Summer is time for travel. It all starts Memorial Day with remembrance of those who have served—and are still serving this country—and then into the end of the calendar school year and kids’ summer vacation. A few weeks with the kids home from daily trips to school and we’re talking the Fourth of July and later, the dog days of August and some great swimming and tubing weather.
The reality is summer isn’t necessarily full of planned fishing trips for most of us. But there is a lot of time on the road with family to visit loved ones and friends across the country. Again, with the kids out of school, summer is the time to pack up and go. One of the positives of that? Getting to see a lot of the country through the windshield…
But family responsibilities don’t mean you can’t make time to fish, even on road trips. I’ve always thought that part of the fun is stopping at rest areas and parks to break open a cooler and eat sandwiches and slurp ice-cold sodas. And with today’s powerful mapping apps it’s easy to find those stopping points close to water, affording the chance to break in a few casts on new streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds.
Keeping it simple, we’d like to recommend some fishing and camping gear that should find a permanent place in your vehicle for opportunistic angling at a moment’s notice while on family road trips. This recommended stuff doesn’t take up a room and should live in your vehicle full-time so you’re ready to fish and camp whenever the mood and opportunity presents itself.
Part of the fun of being on the road with family and friends is camping for the night. What’s not fun is getting wet. That’s where a quality tent enters in. We finally made the upgrade and bought a quality tent after years of using junk. Our tent of choice? The six-person Eureka Timberline 6-person tent, which accommodates three kids, dad, and our furry friend. It literally sets up in minutes and is resilient to rain and wind; no wonder many Alaskan hunting guides recommend this particular tent. Eureka also has a contract to manufacture tents for the American military. Ask me, that speaks volumes.
Don’t need something that large? Check out the Eureka Timberline SQ Outfitter 4-Person Tent. Strong, weatherproof, and spacious, the Timberline SQ Outfitter 4 sleeps up to four people in its quick and easily assembled A-frame structure. Spacious enough for gear and cots and versatile enough to help you stay cool on warm nights and drier on damp mornings.
Traveling solo? If so, this is the perfect camping solution and beats the hell out of sleeping in a car or truck. A cross between a solo tent and a military sleeping bag cover, the Canvas Cutter Summit Bedroll allows the user to pack lighter and go farther. If you are looking for a lightweight bedroll that is perfect for road trips, this is it, although it’s proven popular with backpackers, backcountry elk hunters, and preppers.
Simply place your ground pad and sleeping bag inside, enter the Canvas Cutter bedroll, close the opening, and sleep. Whether you’re staying at a campground or simply flopping on public land next to your fishing spot, it couldn’t be easier to set up and eliminates the hassle of having to set up a tent. Designed and manufactured by hardcore hunters and anglers in Utah, USA, the Canvas Cutter Summit Bedroll features a solid foundation of 210D ripstop nylon, making small rocks and rough ground less threatening to the sleep system. The side walls and top of the Summit are made of 40D ripstop nylon—and all seams have been heat-taped to keep moisture out. The entire nylon shell is coated with a highly breathable TPU film, providing protection and dry sleeping conditions during stormy weather. The Summit also features a built-in mesh screen that allows you to enjoy the stars and warm summer nights or maximize ventilation and air flow when the nylon top is pulled over you without having mosquitoes, flies, and other bugs and reptiles ruining your sleeping experience. Paracord D-loops at the four corners and above the head and foot allow you to use the Summit without a pole system by tying it off to your trekking poles or nearby trees. MSRP: $334.97.
Looking for the perfect duffel bag-meets-backpack to hold all your clothing and other gear? Look no further than Canvas Cutter’s Burro, a duffel made of the same durable 12-ounce canvas as Canvas Cutter’s Dominator and Fortress 2.0 bedrolls. With taped seams and covered waterproof YKK zippers, the Burro is able to protect your gear while it takes on all that Mother Nature has to offer.
