11 Things You Need For A Successful Wade Fishing Trip (That All Fit Into A Small Pack)

By: Joseph Simonds on March 11, 2019
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essential wade fishing gear

Wader Dave is back!

Wade fishing is one of the most effective ways to catch fish and who better to drop some wade fishing knowledge on us than the legendary Wader Dave.

He has over 40 years of wade fishing experience from Texas to Massachusetts, spends 200+ days on the water each year, and for the past 15 years has been taking fellow anglers out on guided wade fishing trips.

Not to mention, Wader Dave is one of our SUPER-Community members.

This article covers all the gear you need when wade fishing to catch redfish, snook, trout, and flounder, so you don’t need to waste money buying extra lures that don’t work, or bring extra supplies out on the water that weighs you down.

Other Salt Strong appearances by Wader Dave:

Enjoy!

P.S. don’t forget to comment if you have any questions for Wader Dave.

Tools of the Wade Fisherman’s Trade

by “Wader Dave” Ulgenalp

wade fishing gear

One of the most attractive features of wade fishing is how simple it can be.

While wading is an incredibly effective method for catching fish, it doesn’t require a large investment in baits, tackle and gear or much space to store it.

A complete arsenal of lures and accessories necessary to catch a season’s worth of trout, reds, snook, flounder or just about any other fish species likely to inhabit inshore waters will fit into a small waist pack, weighs only a few pounds, and costs less than $200.

Waist Pack

wade fishing pack

I start with an H20 Mojave Waste Pack by Outdoor Products that can be purchased at Walmart for $10.

It provides all the storage space I need, is durable and will last at least a couple of seasons if I rinse the zippers with fresh water after each use.

I rarely use both water bottles and leave an open pouch to put my used plastics in rather than throwing them in the water or on the beach.

Lures

wade fishing lures

I fill my waist pack with the following lures for a full day trip when I expect to be targeting multiple species under varying circumstances and conditions:

  • 1 walk-the-dog style top water lure like a Heddon Salt Water Super Spook Jr
  • 1 popper or chugger style top water lure like a Mirrolure C-Eye Poppa Mullet
  • 1 slow sinking, hard twitch bait like a Mirrolure Mirrodine

My favorite colors include:

  • red head/white body
  • bone
  • chrome
  • chartreuse
  • pink
  • or combinations of these colors

I switch out trebles for comparably sized, single in-line hooks, making sure the front hook point doesn’t go past the eye of the lure and snag the line during the retrieve.

These lures typically range from $6 to $10.

spoon for wade fishing

  • 2weedless spoons, like the Johnson Silver Minnow in ½ oz and/or ¾ oz

I prefer gold, copper, and silver spoons, and always make sure the hook points are sharp out of the box.

I bend the weed guard at the mid-point and make sure the end of it lines up evenly with the hook point, which will help it shed grass more easily.

These spoons typically range from $3 to $5

inshore soft plastics

  • 3 bags of 3” to 4″ soft plastic, shad/swim tail baits like the DOA CAL Shad Tail, Slayer Sinister Swim Tail or Mirrolure Soft Shad
  • 3 bags of 4” to 6” soft plastic jerk baits like the Mirrolure Lil John, Mirrolure Provoker or DOA CAL Jerk Bait

I usually carry three colors of each bait type, but not necessarily the same three colors.

  1. One darker in color or that mimics a crab or other natural bait like New Penny or Golden Bream
  2. Glow or White
  3. A bright color like chartreuse, pink or Electric Chicken(chartreuse/pink/green).

An 8 to 10 count bag of most soft plastic baits ranges in price from $4 to $6

Note: Want to take your wade fishing game to a whole new level? Check this out.

Hooks & Jig Heads

wade fishing jig heads

  • 3 ¼ oz lead head jigs
  • 3 1/8 oz lead head jigs
  • 3 1/16 oz lead head jigs

Jig heads should be suitable for rigging a variety of plastic swim tail and jerk baits from 3” to 6” in length.

Hook sizes may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer for jigs of similar weight, but I don’t like to use anything larger than a 3/0 or smaller than a 1/0 hook.

I prefer natural (grey) or unpainted jig heads, but red and/or chartreuse colored heads are very popular.

I include a couple of twist on or screw lock jig heads as they will hold softer plastic baits better than a spiked shank head.

