The Versatile Five Gallon Bucket

By Capt. Cefus McRae, Nuts & Bolts of Fishing Series

Besides all your tackle, electronics, bait, safety gear, ice, and snacks, one of the most useful items you can have on your boat is a five gallon bucket. It’s something you can use at the start of your fishing day, during your fishing day and at the end of your fishing day. You might say the lowly five gallon bucket is one item you should never leave the dock without.

At the beginning of your trip, this bucket becomes a handy way to carry gear, ice, towels and any number of loose items down to the boat. I keep mine in the back of the truck with a couple of downrigger weights in it. This keeps it from blowing out of the bed, and I never forget my downrigger weights anymore. Depending on where I’m at and what I’m fishing for, the bucket will get loaded with everything from a box of frozen squid to chipped ice to go in the fish box. Once I’ve got all the gear on board the boat, the bucket magically reconfigures itself for duty on the deck.

Now it becomes a catch-all for the day. Trash, used fishing line, soda cans and rigs that need re-rigging all go in the bucket. In reality, I usually have two buckets…one stacked inside the other, and here’s why. When it’s time to move from point A to point B, I generally remove diving plugs and big trolling gear from my rods. And I always remove weights from the line. I don’t want hooks flying around to catch someone’s hat or ear, and lead weights bouncing against my rod blanks are a big no-no. So, I’ll make the unused bucket a lure catch-all. I add a piece of pool noodle that has been sliced down the middle, so it fits snugly over the lip of the bucket. Big trolling plugs like Stretch 30’s and jig hooks get pushed into the foam and won’t bounce out. Weights go in the bottom. Nothing gets tangled, and it’s easy to re-rig when we arrive at the new fishing spot.

These buckets are great for sharing baits too. If one of us is fishing the bow and one at the stern, the guy up front has to constantly walk back and forth to get a new live bait. Put a little water in the bottom and add a dozen shrimp, herring or even fiddler crabs to the bucket and pass it to your pal up front. If we are pitching baits to cruising fish, adding a few to the bucket makes it easier to grab one, rather than reaching in the live well. If you’ve ever had a live well full of mullet, you can relate. As soon as you open the lid to get one bait…four others will jump out, and land in the transom splash well. Of course, the five gallon bucket comes in very handy for another obvious reason too. When nature calls, the bucket gets called into action. Enough said.

At the end of the day, the cherished bucket serves to haul the trash off the boat and returns to help with the cleaning chores. Whether you use bleach or boat soap, the bucket is the best thing to mix the solution. I’ll usually drop my Croc’s in the bucket too, and by the time I’ve finished cleaning the boat, my Croc’s are squeaky clean.

It’s amazing how something so simple and so inexpensive can be so versatile. But then again, fishing is supposed to be easy, right? So get yourself a five gallon bucket and take one for a spin. You may find it becomes one of the best fishing accessories you’ve ever had.

Tight Lines and Calm Seas,
Capt. Cefus McRae