Coolers are just like everything else in the fishing industry: constantly changing. Technology, cost, size and weight are all driving factors when it comes to choosing a quality cooler to not only hold the day’s catch, but to also keep the post fishing beer cold. There are soft-sided and roto-molded, 20 quarts all the way to 350 quarts, as well as tons of features and accessories! So how do you know which cooler is right for you?
Well, there are many ways to go about your purchasing process. I think many would agree that determining your size preference would be the first step. Of course size depends greatly on what type of boat you’re fishing from, or if you are fishing from a boat at all, I’m talking to you bank fisherman! With fishing vessels ranging from 12ft kayaks to 40ft+ offshore boats, cooler size is an important consideration. For you guys and gals fishing from shore, consider the size you are willing to carry, roll, drag, etc. Mind you that a 20lb empty cooler may weight upwards of 50lbs once ice and fish are added, which leads to another size issue: what are you fishing for? A fisherman heading out for a mess of bluegill and crappie may not need as big of a cooler as a fisherman hunting a limit of inshore speckled trout or even a boat headed offshore for Amberjack and Snapper. But there is one thing we can agree on, we need to keep our catches cold.
Don’t weight up! The next factor in your purchasing process should be weight. As I preluded in the paragraph before, weight can build up rather quickly. Size equates to weight, so be sure to choose the appropriate size to fit your needs. Roto-molded coolers will weigh more, but will provide longer lasting coldness. Soft-sided coolers will weigh less, but may not provide the extended coldness you need, nor the ruggedness you may be seeking. Kayakers and bank/shore fisherman may choose the lighter weight coolers over the heavier coolers the big boaters may prefer. Again, choose the more appropriate size and weight to suit your fishing needs.
Let’s take a look at technology. Technologies in coolers have come a long way from the Igloos of yore. Although light in weight, they provided minimal ice retention throughout a long day on the water underneath a beating sun. Today, coolers are known to retain ice for several days, even under a midday July Florida sun. But sometimes that kind of ice retention isn’t necessary. If you are out on the water for only a couple of hours or just parked on the side of the road next to your favorite fishing hole, the latest and greatest technology may not be what you need. As an avid kayak and paddleboard fisherman, I do not necessarily need the long lasting effects of a roto-molded cooler, however the ruggedness and durability of this type is comforting to have. A lot of paddleboard fishermen use their coolers as a seat or standing platform as well as those fishing out of their flats boat. That’s when the roto-molded technology becomes beneficial. They’re stout enough to withstand a full-grown man standing on top, yet will also keep your lunch and drinks cold.
Let’s talk price. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a fortune to spend on a cooler. That’s why I feel it is important to consider the size and style of the cooler you’ll need carefully. If you do not need to keep your cooler contents cold for more than several hours, consider the cheaper alternative to a roto-molded style cooler. Also, keep in mind what you’ll be putting inside your cooler: pan fish, inshore slot fish or offshore monsters. Will you be standing or sitting on your cooler? If not then maybe a soft-sided cooler is for you. I love my soft-sided cooler as a fish bag when out in my kayak. Needless to say, consider going the cheapest route to suit your needs. After all, you’ll have more money to spend on all the other latest and greatest must-have fishing gadgets and accessories.