I like Bass Assassin Pro Elite, DOA Premium, and Mirrolure Twist-on jig heads as they offer sturdy, sharp hooks and compact heads that cast well.

A three pack of most lead head jigs costs between $4 and $5.

wade fishing hooks

  • 3 1/8 oz weighted screw-lock hooks
  • 3 1/16 oz weighted screw-lock hooks
  • 3 unweighted worm style hooks

Hooks should be suitable for rigging a variety of plastic swim tail and jerk baits from 3” to 6” in length.

Owner Twist Lock and Mustad Power Lock weighted hooks are solid performers and available in a variety of hook sizes.

I prefer a 1/0 or 2/0 hook for smaller shad tail plastics and 2/0 or 3/0 on larger plastic jerkbaits and rig them so they are essentially weedless.

I use Gamakatsu 2/0 offset hooks with my jerk baits rigged “Texas” style.

A three pack of screw-lock weighted hooks will range in price from $7 to $8, and a 4-6 count bag of unweighted worm hooks will range from $4 to $6.

Terminal Tackle Storage

wade fishing tacklebox

I keep the hooks, jig heads, spoons and lures in a small waterproof plastic box that I place in my waist pack.

The Plano Guide Series Model 3400 can be purchased at Walmart for $5, and is perfect for the job.

To avoid the contents of the box getting rusted, I place anything I use from the box into a plastic bait bag until I get home.

After I’ve rinsed the lure off with fresh water and dried it, I place it back in the waterproof box along with replacements for lures that I may have lost during my trip.

Additional Supplies

In addition to my waist pack, water proof box, and assortment of lures, I always carry a couple small spools of fluorocarbon leader, pliers, fish grip and hook file.

inshore fishing leader

I prefer small leader spools, as they take up less room in my waist pack and can even be carried in my shirt pocket while I’m fishing.

I usually bring one spool of lighter and one spool of heavier leader to cover the variety of species and conditions I’m likely to encounter.

A 25 to 30-yard spool of leader ranges from $10 to $15.

wade fishing pliers

A pair of sturdy, rust-resistant pliers with side line cutters are a must.

I prefer to holster them in a belt loop style sheath, attached with a reliable lanyard or two feet of nylon cord.

They can be used to pull hooks from the mouths and throats of fish, trim excess line from knots tied while fishing, and handle fish with poisonous fins or barbs.

There are several manufactures that offer a wide variety of pliers at prices that range greatly, but you can buy a reliable pair for between $30 and $40.

I’ve been pleased with the products offered by Danco and their prices are very reasonable, especially if you take advantage of the 20% discount they offer Salt Strong Insiders.

I use a sheath from Boom Fishing bought separately at Amazon for $8.99 that also includes a lanyard.

I prefer sheaths that have a loop on the back to thread either a belt or the strap from my waste pack through it.

Metal or plastic swivel clips will rust quickly and often come loose when getting in and out of a boat or kayak.

fish grip

The Fish Grip Mini costs between $10 and $15, floats, is very durable, and capable of controlling just about any inshore species I’m likely to catch.

I loop it around the belt of my waist pack.

hook filer

The last item I carry is a small hook sharpener to sharpen any hooks that may get dulled during a day’s use.

I usually keep it in the small front pocket of my fanny pack along with my spools of fluorocarbon leader.

I’ve used many versions over the years but have stuck on the Dr. Slick 4” Hook File available at Amazon for $12.

Plan Accordingly

wader dave

While the list I’ve provided is typical of what I bring on any given day, it certainly isn’t meant to be the gospel.

In fact, I set out on most wade fishing trips knowing the conditions I’m likely to face with a specific plan for my targeted species and will adjust my arsenal accordingly.

In the summer when I’m often targeting snook along the beaches or in passes, I will replace a bag or two of plastic tails with a bag of bucktail jigs in various weights and colors.

On early morning trips in search of trout or snook, I will add a few more topwater lures and leave out the Mirrodine.

If I’m targeting reds in shallow water near rocks or oyster beds, I add a couple of weedless spoons, a few more weighted screw-lock hooks and an extra bag of shad tails.

Most importantly, make sure you pack baits and lures you have confidence in, provide yourself with at least a couple of options in case your primary tactics fail to catch fish and remember to keep things simple.

Note: Want to take your wade fishing game to a whole new level? Check this out.

Conclusion

What did you think?

