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Make Mine Modular

By Russ Bassdozer

To me, modularity is key to tackle storage - and use. For the "modules", I like to use see-through StowAway utility trays from Plano. You can have any number of StowAway trays for massive amounts of "off site" bulk storage at home, plus a few spares always on hand "near site" floating around in the back of the truck, the car trunk, or stashed loose in your boat storage lockers. Then of course, you have the "on site" StowAways that are right in the bag or box you are actively fishing out of, whether on bank, wading or in a boat.

Umm...What is a StowAway? A StowAway is a plastic tray that comes in a few basic lengths and widths, with variable depths, and adjustable compartment configurations.

A building block approach. Modularity with the StowAways means you can set up each specific StowAway for a different purpose. Quick illustrations are one for soft plastics, one for hard plastic/wood crankbaits and topwaters, one for small parts (weights, hooks, spinnerbait blades, beads, swivels, etc.) and so on. If you need 2 or 3 trays just for soft plastics, for example, you can further divide them any way you desire. For instance by color (one box per light, medium, dark) or one box for Gitzits, one for worms/grubs, one for soft jerk baits, by light, medium, or heavy tackle applications, etc. Whatever's best for you! That's what I mean by modularity, and your boxes actually become building blocks. You can quickly switch between which trays you do or do not take with you on a trip.

For smaller components like hooks and swivels, they will work themselves out from under the removable dividers and end up in the next division. If you are a neat freak, this will bug you. Otherwise, who really cares? As for me, I really have no qualms since I just pour all my offset shank rigging hooks of all sizes and brands into the same compartment anyway. So they're already pre-mixed! Out on the water, I just select one by holding it up against my bait to eyeball how well it fits. I don't really care whether technically it is a 2/0 VMC or a 3/0 Owner, so long as it looks like a match for my rod, reel, line and bait properly. Same thing with weights, blades, swivels, beads. I mix 'em all together, and I'm not gonna develop a nervous facial tic if I find that a few swivels have escaped under the divider into my bead compartment!

A bloody mess. Perhaps more importantly with soft plastics, some of the colors will bleed and leach under the removable divider. The leached color will "taint" whatever other color plastics are exposed to them from under the dividers. For intance, the legendary red shad color of soft plastic has a black back and a red belly. It's deadly, but the red often oozes blood and taints any other lure it touches. What to do? Store other black baits in the dividers "next door" to the red shad bleeders. Or put your bleeders in a zip lock bag, then tuck the sealed bag inside the designated compartment. Each manufacturer's bleeders can be different, but in general other colors that may bleed, depending on manufacturer, include chartreuse, pumpkins, watermelons and more. Some bleed copiously, others only bleed very slowly such asover winter storage. Again, get all the same-colored baits in a row and you reduce yout bleeding color contamination.

As long as we're ragging on them, the tops of the StowAways are also prone to roll up a bit at the edges after a year or two of hard use. The hinges or latches may break in a season or two after heavily repeated use too. Some guys gripe about this, but not me. I buy a few new StowAways each winter, and they become my "front trays" for out on the water. The older StowAways are scrubbed clean and recycled back down the line for offsite home storage. It's really not a big expense at all, and to me, it really is the most modular way to store and use tackle.

There are several different varieties of StowAway trays, each with particular purposes. I would like to talk a bit about some of these "modules". After that, I will talk a bit about the bigger bags and boxes within which to carry the StowAway modules when you go out on a trip.

StowAway modules include:

1) StowAway Utility Tray 3500 An intermediate size tray. Three divadable compartments allow for storage of lures and items up to 9" lengths and up to 9 divisions. Fits many models of Plano hard boxes and soft bags. For instance, this is the size to use for the 3380 Shoulder Bag and the 3350 Waist Bag. Also, five of these fit exactly inside the belly of the 1234 Guide Series Box. Alternatively, you could put three larger 3700 trays in the belly of the 1234 Box, but if you will be dividing your time equally between bank and boat, then I suggest you use the 3500 trays interchangably between the 1234 box and the 3380 bag. Double latched and hinged. Size: 9-1/8 L x 5 W x 1-1/4 H

2) StowAway Utility Tray 3700 This is the "big" tray for the serious bass boat angler.Four divadable compartments allow for storage up to 14" long, 2" deep, and up to 24 divisions. You can divide each compartment into 7" halves which effectively handles most long-bodied or long-billed sizes of hard plastic crankbaits, jerkbaits and topwaters. Divides virtually as required for assorted different lengths of soft plastics, hooks, weights, jig heads, spinnerbait blades or whatever else! Double latched and triple hinged. Size: 14 L x 9-1/8 W x 2 H

3) StowAway Utility Tray 3701 The 3701 is the ideal size for storage of hard plastic or wood crankbaits, jerkbaits and topwater baits. Same length and width (14 x 9-1/8) as the other 3700s, but the 3701's compartments are shallower, thinner, and more dividable. First, the 3701 is only 1-3/8 deep. Second, it has five thinner compartments molded in lengthwise, and is dividable into 34 smaller divisions. It is ideally suited for tangle-free one-by-one divisions per each lure. This makes getting lures in and out of the box easy during hot fishing, it preserves the newness of expensive baits, and it allows a serious hard plastic or wood bait fisherman to be extremely modular with his inventory of lures. For instance, one tray per model or per color or per depth, etc. Size: 14 L x 9-1/8 W x 1-3/8 H