The Burro features hideaway backpack straps that turns the ample duffel into a backpack that actually fits and feels like a backpack, making travel comfortable, convenient, and hands free. The Burro also features a boot pocket that doubles as a dirty clothes pocket; a dirty clothes pocket that doubles as a laptop pocket; a standard duffel bag side pocket, and a quick access pocket on the front to hold your keys, wallet, passport, fishing license, and more while on-the-road. There’s also an external daisy chain to attach other bags and gear. Features a Lifetime Warranty for peace of mind. Volume is 61.5 liters and the dimensions are 26” x 12” x 12”. Weighs in at 3.5 pounds. MSRP: $239.97.
Stows like an oversized burrito. The Whitewater Packable Rain Jacket and Pant are staple, technical apparel pieces that provide an optimal balance of 10K water resistance and 10K breathability, so muskie anglers can #bravethewaves, fish longer, make more casts and experience better results. Fully taped seams, waterproof zippers, and adjustable Velcro cuff closures at the wrists and ankles further defy the elements. Each piece stows in its own included stuff bag for easy storage and access anywhere in the vehicle. MSRP $79.99 and $69.99 per piece
Like gas and lumber, food has gotten expensive—especially eating out at restaurants. To those ends, part of the fun of any road-trip is making food on the go. Sure, bologna and PBJ sandwiches will get us through, but nothing beats a meal of fried fish and an ice-cold beverage in the evening. The best way to cook while car camping? Consider an ultra-light and easy-to-pack Jetboil SUMO Cooking System combined with the Jetboil 10-inch non-stick Fry Pan.
The SUMO packs the same regulator control as other Jetboil-regulated cooking systems, but with a higher-capacity cup-to-fuel cooking ratio for family and friends. Jetboil’s large 1.8-liter FluxRing cooking cup with insulating cozy is the ideal cooking vessel for groups. Jetboil’s proprietary regulator technology offers incremental heat adjustments from light simmer to full boil, perfect for sautéing greens, simmering sauces, frying fish, and more. Add the optional Jetboil Java Press, pot support, skillet, and FluxRing cooking pot to expand your meal options on-the-road. Start heating instantly with the convenient, reliable pushbutton igniter—regulated for consistent performance down to 20 degree weather. Able to store 100-gram or 230-gram Jetpower fuel can with burner, fuel canister stabilizer, and accessory pot support; weights a mere 16 ounces. MSRP: $164.95.
Rods For the Road
The quality of today’s travel fishing rods isn’t what it used to be, second-rate two-, three-, and four-piece jobbies with horrible sensitivity and whippy actions. These days, four-piece travel rods fish like one-piece models and conveniently store under the backseat of the car or in the back of a truck or SUV.
Our favorites? Honestly, for the money it’s really hard to beat the St. Croix Triumph Travel Spinning Rod, a four-piece-rod with included padded nylon soft case. Sensitive yet made to withstand the rigors of the road, the St. Croix Triumph Travel Spinning Rod is manufactured of premium-quality SCII carbon. Features tough slim aluminum-oxide guides with black frame, premium-grade cork handle, two coats of Flex-Coat slow cure finish, and an unprecedented 5-year warranty backed by St. Croix Superstar Service.
Our recommendation? Go with either the medium-light power, fast-action TSR66MLF2 at 6’6” or the similar version in medium power for areas with bass and pike. Personally, I travel with the medium-light because I find myself traveling through trout waters. I’ve even had the rod to Florida where we fished the Everglades for Oscars, Mayan Cichlids, and largemouth and peacock bass. The rod stood up to all the fish honorably and with the control of a one-piece. At $155 MSRP, this travel rod is well within most travelers’ budgets, even considering today’s $5.00/gallon gas…
Daiwa offers a host of exquisite Japanese-designed models that fit the bill for any style of fishing. For travel—and to stay on budget—we recommend the Daiwa Revros LT, a $49.99 reel that fishes like something much more expensive. Best to choose something with a larger spool like the REVLT3000-C, which features a 5.3:1 gear ratio and 22 pounds of maximum drag to match anything you might catch while fishing on-the-road, including dogfish, drum, catfish, pike, outsized trout, and big bass. The larger spool allows you to make longer casts from the bank or dock, and spooled with a silky braid and fluoro, is a great go-to set up for anything you might choose to tie on the business end.
