Traveling with Fishing Gear: What To Know Before Your Flight
Mar 5, 2020 | 4 minute read Comments
77
Reading Time: 4 minutes

You’ve got your next fishing trip all planned out – great! Before you pack for the flight, however, there are a few things you should know. These could be the difference between returning empty-handed, or with a full cooler. Today, we’re going to talk about traveling with fishing gear!

An image showing the potential problems with traveling with fishing gear. On the left, an angler is fighting a fish. On the right, the angler's rod is broken. Above, there is the text "Broken rods aren't fun so pack accordingly :)"

There’s nothing worse for a traveling angler than being surrounded with hungry fish without your favorite lure!

You’ve got two (not mutually exclusive) options:

  1. Book a fishing charter that provides equipment (FishingBooker helps you do this worldwide).
  2. Travel with your own trusted gear (Read on).

Depending on your destination and the amount of “cargo” your partner will put up with, I will show you a few packing tips that have worked well for me on my travels so far.

Travel vs. Trolling Rods

4 piece travel rods are great for light fly fishing or small lures, but what if you’re going after something bigger? Ask any serious international angler planning their trip to a coral-filled paradise; they’re going to bring at least two heavy trolling rods for the charter boat (just in case the equipment on board isn’t any good) and another 4 piece travel rod for having fun from the beach.

According to the US Transportation Security Administration, you can take travel rods as carry-on luggage with you. I usually group them together in a short rod tube and haven’t had any trouble so far on local or international flights. To secure the rods additionally, tape them together or pack them in their original packaging so they don’t chafe during the ride too much.

What about heavier equipment like beach-casting or trolling rods? It might be a bit harder to get airport security to agree to let you carry  these on the plane. Don’t worry though, you can check them in as sports equipment and most airlines will not charge you an overweight/excess baggage fee. That being said, be sure to check the website of the company you’re flying with about their sports equipment luggage policies.

Tip for checking in rod tubes: Buy a hard-shell tube that supports a padlock or drill two holes into a soft-shell one so you can lock the zipper in place to avoid getting your rods stolen. It’s an unpleasant fact, but baggage theft does happen. Your job is to make the “prize” as hard to get at as possible.

A Plano Airliner Telescopic Rod Case, a common case for safely traveling with fishing gear

Plano Airliner Telescopic Rod Case – Available on Amazon from $45

How to Pack Reels

Since reels don’t have any dangerous parts, you shouldn’t have problems with reels from a security standpoint. If space permits, take your reels with you in your carry-on pack to prevent potential loss or damage. Pack them in their original case, padded with a few socks or pairs of underwear, or buy a travel reel case for additional protection. Trolling reels will rarely fit into your carry-on luggage, so be sure to pad them well in your check-in bag.

Be aware of that some airlines may require the line to be removed from reels before taking them on the plane as hand luggage. In order to avoid this situation, consider packing line separately in your hold baggage.

Lures & Flies

According to the TSA:

“You may wish to pack expensive reels or fragile tackle that does not pose a security threat (small flies) in your carry-on bags.”

I disagree with this. Just check all sharp items. Taking a box full of large hooks, lures and flies is bound to give you trouble at airport security. They might let you enter the plane in the end, but only after a 30 minute argument with the security officer who’s probably clueless about fishing, and why you need a 3” fishing hook in your carry on luggage.

If you absolutely must carry your lures with you, write an email to the airline asking about carry-on regulations for fishing lures/flies/hooks. If the response is positive, print it out and be prepared for a talk.

Other Equipment

A selection of fishing equipment: a knife, pliers, lures, boots, fishing rod, and hat, all laid out on a wooden floor.

Knives and pliers won’t make it into your carry-on bag, but that’s not all you should consider.

Use common sense when traveling with fishing gear: knives, liquid fly floatant, and metal rod holders are definitely a no-no. Be sure to check these in. If you’re carrying lots of unusual equipment, show up at the airport an hour earlier than you normally would to allow for extra time if they make you check in anything.

Above all, don’t argue with the security staff. Be pleasant and tell a few fishing stories. They DO have the power to ban you from a flight. Another thing I often forget to do in the midst of pre-trip euphoria is to check my fly vest’s pockets for any leftover equipment.

Since 9/11, it’s been almost impossible to take dinghies and kayaks with you, checked in or not. If you are staying at a 4+ star resort during your holiday, you will most likely have kayaks or pedal-boats available for free or at a reasonable hourly rate.

All that’s left now is to hop on your plane, book a great fishing charter and embark on the fishing trip of your life!

Have you tried traveling with fishing gear before? What was your experience like? Did you manage to get your favorite set to your fishing destination safely? Got any tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

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Comments (77)
  • Ellie fashingbauer

    Aug 8, 2015

    Can you bring fishing lures on the plaine

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      Dino

      Aug 10, 2015

      Hi Ellie,

      Here’s what the TSA has to say on the issue:

      ‘Sharp fishing tackle that may be considered dangerous, such as large fish hooks, should be sheathed, securely wrapped, and packed in your checked luggage. Like other high-value objects, you may wish to pack expensive reels or fragile tackle that does not pose a security threat (small flies) in your carry-on baggage.’

      Hope that helps!

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      Grant

      May 17, 2019

      I took all my tackle with me, they didn’t stop me, other than my scissors. They let me go with them though!

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      Sean

      May 17, 2019

      Hi Grant,

      Thanks for sharing.

      That’s was fortunate! I’m glad all your gear made it through.

      While this sometimes does happen, there’s nothing worse than having to leave your precious gear on the airport.

      At the end of the day, the safest way is to securely pack the “potentially dangerous” gear in your checked luggage.

      Thanks again for sharing.

      Tight lines!

