April 06, 2022
By Lynn Burkhead
Back when frontiersmen began exploring the American landscape to the west of the Atlantic seaboard and Appalachian Mountains, they never left the dying embers of last night’s campfire without their muzzleloader in a scabbard and their "possibles bag" slung over the shoulders.
Since life came at them quickly, they needed things at hand to deal with the uncertainties of each day on the frontier.
While the contents of a possibles bag—built around the idea of "What I might possibly need today!"—probably changed as the early explorers pushed west, it’s a sure bet those rugged adventurers always had the key items they deemed necessary for protection, eating and staying warm. Makes sense, right?
That sentiment still rings true today, especially for those who love the outdoors lifestyle. From a shooting bag for clay pigeon shotgunners and rifle-toting target shooters, to a daypack for whitetail hunters, or blind bag for waterfowlers, the concept still carries plenty of weight, even if it fails to resemble what Daniel Boone might have carried.
It also holds true for the modern angler, who knows that being prepared is at the heart of efficient and successful fishing. Having what you need, when you need it, and in close proximity, just makes sense, right?
In this Backyard Ready article, we’re taking the "possibles bag" concept to the water in something we call a Quick-Go Fishing Pack. What follows are gear suggestions specifically for those anglers with a couple of hours to spare (or even just a couple of casts), a water body lying a short drive beyond the backyard, and the need to feel what’s biting.
What’s in a Quick-Go Fishing Pack?
As far what goes into a ready-to-go fishing pack, in my mind, it all starts with the bag itself. If you’re a bass-fishing junkie like I am, then you have probably seen all of the gear bags and tackle backpacks carried at stores like Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse, and Academy.
With brands ranging from Plano to Ugly Stik to Calcutta to H2O Xpress and beyond, there’s no shortage of tackle bags and tackle backpacks that can carry a Quick-Go Fishing Pack filled with tackle and gear.
And while I have a big-bass rig and a Gheenoe-style smaller boat at my disposal, those usually involve major time commitments to go fishing, meaning that many of my fishing trips these days involve a small, nearby water body or stream, a bit of hiking or kayak paddling from the truck, and the possibility of a weather change (especially in the spring).
When such a trip is in the cards, my bag choice is typically the kind used by fly-fishing enthusiasts, either a Fishpond waist pack (a Trout Unlimited version that I actually won at ICAST a few years ago) for the hiking trips or more frequently, a Simms Fishing Products waterproof backpack if my ancient Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 kayak is in tow.
While the pack I’ve used for years—I started carrying it several years ago while covering Major League Fishing events and needing a waterproof bag for my Nikon DSLR camera—is no longer made by Simms, the company’s current Dry Creek Z Backpack is a bigger, better mousetrap version of the same thing.
If you like other brands, Orvis makes a waterproof sling pack, Patagonia makes a similar H2O proof sling pack, Fish Pond does too, and Umpqua offers a great non-waterproof ZS2 Steamboat Sling Pack that can do almost everything you’ll ever need a pack to do.
Know What You Need
For some anglers, a waterproof backpack isn’t necessary, particularly with the higher costs associated with such bags. But for others, the bigger cost is justified since waterproof packs feature a waterproof and self-healing zipper, waterproof fabric that is submersible (in case you slip and fall in – don’t ask how I know!), various features ranging from net sleeves to water bottle pockets, and plenty of roomy storage pockets and dividers inside.
If the bag or pack itself is important, then so too are the contents that you put into a Quick-Go Fishing Pack. While you can overpack for a quick fishing trip, you also want to have two or three plastic lure boxes tucked away inside with a variety of lure or fly options, depending on the time of year that you’re fishing and the species you’re fishing for.
For on-the-go bass anglers, it’s important to remember that you’re not trying to match the spacious tackle box compartment in Kevin VanDam’s Nitro bass boat. Instead, you want just enough lures so that you can cover the three main water column zones found in shallow, moderate and deep water.
Because of that, I want to make sure that I’ve got three Plano or Flambeau lure boxes designated for such zones.
What’s in Lynn's Quick-Go Fishing Pack?
- Topwater: Booyah buzzbait, Heddon’s Zara Spook, Strike King KVD Sexy Dawg, Rapala X-Rap, Rebel Pop-R, Booyah Pad Crasher, Spro soft plastic, hollow-bodied frog.
- Middle zone: Chatterbaits, Strike King and/or Booyah spinnerbaits (yes, I know, spinnerbaits are old school, right?), small- to medium-sized swimbaits, KVD 1.5 and 2.0 squarebill crankbaits, Rat-L-Trap lipless baits, and a shallow and/or medium-diving crankbait or two. Unless my Quick-Go trip involves a kayak or canoe where deeper water can be probed, I’ll typically leave the bulky deep-diving crankbaits at home.
- Deep water: When there is some deeper water involved with a kayak trip or a hiking trip, where a drop-off falls away from the shoreline quickly or some thick cover or vegetation must be negotiated, you’ll also want to have a few jigs with plastic trailers handy and a swim jig or two.
- Also: Soft plastics are must-haves for bass fishing, especially Senko styles, perhaps the No. 1-selling soft-plastic bait in the world. Make sure to have a couple of different size and color options.
Speaking of lure colors, when it comes to bass and their opportunistic feeding habits, the daily menu of a largemouth or smallmouth bass is still fairly basic and centers around crawfish, bluegills, or threadfin shad in the lakes that I fish. In other parts of the country, the menu varies some, but will still be similar, so carry lure colors that "match the hatch" for your local waters.
What if you’re a fly angler targeting a big bass on an eight-weight fly rod?
Basically, the same ideas above still apply, only you’ll be carrying: streamer flies like Blane Chocklett’s Game Changer or Tommy Lynch’s Drunk-and-Disorderly; a handful of time-tested Clouser minnows and Lefty’s Deceivers; an Orvis hard-bodied popper or an Umpqua deer hair bug; and maybe a Rainy's Rich’s Ultimate Worm Fly or the subsurface offerings by Wisconsin fly shop owner Pat Ehler, his Foamtail Super Worm or Grim Reaper patterns.
How about a panfish enthusiast with a taste for skillet fried bluegills or battered crappie fillets?
You’ll want an extra spool of light line associated with these fish, some bait hooks and weight options to get a worm, minnow, or cricket down deep, a few bobbers or fishing corks, and some jig heads and solid-colored and multi-hued plastic jig bodies when that artificial lure bite is hot.
Add in a few small panfish-sized spinnerbaits, a small spoon or two, a small crankbait or two, and a handful of panfish poppers (if you like to fly fish for feisty bluegills, that is), and you’re in the panfish-catching business. Oh, and don’t forget a stringer or two if you plan to keep fish for the table!
If catfish are your cup of angling tea, you’ll need a few spools of heavy line, some big bait hooks, some stink-bait or catfish specialty mixtures, a knife to cut up baitfish into whiskerfish-tempting chunks, and a big stringer if you’re planning on a weekend fish fry.
Don't Forget These Things
Outside of the fishing tackle itself for your Quick-Go Fishing Pack, you’ll also want a lightweight, packable rain jacket, insect repellent, sunscreen, small first-aid kit, snacks, water or hydration drinks.
Finally, since I’m forever on an obsessive quest for catching a 10-pound largemouth bass in Texas with my eight-weight Temple Fork fly rod, I’ll also have in my pack a rubber net and a BOGA Grip handy so I can land, weigh, and release a springtime bucketmouth.
And a smartphone or small DSLR camera too, all so that I can document a memorable catch and capture a rare moment of angling glory to text to all of my various fishing buddies. Makes sense, right?