Make a Stripping Basket

Make a Stripping Basket
Baskets are especially useful when night fishing.

Stripping baskets are box-shaped tubs that strap around your waist and store loose fly line between casts while you walk or wade. Line tenders (small pegs or inverted cones) in the bottom of the basket prevent wind and water from tangling the stored line and also prevent tangles from forming when the line is shot from the basket at high speeds. When correctly designed and used, stripping baskets enable a fly angler to better manage loose line and make smoother longer casts.

The first stripping baskets were made from Rubbermaid dishtubs lashed around the angler's waist by a bungee cord. These baskets were used primarily by striper anglers who fished the rocky shorelines and jetties of the East Coast. The dishtubs kept their fly lines off the rocks and out of the currents and made it possible to shoot long casts. They were also a good fit for the hand-over-hand retrieving style needed for stripers and bonito. The dishtubs were goofy looking but they worked extremely well, and they still do.

In Texas, the stripping basket, oddly, has never really caught on. It's too bad because almost any fly casting scenario (other than fishing from a kayak) is made easier by using one. Fly casting on jetties and flats, in the surf and on piers is improved with a basket. So why don't you see folks using them? I have a hunch it is due to two things- stripping baskets look silly and they feel funny.

The best way to solve the problem of how a stripping basket feels is to make yourself use one. Position the basket at different angles and heights until you find the spot that feels natural. Keep practicing until you develop confidence in stripping line into the basket and shooting line from it. After a bit of practice with a basket you will realize its benefits and the basket will become your best friend.

As far as looks go yeah a dishtub strapped around your waist looks ridiculous. But you can ease the pain by doing what I did. Just strap a stripping basket around a pair of breath-squashing Underarmor tights and model it around the house for a while. Believe me; after you endure your spouse's horrified reaction at that outfit you'll no longer have reservations about wearing a basket over your loose-fitting fishing clothes in the surf!

With that said, lets get down to making a stripping basket. The parts are cheap, and the level of skill required is minimal. It takes only a few dollars and a few minutes to make a basket that will work great for a long time. The dishtub style of stripping basket works as well (or better) than any other type I have tried. No parts are glued or sewn and all materials are waterproof and corrosion resistant.

First, you'll need a dishtub. Department stores usually carry a shallow tub and a deep one. Get the deep one. The deep tub keeps the wind out and allows more freedom of movement for your hands. Either the Rubbermaid or Sterlite tubs will work. White is a good color choice because it reflects light at night and makes fumbling with your tackle a bit easier. You'll also need some cable ties to make the line tenders. Get a small pack of the 7" UV ties (you'll only need 9 of them). You'll be cutting them down, but the thickness of these ties provides the right amount of flex to smoothly feed the fly line when you shoot it.

The belt for your stripping basket will be made from a bungee cord. I like the flat cords with the smooth plastic hooks. You can find these in the auto parts section of department stores. The good thing about bungee cords is that they are self tensioning and allow the basket to be quickly moved to nearly any position regardless of what you are wearing. Bungees creep and slide less than a webbed belt and the hooks on a bungee cord can be quickly grabbed and released in the event you need to make an emergency bail-out from the basket.

The last 2 items you need are drill bits. You will need a inch drill bit and a 3/16 inch bit. Make sure the bits are sharp or you will tear or crack the dishtub when you try to drill it.

Begin by making 9 pairs of 3/16 inch holes, evenly spaced across the bottom of the tub. The distance between the edges of the two holes in each pair should be about inch. Once you have drilled these holes, string a single cable tie through each pair. The cable should be strung so that both the tip and the clasp are on the inside surface of the bottom of the tub.

Thread the tip of the cable tie through the clasp and cinch it down tightly. The flat side of the clasp should seat firmly on bottom of the tub and the tapered end of the tie should be pointing straight up from the bottom of the tub. After all nine cable ties are strung, snip each tie approximately 2 inches above the bottom of the tub. Smooth any sharp edges on the snipped ties with heat from a lighter, but be sure not to melt a "bulb" into the end of the cables. The tips of the ties should be smooth.

Next, drill two holes through the top inside edge of the tub- one on either corner. Each hole should be approximately 1 inch in from the corners of the tub and slightly below the flared lip. These holes will accommodate the hooks on either end of the bungee cord belt. Lastly, drill four inch drain holes in the bottom of the tub along the front edge. These holes will allow accumulated water to drain from the tub away from your body. Stick your favorite bumper sticker on the front of the tub and your done!

Now that you know how to make a stripping basket, give it a try.
If you stick with it, I'll wager you will eliminate your tangled lines, add distance to your cast, and improve your success on the water.