AFTCO’s Tackle backpack has a place for everything



SAN CLEMENTE— For at least a few years, I’ve been looking to retire my saltwater tackle backpack to a much-deserved freshwater gig as my Crowley Lake arsenal. The delay for the retirement was due to the lack of a suitable replacement on the market, but that all changed at last year’s ICAST show in Orlando when AFTCO’s new Tackle Backpack stopped me in my tracks. With spring fishing closing in, I transferred my gear into the new backpack, and I’m stoked with the results.

I have to admit, when I first opened it up, it was smaller than I remembered, and I was hoping for a little more room than my previous pack. I had all the gear that filled my old bag without an inch to spare laid out in front of the AFTCO Tackle Backpack, and long story short, once the AFTCO was filled, I had plenty of room to spare.


Because the overall dimensions were so similar per the eye test (but I can say the AFTCO Tackle Backpack is 15.8 inches wide by 10 deep by 17.5 tall), the only explanation to the AFTCO gobbling up all that gear and asking for more points to the AFTCO crushing it in the “well thought out” department. I’m pretty picky about what my tackle bag needs to have, so here’s my hit list that you can brainstorm how those factors apply to your storage needs.

Tackle Backpack Lifer

I loved my previous bag, so I knew I wanted another tackle backpack. As a sportboat guy, I like having my hands free for rods when transferring from truck to boat. They heaviest bags also feel like nothing when worn on the back, and their more vertical orientation means more storage with less footprint making it easy to stow among all the other tackle boxes on boats.

WON EDITOR Mike Stevens’ salt tackle moving from one bag to the next.

Tray Versatility

My bag needs to accept at least four 3600-size boxes, and the AFTCO Tackle Backpack can haul five along with a 3700-size utility tray that can go vertically in the big side pocket. Four of the 3600s go horizontally in the slots behind the half zipper, half Velcro front panel. Another can go in the other side pocket, but the way I see it, you could even put a couple more in the large compartment in the top of the bag (more on that feature later) if you’re a guy who likes everything to be in utility boxes.

Personally, I only use four trays (sinkers on the bottom, leadheads, hard baits, soft plastics) and prefer saving the large pockets for things like sunscreen, pliers, water bottles, extra T-shirt, etc.), but I do like having the option of putting more trays in, because I will swap them out depending on he type of trip I’m on.

Roomy Attic

A big, wide-open top pocket is a must in my game. As you may have noticed in my tray breakdown, I didn’t mention hooks. That’s because I prefer leaving my hooks in the packages they come in so there’s no question what I’m working with. I also get chills seeing these trays full of loose but organized hooks and thinking about some dude bumping into it and spreading them all over the deck, but I digress. When I was loading the AFTCO Tackle Backpack, I spotted a cube-shaped clear-plastic box that opens from the top in my garage that looked perfect for the “attic” of the new pack, so I thew it in there where it’s currently storing all my packaged hooks and most of my fluorocarbon spools. Larger spools are fit snugly between the box and the sides of the attic, and all that still only takes up about half of space.

That’s a big one for me because I’m often on boats for work purposes (WON charters, etc.) and I want my camera and notebook in that top area so I can dump my rod and grab my camera in a moment’s notice. I also keep my drink up there and stuff like braid scissors and other tools.

THE AFTCO TACKLE BACKPACK loaded with four 3600-size Plano boxes. The larger side pocket can hold a 3700-size Plano, and another 3600 can go in the opposite pocket. Even more utility boxes can be stored in the top section if necessary. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

Not game changers, but handy

The AFTCO Tackle Backpack has a couple accessory rings on the side for attaching tools or other doohickeys on the outside of the pack for easy access. One has a Velcro strap for securing pliers or similar tools, and I see a carabiner in the other loops future for hanging my trusty Yeti coffee cup.

There is also a clear, reinforced pocket on the inside of the flap that closes over the four rows of utility boxes that I will use in the same manner as I did on my old pack. That’s where I stick things I don’t need often such as Flex Wrap, reel clamps, Sabiki rigs, a few packaged plastics and so on.

Features the old pack lacked

The AFTCO Tackle Backpack also has some extras that are sure to emerge as features I never knew I needed. They include:

  • Water resistant pocket: Whether I’m fishing from a boat, the beach or in the Sierra, there is always one-designated pocket that stores stuff I won’t need while fishing. That pocket doesn’t open until the end of the trip (galley tab!) in order to keep these things (keys, wallet, license, phone) from ending up in the drink, and that’s what this is going to serve as for me.

    YOUR KEYS, phone, wallet and fishing license stay high and dry in this water resistant pocket.
  • Felt-lined sunglass pocket: This front-and center pocket is actually going to be where I keep my phone, because when I don’t bring my big-boy camera, the phone takes the pictures so it doesn’t need to be in the “do not unzip!” pocket. My sunglasses are usually on my hat or hanging around my neck if not on my face, but I will use this feature for it’s intended purpose when I’m on anything overnight-or-longer. Then when the fishing starts, the glasses come out and the phone goes in.

    A FELT-LINED sunglass pocket is a nice touch.
  • Integrated Rain Fly: You’ll run into the pouch containing the rain fly while stocking the attic where it’s stored when not deployed via a zipper at the top in the back. The rain fly covers about 80 percent (from the top down) of the backpack and provides a serious added level of protection from salt spray (if not rain) on runs out and back.

    THE INTEGRATED RAIN FLY on the AFTCO Tackle Backpack in action.
  • Carrying handle: Not worth mentioning? Maybe, but not when I’ve already looped my 3-rod straps to it that were constantly getting lost in my previous tackle backpack

Other packs from AFTCO

AFTCO’s foray into tackle storage doesn’t end with the Tackle Backpack. For anglers preferring shoulder-strap bags, the AFTCO Tackle Bag comes in three sizes and boasts similar construction. That comes in the same “family” of AFTCO soft-sided storage solutions that include the Urban Angler Backpack, Boat Bag (which I also own and use for any trips – including non fishing – for up to three days), Overnight Bag (bigger version of the Boat Bag), multiple reel bags, a regular (non-tackle) backpack all the way up to a Carry-On Roller Luggage Bag.

Check them out (and everything else AFTCO has to offer) at