ASSEMBLE YOUR OWN PACKABLE FISHING KIT FOR EMERGENCIES OR WHEN TRAVELING LIGHT
I like to choose each outdoor gear component that I’m going to include in my survival kits, hiking daypacks and camping bins.
I’ve always found ready-made, all-inclusive kits lacking in one way or another, usually to keep their prices down. By selecting each piece of gear individually, I’m ensuring that I get exactly what I want according to my specific needs. And those choices are normally based on personal experience using those items. I want to be confident they’ll perform dependably when needed.
The same goes for my fishing kits, which are one of the things I pack along with other essentials.
KEEP IT BASIC
I have a large fishing tackle box that I organized by separating everything into smaller plastic containers from Plano and other companies. The small containers fit nicely inside the large tackle box. This setup is fine for use on dedicated fishing trips. But I found I didn’t need to lug the huge tackle box on trips where fishing was a “maybe” activity, especially if my car was loaded to near capacity with other things.
So, I took some of those small containers – about the size that would fit in a cargo pocket of my pants — and assembled basic fishing kits that contained a small assortment of hooks, sinkers, and a few small lures that would work on a variety of fish species. Coupled with a rod and reel combo, I can fish if the opportunity presents itself without being weighed down with unnecessary tackle I might not use.
Taking a step down in size are the emergency fishing kits I’ve assembled that I’ve included in my survival gear and carried regularly in my daypacks, fanny packs, and shoulder sacks.
These fishing kits consist of however much I can cram into an old plastic prescription medicine bottle. Hooks, sinkers, some dry flies and other tiny lures fit inside. Sometimes I include a sewing needle and a couple of safety pins too for repairing other things. I wrap monofilament fishing line on the outside of the container and secure it with a length of duct tape. Obviously, the duct tape and fishing line can be used for other purposes as well.
Adding fishing gear to even a small survival kit is worthwhile because it can provide a means of procuring food that usually does not involve strenuous activity. It’s possible to acquire more calories than you expend getting that food.
With a prescription bottle kit such as this, your ability to cast will be limited to the short length of line you’re able to wrap on the bottle. You could expand the usefulness of the fishing kit by adding a regular fishing reel. The reel could be secured with duct tape, zip ties or small hose clamps to a thin green branch that you could cut to serve as a fishing rod. I’ve often saved short sections of broken fishing rods that have line guides on them, which also could be fastened to a green stick, so the line could run through those.
The Exotac xREEL fishing kit is a better alternative to a medicine bottle kit. The xREEL is a metal spool wrapped with about 50 feet of 15-pound test monofilament fishing line. There are holes all along the edge of the spool so you can safely secure a hook without needing to remove it from the end of the line. There’s a rubbery finger loop on one side so that you can hold the xREEL securely.
The xREEL has an integral storage compartment with a screw lid and O-ring seal. Exotac gets you started by supplying 6 hooks, 6 split shot sinkers and 2 floats with the fishing kit. I added more hooks and sinkers as well as some small lures to mine.
It takes some practice casting the line with the xREEL, but once you get the hang of it, it works very well. You hold the reel in one hand, let off a few feet of line with your hook and bait on it, swing the line in a circular, motion and release it. Without a rod, it’s a bit trickier to keep the line taut and to set the hook when a fish nibbles. And you have to rewind the line by hand; there’s no moving mechanism in the reel.
I’ve used the xReel on several occasions and I carry it often in my pack. I especially like to bring it when kayaking, either for drift fishing or trolling when I’m casually paddling. In those cases, the ability to cast long distances isn’t needed. There’s no rod to interfere with my double-bladed paddle and the xREEL fits perfectly in my kayak’s cup holder.
NEW XREEL ACCESSORIES
New from Exotac is the reelKIT gear disks, made in collaboration with Grim Workshop. Three different thin metal disks are available that can be stacked and placed in the xREEL’s storage compartment without taking much space. Storing all three turns the xREEL into a compact food procurement kit.
The Fishing Kit disk contains hooks, lures, weights, and a stringer. The Gaff Fishing Kit disk contains hooks, lures, and a gaff hook. There’s the Hunting Kit too. That disk contains spear tips, spring snare triggers, and a sewing needle. Like other Exotac and Grim Workshop products, each insert disk is made in the USA. The suggested retail price for each disk is $19.95.
“Adding fishing gear to…a small survival kit is worthwhile because it can provide a means of procuring food that…does not involve strenuous activity.”
Unlike other wallet-card kits, these utilize Grim’s Tool Retention System that allows you to reattach the individual tools to the disks after use. For my kit, however, I think I’ll use my other hooks and lures for my recreational fishing with the xREEL and keep the disks in reserve for backup or emergency use.
DAIWA MINISPIN KIT
A long fishing rod can be difficult to pack in small spaces and can be damaged easily. But there are compact rods available. On camping trips, I almost always bring my Daiwa Minispin fishing kit. I often keep the fishing kit in my car during fishing season too.
This kit comes in a compact, hard-sided plastic case that contains a five-piece fishing rod, spinning reel and enough room for hooks, sinkers and lures. The five rod pieces fit together easily to make a rod 4 ½ feet long. The reel is pre-wound with 4-pound-test line. The kit measures about 14 inches long and about 7 ¼ inches at its widest point.
Years ago I tried one of the compact “backpacking” fishing kits with telescoping rod from another company. I continually had trouble getting that rod extended and then retracted. Eventually, I bought the Daiwa kit and have used it for many years since.
The MSRP of the Daiwa Minispin kit is $49.99. There is also a Minicast kit available with spincast reel.
ICE FISHING ROD
Another alternative is to use an ice fishing rod and reel combo that’s short, compact, lightweight, and still allows you to cast reasonably far. The one I have is a Shakespeare Ugly Stik spincast combo. It measures a bit more than 26 inches long.
On occasion I’ve even used a short beginner’s fishing rod and reel designed for children. They’re inexpensive. I have an old Zebco model that I bought for one of my kids years ago. I think it has Mickey Mouse on it. The downside of this is that you’ll fight with your grandkids over who gets to use it.
A version of this article first appeared in the April 2022 issue of American Outdoor Guide Boundless.