Speaking of line, don’t skimp. Rather than fight the invariable line curls and knots of stretchy, larger-diameter monofilament, it’s time to get hip to low-diameter, high-test superline fished with a fluoro leader section. Daiwa’s green Samuari braided line in 10- or 15-pound test is a great all-around choice.
For a fluoro leader, Daiwa’s J-Fluoro Samurai Hidden Concept line comes in a unique green-brown that blends in most waters and doesn’t suffer the reflectivity (especially in the sun and clear waters) of regular clear fluoro. Eight- to ten-pound is a good all-around choice to keep fish pinned.
Tackle shopping is just plain fun. To those ends, here are our suggestions for a minimal, take-anywhere travel bait box. While the tendency is to overdo it when it comes to tackle, just know you don’t need a giant soft- or hard-sided box. A larger stowaway box filled with proven baits and rigging materials is all you really need for fishing on the road.
We like the ZERUST MAX Rigging Box that is fully-infused with an enhanced level of Zerust technology that provides rust prevention for metal tackle in extreme marine environments. Features a removable bulk storage tray for tools and soft plastic bags kept in original packaging. Two oversized bulk compartments and 20 customizable tackle compartments leave plenty of room for outfitting your on-the-road tackle survival kit. And at $29.99, the ZERUST MAX Rigging Box affordable.
Okay, so you’re sold on another hard- or soft-sided tackle box. If that’s the case, consider the 15” x 11” x 10” Daiwa D-VEC Boat Bag, a small- to medium-sized tackle bag constructed of 100% waterproof marine grade vinyl. The marine quality, double-zippered top is further protected by a storm flap, enhancing the Boat Bag’s ability to repel water. It also features a non-slip, thick EVA padded bottom which provides cushioning and protection for more delicate items like a camera or smartphone, a must for grabbing social media shots of fish while traveling. MSRP is $49.99.
Jigs just flat-out catch everything that bites. Our recommendation? Put together a half dozen of each size—1/16-, 1/8-, ¼-, and 3/8-ounce sizes—for all species and depths. An assortment of colors including natural white, black, as well as brighter Parrot and Moonlight is a good idea to meet various water clarities. The hydrodynamic V-shaped keel doesn’t get snagged as often as others and these jigs also feature a fish-attracting large eye on the head, sticky sharp wire hook and bait keeper to keep live bait or plastics pinned on the hook shank where they’re supposed to be. Just add bait or a soft plastic. MSRP is $5.99 for three per card.
In the world of tackle, they say everything that’s old is new again. Along those lines, more anglers are fishing hair than ever—and for a variety of species. Personally, I can remember one day on the Mississippi River when a buddy and I caught 13 different species of fish long-casting and rip-jigging ¼-ounce untipped Deep-Vee Bucktail Jigs in ¼-ounce to current seams and rip rap. Yes, a dead ringer for predominant river forage, a white hair jig is just hard to beat—and a time-proven way to catch lots of fish. Best to pick out an assortment of 1/16-, 1/8-, and ¼-ounce sizes for all depths and species. You can also tip with Northland’s Impulse Paddle Minnow to fish more like a swim jig. The jig also pairs perfectly with a medium-sized shiner or sucker minnow.
When it comes to bass fishing, it’s hard to beat the simple efficacy of a wacky-rigged stickbait worm. The do-nothing presentation just flat-out catches fish in waters shallow to deep. While there are countless wacky worms on bait shop pegs—including no-name bulk bags which are a great deal—one of my personal favorites—and time proven as a go-to fish catcher, is the Strike King KVD Perfect Plastics 5-inch Ocho in Sweet Tater Pie. The worm features eight sides and its smooth beveled sides reflect light in different directions, creating a flash effect unlike any other softbait. Features a soft, salt impregnated plastic for a perfect sink rate and an exclusive coffee scent that mask human scents and oils to produce more and longer bites. Couple with a VMC WWK Wacky Weedless hook in 3/0 for areas of vegetation or an Eagle Claw Octopus Wide Gap Circle Hook in the same size for effortless fishing and no-hassle hooksets.
