Early 1976 Plano 777 tackle box ad.

Early 1976 Plano 777 tackle box ad.

In today’s piece, we’re going to step back in time and discuss tackle management of the 70s and how it changed the way we store tackle today.  The angler who just started bass fishing within the last 25 years or so has grown up sorting their tackle in the famed Plano 3600- and 3700-style boxes. These boxes, popularized in the late 70s and early 80s by Flambeau, have become the benchmark of tackle organization today and I wonder if anyone will ever come up with something as efficient as these lightweight, easy to use utility boxes.

The advantages of the 3700-style box are many. They’re somewhat see-through, which makes it easy to see what’s inside the box. They offer an angler the ability to sort tackle based on its genre, they’re small yet hold a lot of stuff and most boat companies actually size their storage compartments to hold them. I know my BassCat has at least 20 of them in it at all times and if I’m heading out on a multiday venture, I can carry around 50 of them to handle any situation. Of course, by the end of a couple days I hope I can whittle my boxes down to only what I need and put the rest in the truck – another plus.

Back in the day, though, anglers didn’t have this luxury. In the late 60s and early 70s tackle box companies hadn’t stepped out of the paradigm that, “a tackle box is a tackle box only if it’s of the hip-roof design.” I don’t know about you, but I hated those things from the beginning. One they were heavy, two they were cumbersome and three they didn’t sit too well on the handlebars of my bicycle as I drove to the nearest golf course pond. I don’t know how many times I flew ass over tea kettle over my handle bars trying to balance that dang UMCO box and all its contents.

1976 Old Pal tackle box ad featuring the standard box of the day, the hip-roof. One note, though, is the spinnerbait box design that I personally still prefer.

1976 Old Pal tackle box ad featuring the standard box of the day, the hip-roof. One note, though, is the spinnerbait box design that I personally still prefer.

Anyway, back to the dawn of smart tackle box manufacture.

By the mid-70s some smart folks finally took the reigns of the tackle box companies. This outside-the-box, pun intended, thinking brought about the concept of the dresser drawer style box. Instead of having a box where the top opened up and you lifted the trays out accordion style – which required a heck of an amount of deck space – Plano Manufacturing came out with a tackle box, the 777, which had sliding drawers. The front cover would open via a latch and then slide under the bottom drawer out of the way. You then had access to all the drawers.

There were a couple of problems with this style of box, though. The first problem was you still couldn’t see what was in each drawer so you better memorize everything if you wanted to get to it quickly. Second, the drawers would bind at times if you tried to cram a big plug or wad of worms in the drawer. The third problem was water from rain or a miss-judge wake.  Water seems to pour into these boxes and after a trip, you better make sure the inside of the box was dry, or else you started your next trip with rusted hooks.  The fourth, and probably most problematic of all, had to do with forgetting to latch the box shut before moving to another spot. Invariably if you didn’t close the box, the first big wake you hit all the drawers would open and you had a pretty severe mess on your hands.

1976 Hefner Plastics Inc Tackle Tamer.

1976 Hefner Plastics Inc Tackle Tamer.

Plano wasn’t the only company to come out with a, “gee, why didn’t I think of that,” design. Hefner Plastics designed a box much the same as the 777 but their design was based on the standard kitchen lazy Susan. The Tackle Tamer became an instant hit with bass anglers nationwide.  But, it too had inherent problems, notably binding and water intrusion.  Remember folks, this was before the days that bass boats had dry storage for tackle and you placed your boxes on the deck all day long.

Speaking of which, boats companies at this time started designing areas just aft of the front casting deck that would hold boxes of this style. They even included bungee cords and tie-downs in order to keep your box in its place should you hit rough water.

Although these boxes were far superior to the old hip-roof style boxes of only a few years prior, their demise wasn’t too far off, though. The advent of the flipping deck essentially put the nail in the coffin of all box styles except the one-sided Plano 1123 and what would eventually become the 3700 series of boxes. Where the flipping deck made it more comfortable to fish, it also provided ample storage below deck to keep your gear out of the elements.

This in itself was a good thing. No more would we have to dry our tackle after fishing on a rainy day and never again would we step on that pesky box in the bottom of the boat – well, maybe that’s stretching it a bit too far.

So, do any of you miss the days of the old-style tackle boxes? Better yet, do any of you still use them?