Tackle Management of the 70s

Old Pal ad from the mid-70s.

The angler who just started bass fishing within the last 15 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 gold 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.

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

Plano 777 ad circa 1976.

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 what 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, the 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.

Hefner Plastics Tackle Tamer ad 1976.

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.

Boats of the time also 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 left no deck space for tackle storage, thus everyone had to put their boxes below deck.

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?

  • You sure remember the Tackle Tamer a lot more fondly than I do Terry. I can’t recall anyone using one more than a few trips. They wasted such a huge amount of space. Got rained into quite easily and were a pain in the neck to dry out. The Plano with the drawers — a lot of guys took off the front panel, drilled a few holes and used a bungee cord to keep the drawers in.
    The box of choice in my neck of the woods was the plano magnum. Everybody had 4 or 5 of them in the boat. Unfortunately, the lids had this habit of reacting poorly to some soft plastics, and going brittle.

    • Rich, that must be the difference between fishing in SoCal and CT. LOL. It never rains in California (was that a pun?). Yeah, it sucked with respect to the rain. You couldn’t take the drawers out to dry them.

      The Magnums were the way to go. The double side 1126 and the single sided 1123 were great. Then they came out with the 1234 that had the spinnerbait rack and space for four jars of pork. That was a favorite of mine. But, like you said, they didn’t hold up worth a darn. The lids would break at the hinge and latch on all of them.

    • Kent

      I found a never used, and with the original paper work, Tackle Tamer 108 at the local swap meet recently and I had to buy it since I have never seen one before.> It’s great for storage but what a brute to have on a boat.

      • Kent. Well that’s a find! I’d love tobsee a picture of it.

  • Jeff Hahn

    Well, I guess it makes me an old guy if I still have my well used Plano 777 on my basement shelves…sitting right beside my Plano possum belly that still carries my northern pike baits!

  • Brian

    Yes, that makes you old Jeff! I can say that, because I still have my original Plano 777 on the garage floor next to my boat (LOL). Wasn’t this the official Classic tacklebox for a few seasons, back when they weighed and restricted tackle? My favorite was the Bass Boss line, found locally at Central Hardware. Something about those orange drawers…

    As for the Tackle Tamer, I have to concur with Rich, but even to a greater degree. I never saw one in action here in the Midwest. Didn’t even know they existed until you made this post Terry 🙂

  • I never had a 777 but I did have its little brother the 737. And, like both of you Jeff and Brian, I still have it. 🙂

  • I still have two 777’s that I use to store lures in the garage.

    They were the perfect hard bait tackle box for the Ranger 340,350, 370, and 390 where you had the open floor space in front of the console. Improved built in tackle storage and flipping decks eventually limited their usefulness and ultimately made them obsolete

    You have to consider that we did not carry the volume of lures back then that we do today

    • Jeff Hahn

      Bob: And, that’s exactly why I ought the 777. I had a Ranger 390 and set the 777 right in front of the console, held in place by a web strap that was available at the time for just that purpose.

      Terry: I also have a smaller version, with a compartment in the lid, instead of the bottom drawer. But, I can’t remember the model number.

      Say what you will, those old stand-up Plano boxes did not get wet inside like today’s soft tackle bags do.

    • Yep Bob! Every boat company had that vacant spot in front of the console. And you’re right about the amount of tackle we used to carry compared to today.

      Jeff, I remember that box too. I can’t remember the model number, though. Maybe I’ll have to look it up.

  • Paul Wallace

    Oh yea, I’ve still got my oppussum belly in the back room. Still have jars of Uncle Josh Pork Worms in color-celector purple…rusted shut. Along with split tail eels, hair jigs, odd ball cranks and broken bang-o-lures and rapalas…Still pull it out and look in it from time to time. Also have the double sided worm melting mess of a tackle box [the magnum I guess]. Can’t bring myself to throw it away. Come to think of it, everything made in the seventies gooed up plastic worms…lol

    • Yeah, none of the tackle manufacturers seemed too concerned about PVC worms eating up boxes. I think it was Plano who actually introduced the first boxes made out of worm-proof ABS plastics.

  • I just remembered that I pulled two old single sided magnums out of retirement and used them all last season. Back when Glenn Simms (I believe that was his name) was product manager for Plano, he sent me a case of lids for my magnums, and I found the last two in the cellar last spring, so I replaced a couple old badly cracked ones on boxes I had hardware stored in and put them back in service in the boat. Boxes had warped a bit so you had to twist and turn things to get the lid to latch, but they lasted me another season!

    • Nice Rich! By the way, I was on eBay a few weeks ago and someone was selling an old single sided Plano for $100.00. It was brand new. Can’t imagine anyone would buy it for that price but you never know.