Daiwa’s 5” NEKO CRAWLER is another surefire travel companion. The innovative bait hybridizes Daiwa’s NEKO FAT and NEKO STRAIGHT, stealing key elements of each to create the alpha of Neko baits. Its outwardly simple profile is infused with technology and intelligence. For starters, the NEKO CRAWLER is masterminded with legendary Yamamoto knowhow for more wiggle – that special trembling action that drives bass bonkers. Also, the NEKO CRAWLER features a wide diameter nose, providing added surface for inserting Neko weights – from drywall screws to specialty weights. Thirdly, Yamamoto’s inventiveness produced a buoyant soft plastic, allowing the bait to stand straight on the bottom for easy slurping. MSRP $8.99
With a snack-sized profile that matches a juvenile panfish, the Northland Rumble Bug is a multi-species gem, catching just about anything that swims. At 1 ¾” long and 3/16th ounces, it’s even a great way to cover water quick to put together a meal of sunfish, crappies, perch, and white bass. With a running depth of 4’ to 7’, it’s perfect for casting off shore and shines in areas of slight current and around spotty vegetation transition zones. Made of balsa—and designed by Jarmo Rapala—this bait is also great for shorecasting behind a canoe or kayak and slow-trolled as it keeps it’s seductive wobble even at low speeds. Recommended colors? Silver Shiner and Gold Perch for clear waters and Sneeze or Wonderbread for stained waters… MSRP is $9.99.
Another hardbait perfect for a road survival fishing kit is the Northland Fishing Tackle Rumble Shiner. Made of balsa—and also designed by Jarmo Rapala—the crank is a multi-species targeting winner, available in three different sizes, although we recommend the smallest, the 2 ¾”, 3/16-ounce model. Three must-have colors for waters across the country are Silver Shiner, Purple Pearl, and Bubblegum Tiger. Dives four to six feet and casts like a bullet from the bank or pier. MSRP is $9.99.
Similar to the venerable Heddon Sonar but with a slightly different vibrating wobble, a ¼-ounce B3 blade bait makes a great bait for fishing from the shore or jetty with deeper water nearby. Renowned for their efficacy at catching spring and fall walleyes on river systems, simply add a high-quality snap swivel to your line and choose one of the three holes to attach and experience slightly different actions. Great for casting into the ocean, too – and will catch just about anything that bites! Recommended colors are Gold, Wonderbread, and Glow Pink. Can also be vertically jigged for fishing high-mountain lakes for deep trout from a canoe or kayak.
Much like the history-proven Mepps in-line spinner, the Blue Fox Classic Vibrax is that go-to lure for trout on lakes, streams, and rivers. With a running depth of two to six feet, you can cover a lot of the water column and a long casting distance quickly to search out active fish. The patented two-part body emits low-frequency sound vibrations that attract fish and trigger strikes while virtually eliminating line twist. The colored bell is accented with metallic flakes and the blade is tipped in matching color while the blade back is finished with a transparent, fluorescent coordinating color. Flaw-free silver plating, fine tolerances and super-sharp hooks are long-standing features of this low frequency emitting patented two-part body spinner. Choose between seven blade sizes, several weights (we like ¼-ounce with a #3 blade) and 40 available colors, including many UV patterns. A proven performer on trout is bleeding gold and silver/hot pink. MSRP is $4.99 to $6.99.
On many waters live bait is still king. Along those lines, you may find yourself in a fishing situation on-the-road where a trip to the local baitshop is in order—whether it’s to buy minnows, ‘crawlers, or leeches. That being the case, a must-have in your survival road tackle kit is a good assortment of live bait hooks, sinkers, floats, and other terminal tackle. The 207-piece Eagle Claw Ultimate Terminal Tackle Kit is the quickest, easiest wat to stock a tackle box with essentials fo that an angler is ready to target and adjust based on conditions of any live bait bite. MSRP: $19.99.