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    • Reply icon

      Dave

      Aug 17, 2019

      Just got through TSA at SFO with a 7’ 4 piece Fiblink travel rod that barely fit in my carry on, 3000 series reel spooled with braided line, a small 6 compartment plano filled with 1/2 oz lures, a mini leather man. No problems. What I wanted to bring was a Kastking 8’ Telescopic surf, rod, but it measured 25” and would not fit in my carry on. I asked a Congregation of agents after the check points was it ok to bring the telescopic rod that measure 25” and just hold it on the plane, they replied yes and that I can bring a regular fishing rod, not sure what regular meant but next time I’ll bring the Telescopic surf Rod.

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      garry john yannakis

      Feb 9, 2020

      I was stopped with my fishing reels at security in my carry on luggage, they said i could carry on fishing reels but i would have to remove all the fishing line or have them confiscated. Typical moronic response by security.

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      Albert

      Feb 10, 2020

      Hi Garry,

      Sorry to hear that. I guess it just goes to show that we should always expect the worst when flying with fishing gear.

      I hope it didn’t end up costing you too much!

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  • What to Pack for a Charter Fishing Trip - FishingBooker Blog

    Jan 8, 2016

    […] For serious anglers: If you don’t want to leave home without your favorite rod and reel check out our post on traveling with fishing gear. […]

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      Jose

      May 30, 2016

      Hi I’m from Texas what about just rods reels and pliers

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      Cat

      Jun 1, 2016

      Hey Jose, you can usually check rods in as sports equipment (check with the airline first) and reels are fine to take on the plane – just be sure to pack them well. Make sure to check in the pliers as they won’t be allowed as hand luggage!

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      Josh

      Mar 31, 2019

      I have had multiple pairs of pliers taken but have gotten through with a travel rod, reel, and a small knife that I forgot was in my backpack.

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  • Parker lee

    Jul 5, 2016

    So since hooks and lures aren’t easy to get on carry-on luggage does that mean you can put them in your normal suitcase luggage?

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      Cat

      Jul 14, 2016

      Yes, the best place to put them is in your suitcase in the hold.

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  • Edward

    Jul 15, 2016

    What’s a hold

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      Cat

      Jul 20, 2016

      It’s the part of the plane where you put your luggage.

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  • Elijah

    Aug 10, 2016

    If I Have a small 1/4 ounce lure that is obviously not a Fly, can I take my mini 5ft Rod and reel with these small hooks all in my carry on? Like, what if I have a mini tackle box (aprox. 2x3x5) with small lures in it, will that be aloud on a carry on?

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      Cat

      Aug 12, 2016

      Hi Elijah,

      Thanks for your question. My recommendation would be to consult with your airline, and to pack it in your hold luggage if possible. I was once told I could not take a fork with me on a flight, so it is very possible that staff at the airport might take objection to lures.

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  • Izaak

    Nov 11, 2016

    So crank baits.swim jigs spinner baits in my tackle box in my luggage under the plane will be fine?

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      Cat

      Nov 14, 2016

      Yes, no reason that would not be fine in hold luggage!

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  • Mac

    Nov 13, 2016

    I had a Penn senator confiscated at Manilla airport – they said I could go back to service counter & recall my check-in luggage but there wasnt enough time.

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      Cat

      Nov 14, 2016

      Sorry to hear that! 🙁 Thanks for the tip

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  • Jordan

    Dec 10, 2016

    Hi Cat, when you have a one piece deep sea fishing rod, do you take it on board in the plane or do you put it with your luggage?Or is there another way?

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      Cat

      Dec 20, 2016

      Hi Jordan,

      Sorry for the late reply. You can take one piece rods on the plane with you but they would usually be checked in as sports equipment. Make sure to put it in a solid tube and to check with the airline before your flight to make sure they will let you do this free of charge (depending on the airline they usually do but it’s best to make sure in advance).

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      cameron

      Mar 23, 2018

      Do you need the rod tube If you have a two piece that would fit?

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  • Bev

    Jan 19, 2017

    Can we take a large used piece of old fishing net on a flight to the USA as checked baggage?
    It will be used to stop golf balls from hitting the house.

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      Cat

      Jan 19, 2017

      I don’t see why that would be a problem, but it’s always a good idea to contact your airline before your flight so you can make the proper arrangements.

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  • Jone

    Mar 31, 2017

    What about size 2/0 saltwater flies?

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      Cat

      Mar 31, 2017

      We would always recommend putting flies in hold luggage for extra safety and convenience at the security gate. If you are cautious about doing this, contact your airline to find out their specific rules for flies and hooks and make sure you have their response with you when you go through security.

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  • Kimberly Smith

    May 15, 2017

    My husband has a 60 inch fly rod and case, what is best way to fly with it.

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      Cat

      May 22, 2017

      Hi Kimberly,

      Most airlines will allow a fly rod/case of that size to be checked in as hold baggage for no extra fee, but it is a must to check this with your airline before flying.

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  • Jay Johnson

    Jun 11, 2017

    Ryanair would not let me take my fishing reels in cabin baggage unless the line was stripped off each first (which they started to do for me before realising how long it takes to strip line off a reel). Seems a fishing reel might be used as a garrotte. All fishing gear then to go into the Hold. So much for one small simple backpack and travelling light.

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      Cat

      Jun 13, 2017

      Wow what a nuisance. Thanks for letting us know about this issue!

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  • King Boom

    Jun 27, 2017

    Awesome blog. Thanks for sharing and the best information.

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  • Francis

    Jul 16, 2017

    Hi,
    My problem is my 2pc spinning rod dont have hard case. So im worry to checkin it in hold luggage. I wonder if im going to declare it as a fragile, maybe it will be fine.