vs Recon, the main difference is the dimensions.
At 16.5”H x 13”W x 6.8”D, the Recon is 2.5” shorter, 4” narrower, and 1.75” thinner. The tackle tray size is downsized to the Plano 3500, but you still get four of them included with the pack. The main gear compartment is more compact, but still has a divider, and all the other side pockets are slimmed up in size.
Most of the special features of the Nomad make it over to the Recon, the main exceptions are no chest strap, protective sunglasses pouch, or rubber footed bottom. It does have the fishing pliers holder, LED work light, rain fly, and retractable lanyard for attaching line clippers.
We classify the Nomad as a near perfect backpack for taking multi-day fishing trips, like backcountry canoe tours or fly-in fishing trips. Then you have the Wild River Recon, which is much better suited for taking out on half day fishing adventures.
Need Something Smaller? Try a Tackle Sling
Don’t want or need a full sized fishing backpack? The next best solution would be a tackle sling, or messenger bag. You get the benefits of shoulder carrying a smaller amount of tackle without the heavy weight on your shoulders. These are perfect for the quick day trip to your favorite lake or river.
The Spiderwire Tackle Sling is a mini version of the Spiderwire Tackle Backpack. It has the same Spiderwire black and green styling with web and spider graphics. It is shaped a little like a messenger bag, but the compartments are sized for tackle boxes.
You can slide several small tackle trays into the main compartment and still have room for bags of plastic baits in the outside pocket. I also really like the fleece padded sunglasses pocket on top of the sling. For keeping tackle at the ready at school or in the car, the Spiderwire Tackle Sling is a versatile and good looking bag.
Like the full backpack, the 2013 version of the Advanced Angler Sling Pack has many 4 and 5 star reviewers, and has been recently redesigned. The Sling Pack is a small, water resistant compartment that holds 2 Plano 3650 Pro-Latch tackle trays (included).
You wear it over your shoulder with the single padded strap. It’s perfect for pond fishing, or keeping in your vehicle to make quick fishing trips after work. You can use 1 tackle tray and fill up the rest of the space with soft plastics.
If you do a lot of shore fishing, you may want to get both the Advanced Angler Backpack and the Tackle Sling because they are designed to work together. The Sling attaches to the back of the Backpack via several loop hook and straps. Together the Tackle Sling and Backpack make the ultimate system in mobile fishing tackle storage.
This is a stylish and versatile messenger bag from Piscifun. Available in 7 color styles, there is an option for any taste. The bag is built out of 1000 denier nylon, and has two rectangular storage pouches. You could honestly buy two, and use one for school or work and have another in your vehicle or garage ready to fishing. They don’t come with tackle trays, but you can fit two Plano style 3500 or 3600 size boxes you already have.
This shoulder cross body tackle bag is a good multi purpose bag that can store not only a lot of tackle, but other gear and electronics, such as a GoPro action camera and extra batteries so you can record your fishing trips.
It’s a great looking bag, available in Digital Camo, Black, and Coyote Tan colors. If you want to look good while working the banks, this is a good choice. This pack has a different fit than the sling style bags, as it sits a little higher on the shoulder.
The main storage area can hold a few tackle trays, and even has a padded slot for your phone or tablet. The Piscifun Shoulder Bag can do more than just fishing, take it hiking, camping, to school, or on vacation.
Which Tackle Backpack is Best? How to Chose
Bank Fishing – The best tackle backpack for bank fishing will be the medium sized backpacks like the Cabela’s Advanced Angler, or the Wild River Recon. They have enough storage capability to handle long or short days, as well as trips where you need to hike yourself in.
Multi-Day Trips – The best fishing backpack for backcountry fishing and hiking trips, the Wild River Nomad is the top recommendation. It has the most capacity for tackle and gear, while also having the comfort of hauling you get with padded shoulder straps on a backpack.
Short Trips – The best tackle sling for bank fishing are the Spiderwire Tackle Sling, or the Advanced Angler Tackle Sling. They are the perfect size to hold some tackle and lures while still being lightweight and mobile. A Piscifun Shoulder bag is a good alternative that is also has multipurpose uses.
Featured Photo Credit: gowildriver.com / Product photos courtesy Cabelas.com or Manufactuer