Other Recommended Fishing Gear
Easily cleaned, folded up, and stored in the back of a vehicle, this folding fillet board makes a great substitute to getting your tailgate bloody. We like the 16” x 31” model, which allows easy work (and clean-up) of larger fish like trout, walleyes, and many inshore species. Features a USDA & FDA approved cutting surface for filleting, slicing and dicing while on-the-road. MSRP: $43.49.
Although it’s hard to beat the venerable razor-sharp and flexible 6” or 7.5” Rapala Fish ‘N Fillet Knife, we’ve finally gone the way of Lithium-Ion powered electric knives after watching Northern Minnesota guide Brian “Bro” Brosdahl whip through a three-person 18-fish limit of eater-sized walleyes in under 10 minutes. Seriously, we’re sold. Bro’s knife of choice? The Bubba Blade Electric Li-Ion Knife, which features four blades, two batteries, and a charger in the handy travel kit. Makes it easy to travel with and maximizes your time relaxing and not sweating over perfect fillets. MSRP: $189.99.
Pull over and scan the water for fish activity. The affordable Hobie El Matador is underscored by its integrated sliding side shields that provide maximum sun protection while eliminating glare from the sides. Hydro 360° polycarbonate lenses repel water, sweat and sunscreen. All 8 base polycarbonate lens options offer 100% UV A, B, C protection. Frames feature durable integrated hinges and co-molded megol rubber temples prevent slippage. All this for only $99.99
Of course, when catching and then filleting fish, you’ve got to think about how to keep that Zip-Lock bag of goodness fresh for dinner. That brings us to recommended road coolers. If you’re like us, over the years you’ve spent countless dollars on cheap, subpar coolers that end up with broken latches, leaky water drains, and other issues—besides questionably cooling contents. It’s time to ditch the private label specials and invest in a cooler that will last a lifetime, like the Engel 25 High Performance Hard Cooler and Ice Box.
Engel was the original high-performance roto-molded cooler. With a full two inches of closed-cell foam insulation in the lid, on the sides, and the bottom, contents will stay cold, and ice keeps for up to eight days. And unlike the rubber gaskets used by many cooler manufacturers, Engle’s all silicone gaskets create a near airtight seal that is durable and will never lose its shape. Features a 10-year warranty and is also dry ice compatible. Available in six colors. MSRP: $219.99.
Luxuries To Save For
The next step after fishing from the bank, piers, and jetties is to invest in a fishing kayak that can be carried on top of a vehicle (with the help of a Thule kayak carrier mount) for fishing anywhere, any time while on-the-road to your family destination. Our recommendation? Choose a shorter and lighter fishing kayak for easier transport. One of our favorites is the 12-foot Hobie Camo Mirage Compass, a boat which not only makes a great fishing platform—what with its unique hands- and paddle-free MirageDrive 180 pedal system—but is perfect for waterfowl hunting and trapping, too. Features an ample 34 inches of operating width and will hold 400 pounds, perfect for big guys like us. Fully rigged, the Hobie Compass weighs in at 87 pounds.
The Compass offers maximum stability and an oversized cockpit and flat deck for standing. A sharp turning radious makes this fishing kayak nimble in tight quarters, yet able to speed over open water in a stealthy fashion. Kayak fishing features include pre-installed rod holders, H-Track accessory mounts and a transducer cavity that’s fishfinder-ready. MSRP: $2749.
Looking forward to a great summer of travel, fishing, and camping, we hope you gleaned at least a few ideas from this piece on how to best prepare for spontaneous opportunities to wet a line. These are all items we’ve personally used and recommend and take great pride in sharing what some might call outdoors industry insider information. After all, picking out quality gear that works can be hard. We all rely on word-of-mouth and the recommendations of guides, pros, family, and friends to determine where our hard-earned money is best spent… These are just some of our recommendations for a better experience with family and friends outside this season. Take from it what you will—and have a great summer on-the-road. Make sure to stop along the way and fish; life is too short.