Special thanks to Wader Dave for this awesome article on the essential gear for wade fishing.

If you really want to master wade fishing, check out this course we created with Wader Dave.

Have any questions for Wader Dave about what to use for wade fishing?

Let us know in the comments below!

P.S. know someone who wants to get better at wade fishing? TAG or SHARE this with them!

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David UlgenalpThomas CampbellMICHAEL DrozdowskiVal DouisEric Black Recent comment authors
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MICHAEL Drozdowski
Member

Hi Dave – one more question. I see that you use Yo-Zuri 15# & 30# leader material. Do you prefer their leaders for reasons other than the size of the spools they’re on (i.e., to conserve space in your waist bag)? I attended a talk last week by local guide Dave Blanchard and he recommended Seaguar’s Steelhead (brown label) leaders. I was at Tarpon Outfitters yesterday and asked one of the staff there about the differences between the two leader materials and he said “yeah, with the Seaguar leader, you get 100 yards for the about the same price as the 30 yards of Yo-Zuri”. So I bought the Seaguar in the 17# size (the spool is a little bigger than the Yo-Zuri spool). I tried it today and I liked it. So my question is – do you prefer the Yo-Zuri leaders for reasons other than the size of the spool? Thanks, Dave…

David Ulgenalp
Member

Mike – I like Yozuri leader but in fact, I buy Seaguar Steelhead leader and wind it onto the smaller Yozuri spools. I have found it to be quality leader and it’s much cheaper. Dave

Thomas Campbell
Member

Hi Dave! I just wanted to let you know that you opened up a whole new world of fishing for me. I watched the podcast on YouTube you did and I was stunned at how you get on these fish. I’m land locked and can not afford a boat or kayak. Fishing is my passion and I’m currently focusing on wade and surf fishing to be my go to methods! You gave me hope and a whole new outlook. When I save the cash I’ll definitely be getting your wade course! Thank you and tight lines. Also thanks joe and Luke for finding him lol y’all rock

David Ulgenalp
Member

Thomas – it’s inspiring to know that my own experiences are helping others pursue their passion for fishing. If you haven’t already, check out my other posts on Salt Strong. Tight lines!

Thomas Campbell
Member

Hey Dave I’ve learned a lot from your courses, I’m hoping to really get the hang of wading. Do you feel it competes with other styles of fishing as needed productivity? Also how do you feel about using a popping cork while wading? Thanks again sir.

David Ulgenalp
Member

Thomas – not only do I think it competes with fishing from a boat, kayak or SUP, I believe it can be the most effective method for catching Inshore species like snook, trout and reds. I routinely out fish my friends that fish from those other platforms. I’ll use a popping cork occasionally while wading causeways or shorelines with an adjacent deep grass flat. I tie a 1/8 or 1/4 oz lead head jig rigged with a plastic shrimp or jerk bait and leave 2 to 3 feet of line between the cork and the jig.

MICHAEL Drozdowski
Member

Hi Dave – some great info from you as usual. I always learn something from all of your articles/videos. Question – do you use a split ring & swivel on the Johnson Silver Minnows to avoid line twist?

David Ulgenalp
Member

Mike – glad you found this post useful. I do not use a split ring or swivel with a Johnson Silver Minnow weedless spoon. I connect my leader directly to the wire eye using a loop knot and never have a problem with line twist. The lure wobbles but doesn’t spin when retrieved properly. Hope to see you out on the water sometime soon. Dave

Val Douis
Member

As usual great info that would have taken years of trial and error.

David Ulgenalp
Member

Val – thanks for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated.

Eric Black
Member

Excellent article that offers a great shopping/inventory list of things to get. I have many of these based on some previous articles, but there’s some good tips in here. I especially find the suggestions for the plastic boxes. Finding good ones of those has been a challenge for me as you really have to find the right size to fit into the waist pack. Thanks for the suggestion, Wader Dave!

David Ulgenalp
Member

Eric – glad you found the post useful and hope it brings you more fish.

Brett Laws
Member

This isn’t just a great wade fishing article, it’s a great reminder to keep fishing simple and fun. Coming from a bass fishing background, I used to carry way to much stuff. 17 rods, dozens of tackle boxes, bags, etc. So when I made the switch to inshore fishing , I promised myself I was going to keep it simple, fun and affordable, everything I have for inshore fishing fits in 1 soft tackle bag with plenty of room to a spare. My boat should be much faster and get better mileage now that I’m not carrying a tackle store with me.
Thank you, Wader Dave and Salt Strong for the great article.