4) StowAway O-Ring Utility Tray 3710 Same dimensions and divisions as the"regular" 3700, but with a rubber O-Ring which provides an impervious seal. This StowAway keeps moisture out, and equally important, it keeps odors in! This is the perfect choice - almost a requirement - for all those garlic-scented and powerfully funky-smelling soft plastic baits that have become increasingly common. Would you believe they even make foul-smelling bullet weights now? Four latches seal this tray tight. Four divadable compartments allow for storage up to 14" long and up to 24 divisions. You can divide each compartment as required for assorted different lengths of your strong-smelling soft plastics. Hold your nose when you open this one! Size: 14 L x 9-1/8 W x 2 H

5) StowAway Utility Trays 3731 Same length and width (14 x 9-1/8) as the other 3700 series of utlity trays, but deeper at 3 1/4". It has just one big bulk compartment for storage. You can store lots of bulky stuff in here that otherwise cannot fit in one of the compartmentalized 3700's. Spare reels, reel spools, line spools, scale, camera, bulk bags of soft plastics, tools can all go in here. Overall, 14 L x 9-1/8 W x 3-1/4 H

Now here are some of the boxes and bags that you can carry your StowAway modules within when you go out on the bank or on a boat:

1) Plano Guide Series Box 1234 Rigid plastic construction with three separately-latched access areas. First, a convenient see-through top access section holds "working lures" that you are currently fishing with - or that are you favorites. Keep this top empty, or just keep your "go to" baits in it between trips. When, out on the water, througout the course of the day, the baits you are using will naturally end up in this top tray. Second is a separate upper mid-section compartment with three removable spinnerbait/buzzbait racks on top right, wide open space on top left. Third, it has a large "cargo belly" that includes three removable, divadable see-through 3700 Stowaway utility boxes. Optionally, the belly handles five intermediate-sized 3500 StowAways. Size: 15-3/8 L x 10-3/8 W x 15-7/8 H

2) Plano Tournament Boat Box 1155 Make no mistake about it, jig fishing is the hallmark of an expert bass angler. Whether it is flipping jig 'n pigs in heavy cover or crawling spider jigs in deep clear waters, this is the master jig fisherman's ultimate tool chest! Now, I don't claim to be a master of anything, but I am a jig man...and I do use this special box just for that! The bottom tray has deep, divadable storage space for all your pork jars, bag of soft plastic trailers and skirted spider grub bodies. Plenty of spare jig heads and spare silicone or rubber filament skirts go in the bottom tray too, plus a small scissors to trim skirts and fiberguards. The bottom tray can stay locked while you work out of the top tray. The top features divadable compartments that you can top off with tons of ready-rigged jigs - skirted jigs here, spider jigs there. Plus a big undivided side compartment for a few bags of the day's hot trailers - plastic chunks, double tail grubs or crawfish. If you're a jig man, that's all you'll ever need. Just lay this master's tool box down on the flipping deck and get to work. Approx. 17" L x 12" W x 5" H

3) Plano Hanging Bait Box 2301 In the same respect as the special jig box, there is also a special box for bulk sotrage of mass quantities of "pinbaits". Wire-armed spinnerbaits and buzzbaits are some of the hardest tackle items to store. Most compartments are too narrow for the wire arms, the wet skirts hold moisture without air circulation and the blades tarnish. Not any more! The Model 2301 Hanging Bait Box is a must for the man who throws lots of spinnerbaits and buzzbaits. Six double-sided racks will hold all your baits. Over 65 baits fit in the box. A snap lock arm bar across the top of each rack ensures your baits stay right where you put them. Not only do the baits stay organized and untangled, but wet skirts and blades get plenty of air circulation to dry quickly and last longer. Although all baits are easily accessible, it still helps to organize baits so that all the same color or all the same weight baits are together on the same rack. Get an organizational style that suits you and stick to it. Size: 14-3/4 L x 7-7/8 W x 6-7/8 H

4) Plano Guide Series Shoulder Bag 3380 This is an ideal, inexpensive and easy to carry shoulder bag for bank fishing from lakes or ponds, and wading in streams or rivers. Zippered main compartment and side pockets, flapped front pocket. Heavy duty 600 Denier waterproof material. Holds four 3500 Series StowAway utility boxes (not included). Size: 9-1/2 L x 5-1/2 W x 5-1/2 H

5) Plano Soft Sider Waist Bag 3350 This waist bag has five zippered pockets plus a water bottle or scent bottle holder. The main compartment holds one 3500 Series StowAway utility box (not included). It is ideal for light tackle angling in small ponds and from stream banks. Also, it's the perfect accessory for the tourney angler, especially a "non-boater" or back seat partner, who wants to keep his smokes, water, tools around his waist, including any items he may need to reach for at a moment's notice. Heavy duty material. Size: 28 L x 3-1/2 W x 7 H

Do not doubt that you can fish solely out of this waist bag! between the mainn compartment StowAway and the pockets, it will hold more than enough soft plastics, a few spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, crankbaits, topwaters, hooks and weights to get you through the day. Yes, you usually go through a triage ritual before you start based on water, season and sky conditions, but that's why you should have several optional 3500 trays stowed in the car for clear or warm water, one for stained or cool water, one for dark or cold water, etc. You get the idea. After a few successful trips, you will realize that most of the time, even in a boat that is tonned out with tackle, you really only use a very few lures per any given trip! It's a major confidence-builder to know beyond doubt that you can score anytime, anywhere with just a beltful of lures. Try it.

6) 3350/3380 Combo Trekking in to do a remote spot off the beaten path? Living in New York City, it is something that I do occasionally to reach relatively unknown and unfished areas near to home. The 3380 Shoulder Bag and the 3350 Waist Bag makes a perfect lightweight set. Carry all your personal effects (lunch, water, bug repellent, sun screen, etc.) in the 3350 and all your fishing gear in the 3380!

Now the only stowaways you need to worry about are the ones you're putting in your livewell!

Have fun! Stay organized!

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