What to Pack For a Day of Wade Fishing CreeksPublished on 05/17/2023 · 6 min readFishing expert Christian Nelson shares what he brings along on his favorite fishing excursions, wade fishing through his local creeks.
A beautiful spotted bass caught on a Zoom Trick Worm. Photo by Christian Nelson
Of all the fishing I’ve done, catching bass from local creeks in my hometown is still one of my favorite kinds of fishing. I dabble in everything, but the bends of these creeks are where I really excel as an angler. Beyond that, it’s where I have the most fun. With a friend and some music, wading a local creek can be a great time! I’ve been wade fishing these creeks for well over 10 years and picked up a lot of knowledge along the way. In the past, I’ve done some writing on the tactics I use to catch these fish, but I figured a lot of people would benefit from learning what I pack in my bag when I go on one of these excursions!
When I’m throwing together a bag for a last-minute wade trip, there are a few essentials that I believe are absolutely necessary. The first of these things is a high-quality, comfortable backpack. You don’t have to break the bank on a backpack, but get one with ample storage that is also comfortable and not too bulky. The last thing you want is an uncomfortable bag that limits your movement and hurts your back.
I use a two-strapped backpack with a clip across the chest. Some people prefer sling-style bags, but either way, make sure you get one that’s comfortable to you above all else! This is one of those items that’s often overlooked when buying fishing gear; you don’t realize you need a backpack until you understand how helpful and conducive it can be for a good day of fishing!
Another important piece of gear for wade fishing is a good pair of shoes. When I was younger, I got by wading creeks in my tennis shoes, but I highly recommend getting a decent pair of wading boots. Wading a creek in flip-flops or Crocs is a sure enough way to get aggravated quickly, while having a good pair of shoes to protect your feet and keep sand and rocks out will keep you comfortable throughout the day. In a pinch, tennis shoes will work, just be careful to watch your step and plan on getting some boots soon!
Once you’ve got a quality bag and some comfortable shoes, you’re going to want to bring some lures and tackle. Personally, I only bring one or two small Plano boxes of lures and tackle when I go on wade-fishing trips for two key reasons. One is simple — comfort. You don’t want to be carrying 10 pounds of lures you’re not going to throw. This not only takes up room in your bag, but also adds to the stress you’re going to put on your back throughout the day. Secondly, you’ll catch more fish with fewer baits. When you have fewer baits, you’re forced to fish water slowly and figure out what works. With more choices, many anglers end up switching baits all day and never actually have a chance to dial in the fish.
My box usually consists of some soft plastic lizards, flukes, Trick Worms, crawfish, a Super Spook, and basic tackle, like bass hooks and bullet weights. I’ll also throw in a square-bill crankbait, beetle spin, and football jig if I’m feeling a little more experimental that day. With just one small or medium-sized tackle tray of bait in your bag, you are effectively managing your space while also keeping a solid selection of bait with you to dial in on the fish. You’re also going to need to pack other gear. Some staples that always come with me are things like a good knife and needle-nose pliers.
Beyond this, there are a few other essentials I always keep in my bag. One is a metal construction thermos. I use a 32-ounce thermos with a sealable lid. This is great for holding ice; I usually fill mine with ice and water and pack a spare water bottle or two to refill it! This ensures that I’ll have plenty of ice-cold water to drink while I’m out there. While you could just bring water bottles and deal with warm water, I really think it’s worth the investment to have cold, refreshing water to drink. I can go without snacks, but I always make sure to pack water!
Another item that I consider essential is a basic medical kit. This is one of those things that you don’t need until you do, but it’s always worth bringing along. You can buy a basic pre-made kit that will have most of what you need, or make your own. I pack a small waterproof box stocked with things I may need if I were to get into a sticky situation. The most common injury in any creek while wade fishing, in my experience, is falling. This can lead to some nasty scrapes, so I always keep disinfectant, cotton, pain killers, and waterproof tape in my box. I also keep some topical medicine for wasp or other bug stings and bites. Along with bug spray and sunscreen, I always keep a spare knife and lighter in there too, because you can’t be over-prepared!
Beyond what I consider essential for a good wade-fishing trip, there are a few extra things I bring that make the trip a lot better and will always have a place in my bag! These items won’t make or break your ability to catch fish out there, but they can definitely improve the experience.
The first of these is just a good lunch! This may seem more like an essential, but time flies on the water, and lunch is often overlooked. Packing a sandwich or two and a bag of chips will make for a great break on a sandbar while you watch and listen to the current flow, and it gives you a moment to get off your feet and enjoy the sights around you while you refuel! When I do this, I usually just put my food in a small fabric-based lunch box so it easily fits in my bag and add a freezer pack to keep it cold all day long.
If you want to make your trip even better, pack a small, waterproof Bluetooth speaker! This is one of my favorite extras to bring, especially if I’m going fishing with friends. There’s just something about playing your jams and exploring a creek with friends that’s absurdly fun, no matter who you are.
Whether you’re planning a serious solo trip wading a creek in search of a lunker or you want to pitch a bait while passing the day with friends, having the right stuff in your bag is a huge key to success on the water. This list is by no means set in stone, so feel free to add anything you think will work for you! The goal of this is simply to show that making a setup for this kind of fishing can be as simple and affordable as you want it to be, and it will still allow you to catch fish, and more importantly, have fun!