What do you do if you want the convenience of a full-sized fishing backpack, but don’t want to haul all that extra bulk around? Get yourself a nice fishing sling, shoulder, or messenger bag! These compact bags give you easy access to tackle trays, lures, baits, and plenty of other gear you need to keep within arms reach.
These packs are also light and compact enough not to slow you down or hinder you while you fish. Most sit high enough on your body that they won’t get soaked while wading. You’ll still be able to move around and cast normally, so there’s no need to remove the bag while you fish.
I’ll break down some of the best fishing shoulder bags and slings on the market, and help you find the ideal one for your needs.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Fishing Shoulder Bags & Slings
- Best Overall: SpiderWire Sling Fishing Backpack
- Runner Up: PLUSINNO Fishing Tackle Backpack
- Fishing Sling Pack: Fishpond Summit Sling Fly Fishing Pack
- Waterproof Sling: Fishpond Submersible Thunderhead Sling
- Also Consider: Piscifun Fishing Tackle Storage Bag
Why do you need a fishing shoulder bag or sling?
Back in the day, the only way to bring a decent amount of tackle with you was haul around an entire tackle box. The invention of lightweight shoulder bags changed that by making mobile fishing far more convenient.
These packs are designed specifically with the bank, surf, and fly fisherman in mind – being light, and super easy to carry.
Fishing slings and shoulder bags are ideal for the following situations:
- Shore fishing: Shore fishing is the perfect scenario for fishing shoulder bags. You’ll be able to carry a decent amount of tackle, fishing tools, and electronics, while having both hands free to carry several rods. You don’t need to remove the pack while you fish, so you can hop from one spot to another effortlessly.
- Backcountry fishing: Backcountry anglers need a compact and efficient way to keep gear nearby and protected. If you’re planning a backcountry fishing trip, a nice shoulder pack can be a life saver.
- Fly fishing: Fly fisherman have long known the importance of a good sling pack. Fly fishing slings are specifically designed to keep your fishing tackle elevated – so it stays high and dry when your waist deep in a river or stream.
- Travel: If you don’t have room for a full-sized tackle bag or fishing backpack while travelling, fishing shoulder bags can be the perfect solution. You can even stash a compact telescoping rod or Emmrod inside them.
Best Overall: SpiderWire Sling Fishing Backpack
Versatile, comfortable, and ergonomic, this shoulder bag from SpiderWire makes an excellent option for all kinds of anglers. It features 15 liters of storage, and includes 1 medium tackle box (10” x 6.7” x 1.7”) with room for a second one in the main compartment. The sling can be worn on either shoulder, and features two zippered pockets, a front organizer pocket, a fleece lined sunglass compartment, and a front Velcro sealed tool holder.
The main compartment is a large deep pocket that runs the length of the pack – giving you plenty of storage for water bottles, lunch, tackle boxes, and more. The shoulder strap is comfortable to wear for long periods of time, so you can explore new fishing holes all day long without any discomfort.
With and overall weight of 1.32 pounds, and overall dimensions of 9.8” x 22.8” x 5.1”, the shoulder bag can easily be stashed in your vehicle in case the opportunity to catch some fish presents itself!
- Capacity: 15 Liters
- Material: Polyester
- Main compartment has room for two medium tackle boxes
- Can be worn on either shoulder comfortably
- Two zippered pockets, front organizer, fleece sunglass pocket, and main compartment
Runner Up: PLUSINNO Fishing Tackle Backpack
If you’re looking for a multi-use fishing pack that can be worn in a variety of different ways, this fishing tackle bag fits the bill nicely. It features a unique zippered shoulder strap design that allows you to change from a backpack to a sling shoulder bag to a chest bag in seconds.
Made from high quality, water-resistant 600 denier nylon fabric, the pack can easily hold up to rough and rugged conditions. An abrasion resistant buckle and nearly indestructible double zippers will keep the bag from breaking down over time.
Measuring 15”x 10.25” x 4.3”, the main compartment is large enough to hold multiple tackle boxes, pliers, fishing line, cameras, and plenty more. Two side pockets allow you to stash water bottles, fish grippers, pliers, and other tools you want to access easily. A rod belt on one side allows you to tether a fishing rod to the pack, and an additional bottom pocket enables you to stash an additional collapsed rod right below the pack.
- Material: 600 denier nylon
- Multi-functional adjustable shoulder straps can work as sling, backpack, or chest bag
- 2 smaller compartments inside main compartment for organizing gear
- 3 external zipper pockets, 2 cinching side pockets, and side and bottom rod holders
Fly Fishing Sling Pack: Fishpond Summit Sling Fly Fishing Pack
Fishpond is one of the top names in the fly-fishing game – and for good reason – their products are well-engineered and built to last. The sling is ideal for fly fishermen, and features a shoulder pad work station with Velcro and Hypalon attachment points for attaching snips and hemostats, a drop-down fly bench for foam attachment, and an integrated back panel sleeve for stashing a fishing net.
