Being organized before a competition is one of Kevin VanDam's keys to success DURING the competition. Photo by Garrick Dixon

We’re now just a week away from starting the 2020 Bass Pro Tour season and I’m neck-deep in prepping, organizing and packing tackle for the first few events.

Each year, I derive a lot of confidence through tackle prep and packing, right here at home. I can’t stress enough how critical time management is in bass tournaments. Anything I can do today that will allow me to make one more cast during a tournament two months from now is a confidence booster.

Sometimes I see guys sitting down during a tournament, digging all through the boat to work on tackle and it makes me crazy! I’m a firm believer that meticulous tackle preparation and organization is a primary foundation for being successful on the water.

With that, here is a bird’s-eye view of my tackle packing process.

Basically, I have three stages that my tackle “flows” through to go from home to the end of my line at a tournament. First is my shop, the second is the truck and the third is the boat.

Everything in its place: Staying organized from your garage to your truck to your boat is a key in being efficient on the water. Photo courtesy Kevin VanDam

It Starts in the Shop

The shop/garage is sort of like the warehouse or storage area for all my tackle and gear. I view it like a library system where I check tackle in and out from the pegs and shelves throughout the year. I’m big on keeping tackle at the shop on pegs so my inventory is readily visible for stock assessment. I don’t like digging through boxes or bins to do inventory. I like being able to look at pegs and immediately see that I might be low on a certain color or size of particular bait. I keep everything stocked to the hilt.

Anything that I commonly use during the season is pegged on the wall in the shop. These tournament staples include all hard baits, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, frogs, swim jigs, and all terminal tackle. I have my favorite soft plastics pegged as well: all the Strike King Rage collection (craws, creatures, bugs and worms), Ochos, finesse worms, tubes, KVD Hand Pours, Dream Shots, Half Shells, etc.

Beyond that, I have stacks of Plano’s biggest StowAway boxes (7080 XXL) where I house soft plastics I don’t use as often or are more niche specific. For example, bright-colored floating worms for the Carolinas, Junebug colored plastics for Florida or big Rage Swimmers for Texas.  

My tackle management starts in my garage, where I have important items like plastics neatly organized and accessible. Photo courtesy Kevin VanDam

Keeping it Organized on the Road

I often break upcoming tournaments up into legs. For instance, the first leg of the Bass Pro Tour for me will include Eufaula, Okeechobee and Lake Fork. So before I leave, I’ll pack the boat and truck with everything I need for those three events. Eufaula tackle will take precedence in the boat at first, and I’ll pack Okeechobee and Fork options in the truck.

For general lure storage in the boat, I still use a lot of Plano’s classic 3700 size StowAway boxes up under the deck. For particular lures that I pack specifically for a certain tournament, I use the new Edge Series boxes. My favorite Edge boxes include the XL Crankbait Box, the Master Plastics Box and the Vibrating Jig Box. Soft plastics for the boat are stored in Plano KVD Speedbag worm files in the back compartments. I’ll often dedicate a whole Speedbag to a category of plastics. At any given time, I carry 10 to 12 Speedbags in the boat.

For tackle storage in the truck, I use Plano’s large Sportsman’s Trunks, which hold dozens of Plano’s 3700 boxes.

Between tournaments, I do a complete tackle overhaul and repack. The goal here is to reduce the bulk of what I don’t need in the boat and replace it with what I do need. This involves a lot of tackle exchange between the boat and truck based on the type of fishery we’re headed to next.

For instance, between Eufaula and Okeechobee, I’ll probably swap some hard bait boxes holding big deep-diving crankbaits and replace them with boxes holding prop baits for Florida. I might pull some of my standard 1/2-ounce flipping jigs boxes and replace them with a box of heavy 1-ounce punching jigs for Okeechobee. For plastics, I might pull my Speedbag of flipping tubes and bulk up on my punching baits like Rage Craws. And you can bet I’ll make room for extra Junebug-colored plastics.

The back of my Toyota Tundra is kept organized by several Plano Sportsman’s Trunks and Plano 3600 tackle boxes. Photo courtesy Kevin VanDam

Avoiding Boat Clutter

Given the vast storage of today’s bass boats, it’s possible to pack a boat full of tackle for the entire season but I don’t do it because of the clutter factor. I want stuff I’m not likely to use out of my way so I can get to the stuff I do need faster. I like for the tackle in my boat to change with the season. By the time we get to the New York leg of the Bass Pro Tour season, the tackle in my boat will be very different than what is packed in there now. And when the season is over, I will bring everything home, clean out the truck and boat and “check” all my tackle back into my “library” at the shop.  

On that thought, if I could offer one tip on packing and organizing tackle, it would be to always put your tackle back away after each day, each tournament and each season. Trust me, putting it away in its proper place is just as important as packing it to begin with. After a bad day on the water or a long tournament, it’s easy to just throw all “that stuff” wherever and go – but that is a bad habit to get into.

Constant tackle management is a discipline that is critical to creating a few extra opportunities each day – opportunities that could make a huge difference in your tournament outcome.