Smart Gear Solutions for the Traveling Angler

By educating customers about non-native brands, you expand selection in your store with topnotch products designed to conquer specific hurdles for the traveling angler.

Smart Gear Solutions for the Traveling Angler

In February 2019 I traveled to Mexico’s Lake Picachos with a group including Field & Stream Editor Joe Cermele and renowned fly fishing photographer Tim Romano. They were shooting a video for Joe’s “Hook Shots” series about fly fishing for bass. But it wasn’t their rods, reels or flies that caught my attention, it was Romano’s Fishpond Thunderhead Submersible Duffel.

I’m embarrassed to say that despite spending hours combing tackle retailers’ and manufacturers’ websites, not only had I not heard of this product before, but I’d never even heard of Fishpond. Sure, the company caters heavily to the fly fishing crowd, of which I am not an esteemed member, but there’s nothing about the duffel that won’t protect my bass gear every bit as well as your woolly buggers and tippet material.

If you are one of several bass-centric tackle stores in your region, all of which sell traditional “bass brands” of tackle storage (while competing against online retailers as well), you may have no choice but to stock those brands. But if you can add a Fishpond-type outlier to the mix, that’s a point of distinction. Of course, you’ll have to educate your customers about the brand’s advantages, and you run the risk of losing some cash if you make poor buying decisions, but the upside is huge.

The clearly-drawn lines of separation among different types of angling gear is slowly eroding. Simms, once huge primarily in the world of trout and salmon, now sells heavily in the saltwater and bass world. AFTCO, for decades a leader almost exclusively in the salt, is now a constant presence at bass tournament weigh-ins coast to coast. The only thing they needed to make that move was some inertia, as well as a tipping point when freshwater multispecies anglers realized the quality and utility of their products.

Pete Robbins, right, believes expanding your knowledge about potential fishing locations and experiences can help more customers and increase revenue.
Pete Robbins, right, believes expanding your knowledge about potential fishing locations and experiences can help more customers and increase revenue.

Just because a product is a category leader does not necessarily mean it’s good for a particular purpose. For example, I have a bunch of Bass Mafia utility boxes for terminal tackle, and I love their ruggedness and organizational benefits. I thought they’d be great for my frequent fishing trips abroad. In some respects, they are – you can run over them with a car, so few baggage handlers can do them any real harm. However, the suckers are HEAVY. When I’m limited to 30 or 40 pounds of luggage for a float plane, I can’t justify a big portion of that to those boxes, no matter how indestructible. I’ve learned a heavy-duty Ziploc bag shut with duct tape does every bit as well for my tungsten weights. That might be a lost sale to you, but because soft plastics are surprisingly heavy (and I can’t leave home without a variety), I take a new bottle of Mend-It soft bait glue on just about every trip. Put some of that on your counter and I’ll grab some before my next trip to balance out your loss on the sale of utility boxes.

I’ve learned that the solution to traveling problems come from all walks of angling life. I have four different styles of rod tubes that have gone overseas with me. The first is either a Plano Telescoping Rod Case or a Flambeau Bazuka Pro, each of which can hold more than a dozen rods, including 8-footers, and each case has to be checked. The next is the opposite end of the spectrum, the single travel rod tube that came with my G. Loomis travel rod. It’ll hold two travel rods in a pinch, but not comfortably, so I bought a multi-rod 33-inch tube from fly fishing company Sage. That one has been to Africa and Alaska, both in the overhead compartment of the planes. At the recommendation of tuna-chasing friends from California, I later bought a tube from SKB. It’ll hold seven or eight rods up to 7 feet or so, and I’ve seen videos of pickup trucks driving over them with no damage to the contents.

Which rod tube is best?

That’s the wrong question. The right question is which one is the best for the trip I’m taking, given my travel needs and the limitations of my transportation?

If you want to be a happy traveling angler, even one who chases a single species, it doesn’t pay to be a product purist — and if you  want to educate, benefit and profit from the non-purist, you as a retailer need to be ready to go outside of your comfort zone. That means the shop in Kansas might have to look to the marlin guys, and the Florida Keys outfitter might consider the things they use in Montana.

Indeed, one of the best pieces of fishing travel gear I’ve purchased is a product whose manufacturer doesn’t market explicitly to anglers. It’s the SCOTTeVEST, a multi-pocket sleeveless garment that can transport as much as a small suitcase without being cumbersome. If your luggage weight is limited, my African outfitter told me, or you can’t bring a carry-on at all, this will help you take it all without violating the letter of the rules. I’ve never seen one for sale in a tackle shop, but perhaps I should have. 

Editor’s note: Pete Robbins of Virginia is a freelance writer who is always seeking new fishing adventures. Contact him at


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