Turn Your PFD Into a “Wearable Tackle Box”
Chad Hoover with Mike Pehanich

For Chad Hoover, a personal flotation device is a critical component in his on-the-water safety system. With careful thought, however, it can quickly become a “wearable tackle box.” Chad outlines the thinking behind his PFD organization so you can adapt your vest to your personal style of fishing.


I’ve harped on the importance of wearing a PFD so often that I’m sometimes afraid I’ve worn out the message.

But today’s PFDs serve other functions that are a lot more fun to explore.

When I’m wearing my PFD on the water, I think of myself as a Ninja or Samurai warrior who can grab his sword blindly and put it back in his sheath blindly…or a member of a S.W.A.T. team who knows where every tool and weapon on his harness is when he breaks through a front door.

Select a PFD designed for fishermen. Manufacturers have come a long way with their design. They’ve added features that can easily turn this life vest into a wearable tackle box.


Take a look at this PFD from NRS as I walk through my thought process.

I keep a small box with my tungsten weights (or jigs) in a right side pocket.

I use the outside panel – a slide-in side pocket — for my flies when I am fly fishing. At other times, it will carry my trailer hooks and the hooks I am using that day. If I am Senko fishing, I have my Senko hooks right here. If I am Texas rig lizard fishing, I have those hooks right here. And I have my other hooks in the small pockets on the left side.

So this upper right side of the vest is my “now” pocket. This left side large pocket is my “now” pocket for that day’s soft plastics. The large lower right side pocket is my miscellaneous pocket. I keep my split ring pliers in there.


A large secondary pocket can handle bulkier items. I use it to carry a back-up tackle box. If I anticipate a hot topwater bite to start the day, I will put two small topwaters in there and a squarebill crankbait. When the topwater bite dies off, I can immediately switch to that squarebill or a spinnerbait. I don’t have to dig into that big box I have in the back. I can simply pull this little box out and easily switch to my secondary presentation.

It’s right there.


PFD Features:

Small pockets – These pockets are designed for hook packs and boxes of terminal tackle, and that’s how I use them.
Large pockets – I keep soft plastics, tools, and small tackle boxes in these.
Survival lash — Your PFD should have a lash point for critical tools you may need in an emergency such as a radio, knife or other type of survival tool.
Rod holder strap – The Velcro-like strap on a PFD is actually strong enough to hold your rod in place while you are taking a picture, unhooking a fish. For me, it is like a third hand.
Zipper keeper, lanyards and lash points — I like things to be free and tangle free. NRS has a zipper keeper that keeps braided line from getting caught in the zipper when you put the rod between your arm. Lash points enable you to attach zingers, line clippers, pliers and other tools. I slide my pliers in the front slot-style holder so they are close at hand. The vest comes with an integrated zinger, but I use the zinger inside the upper right hand pocket for a multi-tool with my line clippers, nail knot tyer, and jigeye buster. I may add lanyards for other tools.
Outside panel pockets – These are convenient for those small items you may need to access quickly. I use them for packets of hooks and other small packet items like swivels, snaps or O rings.

A note on split ring pliers:
If you fish from a kayak and have the potential of either hooking somebody or getting hooked with a treble hook, you should have a pair of split ring pliers to remove the rest of the lure before you attempt to remove the hook.

Hooking yourself in a bass boat is NOT potentially life threatening. Hooking yourself in a kayak when you are entangled CAN potentially be life threatening. So you need to be prepared for that reality.