Coated YKK water resistant zippers keep your gear well-protected from the elements, while flexible TPE lash tabs allow you to attach rod tubes. The design is suited to carrying a moderate amount of equipment while maintaining a slim, low-profile.
The largest compartment is just large enough to stuff a pair of waders inside, and even when its packed to the brim, it remains slim enough to fish with comfortably. One thing to keep in mind is the net holder works best with fishponds longer handled nets, as shorter model tends to stick out too much.
- Material: Cyclepond recycled fabric
- Dimensions: 13” x 8.5” x 9”
- Shoulder pad work station with hook and loop and Hypalon
- Integrated net sleeve on back panel
- Patented drop down cargo/fly bench with foam attachment
- Coated water-resistant zippers
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Waterproof Sling: Fishpond Submersible Thunderhead Sling
When you’re heading right into the thick of it – you’ll need a bag you can rely on to keep all your gear toasty and dry. This is that bag. Made for anglers who are home in the riverbed, a fully waterproof TZIP zipper closure keeps all the day’s supplies safe and dry.
Made from highly-durable 1680D TPU coated recycled nylon, the bag’s contents will remain completely dry even if fully submerged in water. A net handle sleeve lets you comfortably stash a full-sized net, and the interior features a zippered pocket plus a clear stash pocket for small gear.
Exterior Hypalon tabs and reinforced loops allow you to easily attach plenty of tools and accessories, on both the back and shoulder strap. Lariat gear straps also come included – which are perfect for attaching rod tubes, bundling clothing, and making unexpected repairs.
- Material: 1680D TPU coated recycled nylon
- Dimensions: 16” x 9” x 7”
- Fully waterproof TZIP zipper closure
- Integrated net sleeve handle
- Exterior Hypalon and reinforced loops and Lariat gear straps
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Also Consider: Piscifun Fishing Tackle Storage Bag
If you’re looking for a well-made fishing shoulder bag that won’t break the bank, this one makes an excellent option. It’s made from rugged and durable 1000D high density nylon, and features nearly indestructible KAM buckles and SBS zippers.
Two left/right exchangeable adjustable shoulder straps allow you to change the strap length from a max of 36” to 51”. The main compartment can fit two Plano 3650 boxes with plenty of room for pliers, fish grippers, electronics, camera gear, and plenty of other gear.
Two different sizes are available a standard size measuring 11.8” x 8.3” x 4”, and a large sized model measuring 15” x 10.25” x 4.3”. Three internal pockets in the main compartment make organizing your gear a breeze, while three external pockets, a bottle holder, and Molle straps on the front give you plenty of options for mounting extra supplies.
- Material: 1000D high density nylon
- Dimensions: 8” x 8.3” x 4” and 15” x 10.25” x 4.3”
- Left/right adjustable shoulder straps
- Reflective material on rear of bag
- 3 internal and 3 external pockets, bottle holder, and Molle straps
How to pick the right fishing shoulder bag
There a few things to keep in mind when picking out a fishing sling or shoulder bag. You’ll want to go with a pack that offers a good mix of storage capacity, portability, and comfort. Let’s take a look at some key features to be on the lookout for in greater detail.
Depending on your fishing style, this can be a fairly important feature to consider. Most shoulder-style bags can fit 2 decent sized Plano boxes inside them, so you won’t be that limited in terms of tackle selection.
Larger bags can be great for multi-day trips, or carrying plenty of extra gear, but they’ll sacrifice some portability for added storage capacity.
Fishing slings offer differing internal and external storage options, with some having pouch’s designed for stashing fishing rods, collapsible nets, and other key gear. If you tend to pack everything but the kitchen sink when heading out, then going with plenty of gear mounting options makes sense.
Slings packs designed for fly fishing use tend to have gear mounting options specifically for fly fishing tools and tackle. They often feature Velcro and Hypalon attachment points, as well as net holders, and tabs for lashing rod tubes.
If you’re planning to fish while wearing your shoulder pack, you’ll need a pack that won’t get in your way while casting. Most shoulder bags are designed to be fairly low-profile, so you’ll be able to move around freely without getting snagged or impinged.
Larger backpack style fishing bags are great for longer multi-day trips, but they’re generally on the bulkier side, and you’ll need to set them aside while you fish.
There a number of extra features to be on the lookout for, with some being more useful than others.
Waterproofing: While it’s not strictly necessary, a waterproof shoulder pack is an excellent choice for anglers that frequently find themselves waist deep in rivers, streams, or lakes. Waterproof bags tend to be significantly more expensive than non-waterproof models, so you’ll want to make sure you actually need it.
Bottle Holders: Bottle or cup holders can be a lifesaver when you need a cold refreshing beverage within arm’s reach. They can also work well for stashing other gear like fish grippers, fishing pliers, and hook removers.
Rod Holders: Rod holders are key if you want the capability of taking multiple rods with you. Most can hold a telescopic rod with ease, while some can also stash a conventional 2- or 3-piece rod. If you’re hole hopping and want to have the option of targeting multiple species, this is a fantastic feature to look for.