David Ulgenalp
Member

Brett – thanks for the positive feedback – glad to see you’ve discovered the simple life as well!

Mike Mahoney
Member

I carry a small camera/phone. On certain unfamiliar waters, a wading staff.

David Ulgenalp
Member

Mike – I keep my Iphone in a water proof case and carry it in my shirt pocket for easy access. What type of wading staff do you use?

Mike Mahoney
Member

As I live in the woods, a good, green hickory stick. With a bit if twine tied to it.

Butch Mekler
Member

Great info Dave.. I am now out in the garage emptying my wading bag.

David Ulgenalp
Member

Irv – I’ve seen you’re garage, no room in there for your extra wading gear. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Lloyd Orgeron
Member

A descent pair of wading boots to protect your feet are invaluable

David Ulgenalp
Member

Lloyd – You’re absolutely right. I always wear a pair of wading booties whether I have waders on or not. I’ve tried just about every bootie made over the years and have settled on Promate 5 mm Dreadnought Hard Sole Scuba Dive Zipper Boots. They are comfortable, durable and provide the protection I need from oysters, rocks and most sea creatures. I buy them on Amazon.com for less than $50. I’m on the water at least 200 days a year and usually get a new pair each year. Wader Dave

Lloyd Orgeron
Member

It is one of those things that beginners overlook.

Bruce Somers
Member

Excellent discussion Wader Dave. Thank you for sharing your tips. I do have one question for those of us who like to eat one or two of the fish we catch what do you recommend for a stringer?

David Ulgenalp
Member

Bruce – I rarely keep fish on a stringer while wading as I’ve often had sharks nosing around, especially if any of the fish are bleeding. When I do use a steinger I like the Sampo Swivels Nylon Fish Stringer. It’s 10’ long, has 8 clips and has no metal parts that will rust. I typically attach it to a belt loop on my shorts or wading belt with a quick disconnect knot in case I need to set it free quickly. You can get it on Amazon.com for lesss than $15 and it will last forever. Wader Dave

Bruce Somers
Member

Thanks Dave 🎣

Dave Frymier
Member

This is an excellent post – all for simplicity. I have an Orvis sling pack – one of the originals from my old freshwater trout fly fishing days that works well for salt wade fishing. It’s also easy to attach a net for those situations where you’ve worked your way under a bridge and there’s no place to beach the fish. Another trick from the fly fishing world – drill a hole through a wine cork, thread some old fly line through it, and attach it to your bag. You can embed used lures – especially jigs – in the cork while they dry out or just to keep them out of your dry box.

David Ulgenalp
Member

John – great suggestions, thanks!

B E SWEET
Guest
B E SWEET

I always strap a belt a belt around the top of waders. If one were to step in a hole or trip and fall this would prevent water from filling the waders. Don’t want to drown will having fun.
Don’t forget your stringer.

David Ulgenalp
Member

I agree. I always wear a wading belt when I’m wearing waders. It’s also a handy place to attach accessories or a stringer.

Springer Springer
Member

Great information! It reminds me again to keep things simple. I prefer to store everything in a fishing vest and use a net, instead of a fish grip, which I keep out of the way attached to a magnet up the back of my vest.
Dave, I was wondering if you ever try to carry more than one rod/reel combo with you, to minimize the need to stop and change lures, etc? I’ve tried this in the past by shoving the second rod down my waders, but have always found it to get in the way and inevitably end up dunking one or the other reel. So, I’ve stopped trying this. But do you ever do this and, if so, do you have a solution to keeping the second rod out of the way?

David Ulgenalp
Member

Ted – I used to bring a second rod but ran into the same problems you’ve experienced. I’ve tried various rod holders but haven’t found one that’s worth the trouble and have used only a single rod for the last 15 years. Keep it simple.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Excellent info Joe and Dave. Thanks for posting and sharing.

Joseph Gill
Member

“Cut and Paste”!! What an amazing amount of valuable information. Having recently bought a Hobie PA14 which allows for some great wade fishing this information is priceless!! Thank you!

David Ulgenalp
Member

Joe – thanks for the feedback, I hope this information puts more fish in your kayak. Dave